If you blinked you missed it, that brief moment in time earlier this week when compassion for the suffering caused by the flooding in Texas put angst over political and social divides on the back burner.
How inspiring it was to see people pitching in to help each other deal with the property destruction and, often, life-or-death situations created by Hurricane Harvey.
We of the Johnstown area have a special kinship with victims of flooding. Many of us have experienced it firsthand here. Most others at least have read about our flood history.
We watched the events in Texas with vicarious horror and prayed for the affected.
Yes, it reaffirmed one’s faith in society to see the community spirit in Houston and environs.
And it was a crude slap in the face when outsiders, and some on the scene, were quick to shatter the uplifting mood.
Consider University of Tampa sociology professor Ken Storey, who took to Twitter on Sunday night to say, basically, Texas deserved it because the state voted for Donald Trump for president.
Given chances to walk it back, Storey doubled down that Florida, where he presumably lives while teaching at Tampa, deserves whatever national disasters might befall it, too, as punishment for supporting Trump.
Storey finally came to his senses and offered a standard apology. Too late. His employer gave him his walking papers Tuesday. Now Storey is free to wander in search of his socialist utopia.
Presumably Storey will pull a Kathy Griffin and walk back his apology. You remember Griffin, the C-list comedian who thought it was a good idea to do a photo shoot with what seemed to be the bloody head of Trump.
Even some in the hard left thought Griffin went too far.
She cried, embarked on the talk-show circuit seeking sympathy, then apologized multiple times. Now, from the distance of Australia, Griffin, in a desperate ploy for attention, is taking back those apologies.
Maybe the terminally tone-deaf Griffin is working on some zingers for the Harvey victims.
How disappointed she will be to find that Storey beat her to it. The not-so-good professor was but one example of mean-spirited, inhuman commentary spawned by the tragedy of Harvey.
The social media manager of Charitable Humans, a self-described “progressive tax-exempt nonprofit organization seeking new and innovative approaches to address issues in our world and advance humanitarian causes,” apparently was struck with amnesia regarding that mission statement before tweeting, “I just can’t bring myself to even consider providing aid to any red state, let them clean up their own mess.”
This bitter, misguided humanitarian added a bonus tweet that read: “Any state that elects a Republican needs to be incinerated, there have to be severe consequences.”
The professor and the inhumane humanitarian pegged the insensitivity meter. But they had many other competitors.
Even as the brave and community-spirited were trying to rescue their fellow citizens, the dregs of Houston society turned opportunistic and began looting stores.
ABC news reporter Tom Llamas tweeted that he had observed looting, launching a torrent of negative response on that largely unsocial media, mostly labeling Llamas a snitch. They were looting a supermarket after all. Merely looking for food in a tough situation, many theorized.
They weren’t stealing TVs, one TweetHead wrote to scold Llamas.
Maybe they weren’t. But I’ve seen pictures online of two men prancing down the street with new TVs they’d liberated from a closed, partially flooded electronics store. No doubt they were going to eat them.
The online inquisition of Llamas calls into sharp focus the battle in this country to determine whether we will continue to be, as our Founding Fathers intended, a nation of laws.
The concept, a brilliant one, is that no one is above the law.
It is to apply equally no matter social, economic or political status.
But the concept is fraying.
Cities, even states, pronounce themselves above the law in terms of illegal immigrants. It sounds so noble when they use the term “sanctuary” instead of scofflaw.
Individuals and groups increasingly deign to obey the laws only as long as they are not inconvenienced by them.
Of course, they want their opponents to be held to the strict letter of the law.
Trump stepped into yet another firestorm when he said, in the wake of the University of Virginia violence, that there were bad people on both sides.
Far-right wing, white supremacist, neo-Nazi groups are, indeed, bad people. So are left-wing Antifa thugs. Both were at Charlottesville, Virginia. Both committed violent acts. Take the time to Google coverage of the event.
Just this week, Antifa was at it again in Berkeley, California. This time, their violent conduct brought a rebuke from no less a source than Democrat stalwart Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority leader.
Pelosi is correct, if a bit late.
But Pelosi has received no wall-to-wall media condemnation. You are forgiven for wondering why that is so.
The right-wing extremists at Charlottesville went through legal channels and got a permit. The masked Antifa counter-protestors – by the way, it’s illegal to wear a mask to conceal one’s identity in Virginia – did not. They did, however, get violent.
Carnage ensued, most notably an alleged right-wing zealot driving his car into a crowd and killing one.
The key point is that there was lawlessness on both sides.
There is a growing tendency on both extremes of the political spectrum to endorse this selective disregard for the rules that we’ve counted on to bind together our society.
And you get groups such as the hilariously named Antifa, which supposedly stands for Anti-Fascist, but in reality means Anti-Democracy, Anti-Capitalism and Anarchy For All.
Antifa group Red Guards Austin (Texas) proclaims on its website, “Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism!”
Hate is hate, whether it’s spewed from the extremists on the right, or on the left.
It’s time for the people of this country to realize that. It’s time that the (for-now) majority in the sensible middle of the political spectrum fights equally hard against both extremes.
Otherwise, you might as well plan on eventually picking a side, putting on your mask and grabbing a gun.
Sam Ross Jr. is a freelance journalist in Johnstown and former staff member of The Tribune-Democrat. He is a licensed health insurance agent.