Political Proxemics

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Turning on cable news can be a trying experiment in tolerating overblown out-spoken arguments from both sides. “Higher taxes!?”, cries the right. “Cut spending!?”, shouts the left. It is a centuries-old political contest. But one area there should be no contention when it comes to government aid and public spending should be when natural disasters strike.

Commonly referred to as “acts of God”, with more and more evidence pointing to man-made climate change, natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and tornadoes do not pick and choose whom they strike, nor do they fall along only politically ideological lines. Weather events can displace anyone and destroy all homes when they hit, regardless of the bumper sticker on the jalopy by the curb.

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Last fall, Hurricane Sandy was a watershed moment in both waking up the Northeast to the coming reality of a changing climate, but also in showing unity between Republicans and Democrats as Republican Governor Chris Christie and President Barack Obama joined forces to revitalize the area, and in doing so, giving a successful example of state and federal governments working in tandem.

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More recently, the tornadoes that struck Oklahoma with devastating fashion brought in its aftermath a spirit of political cooperation, as Republican representative of a district effected, Tom Cole, had nothing but praise and open arms for President Obama‘s overtures of assistance and condolence.

Are we seeing a new political reality in America? Or is this a new version of a open space theory, which stated people who live often in close quarters and/or urban areas where they see and feel the effects of government spending in things like garbage collection, street upkeep, sanitation, etc., are far more likely to be pro-government or in favor of spending, because they can see the effects of their taxes.

The opposite would also hold true then, that people who are separated from others, who do not see the benefit the spending of their taxes brings, and do not bear witness to any state initiative and maybe have to travel a distance to access the Internet, would be less in favor of government and anti-spending.

It’s a natural disaster that brings us all closer, even if it is through the comfort of our living room while watching the news, the walls that separated us are crumbling, we are connecting, and just because we aren’t neighbors doesn’t mean we can’t see the benefit of lending help and a hand.

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