Why Millions of Americans Have “Lost Power” and How We Can Learn from Hurricane Matthew

Why Millions of Americans Have “Lost Power” and How We Can Learn from Hurricane Matthew

As Hurricane Matthew pummeled the East Coast of the United States yesterday, rendering more than 1 million people with out power, we would say that people all over the United States are “without power.”

As a culture who has been exposed to moral, ethical, illegal, offensive and deceitful charges, aren’t we really all without power?

How did we get here? And how have the extreme political winds shaped not only who we’ve become today, but more importantly, how are we absolutely accountable for exactly where we are? 

As multiple generations grapple with the horrific events of today, we must look inward and own some culpability that we too, have contributed to the ideologies of today. Have we always walked the talk? Have we always risen above to hold moral standards above all else for ourselves and others? Or have we recused and excused ourselves and given others a hall pass for inappropriate, contemptuous, and gutter behavior?

We have serious issues that plague our nation and if we placed ourselves on Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs, we’d figuratively be in the basement. Our physical survival is threatened today by the devastating results of Hurricane Matthew. We have a political environment that is so very toxic to all our our senses and sensibilities. We have terrorist threats closing in on our free land. 

Our society is splintered, frayed and disconnected: we stagger around looking for a place to belong. And we have a collective belief system that is currently crushing our resolve as a human species: apathy and powerlessness. We are not even close to self-actualization at the top of Maslow’s triangle.

So what can we do about it? Here are four tips:

  1. Be a shelter-giver: Sore up our physical safety first. Hurricane Matthew is urgent. Thousands have already been offered refuge and physical safety. Human hearts abdicate from the political foray in moments like this and beautifully come together as one collective heart.
  2. Come to Our Senses: Literally. Close your eyes and focus on your senses. Restore some of the battering that has rocked every cell of your being. Instead of looking at the negatively charged political landscape, go to your own internal landscape and power up with thoughts of how you WANT the world to look. The story we’ve been hearing and telling: Trump said this; Hillary did that—shatters our belief in the human goodness and the connectedness in our relationships—onto which we all want to desperately hold. These thoughts and feelings are habits that do not align with how we feel. That’s why every cell of our being is racked with fear and anxiety, and seemingly call out: “No. no. no.” Blame and shame are not on Maslow’s triangle; replace them with understanding and empathy. It takes a minimum of 21 days to change a habit. Get very clear on the picture you desire and it will become a new reality. When you “clear the decks,” that’s when creative brainstorming and solution-finding occur. Today is day 1.
  3. Take the Time to Reframe Decompression: We desire national security. Is there a way we better communicate with one another by looking to ourselves rather than nominated political candidates and social media data to form our opinions? Instead, can your own desired values be a part of a collective conversation? Perhaps we need to implement the airline passenger safety guidelines: “In the event of decompression, place the oxygen mask on yourself first.” Figure our own sh*# out first. Own it.
  4. “Look for the Helpers:” Fred Rogers’ mantra during any kind of crisis. Snarky comments and vicious attacks on one another as we transfer our fear and frustrations onto those we care about—really? Just because we do not see self-discipline modeled in the world, doesn’t mean that we can’t muster it ourselves. We can choose to surround ourselves with like-minded helpers and givers, whose intentions are genuine and other-centric. Politics did not sway the winds of Hurricane Matthew; people stepped up to help others in need no matter their political views. In fact, they didn’t even think about the November 8th election day as they opened their doors and hearts to shelter those who sought refuge.

It does not matter if the winds of woe are natural, emotional, intellectual, economical, psychological, social, negative or political. Our human goodness will always prevail. Consider that Hurricane Matthew gives us a psychology lesson on self-empowerment and how to get back—at the very least—to the middle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs: love and belonging. 

It’s a start.