Election obsession clouds understanding of Hurricane Matthew

CARLY STAUFFER; Guest Writer; stauffce@plu.edu

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the most important things in the world.

At least, that’s what analysis of current American mainstream media would imply. While the presidential election has received 24/7 coverage, the media has paid little attention to Hurricane Matthew.

Matthew, which struck in early October, wreaked havoc throughout the Caribbean and the East Coast of the United States. In the impoverished country of Haiti, Matthew killed nearly 1,000 people and, according to an ABC News article, left 1.4 million Haitians struggling for food.

Our society’s fixation on the political decisions of the United States may be rooted in good intentions. As a nation we’re worried about our future and naturally desire a strong leader. Concern for the election may even be a manifestation of care for the world — after all, the presidential election does have great implications beyond our borders.

There’s a difference, however, between the concern we ought to express regarding political decision-making, and the rampant fear of election season. This fear is rooted in the apocalypse that plays out in our minds (i.e. “If the other candidate wins, the planet Earth might as well be sent hurdling into the sun”), and it blinds us from other priorities. It’s distracting, unproductive and, ultimately, selfish.

While we spend energy obsessing over the imminent doom of our upcoming end-of-the-world scenario, we have neighbors across the world facing an actual end-of-the-world scenario: many Haitians struggle to survive after the hurricane destroyed their homes and drastically reduced their food supply, all while fearing for friends and loved ones who disappeared during the storm. We bite our nails and pray the “right” candidate wins. They pray to see tomorrow.

I wish to draw attention to the danger of succumbing to election obsession. By no means do I intend to dissuade you from caring about the election. You should care, but in worrying over our own self-preservation as a nation, we may neglect the call for help from those truly in need.

The world hasn’t ended yet. Until it does, we have a duty to help those who are suffering.

While it is easy to feel anxious about the future of our nation, remember not to neglect the needs of the world in the present moment, especially when you are able to bring about change.

If you are convinced that we are surely headed toward despair, remember this quote, attributed to Martin Luther: “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

Editor’s note: Carly is working with UNICEF on campus to raise funds for those affected by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. If you are interested in ‘planting your apple tree’ alongside her, please contact her at stauffce@plu.edu 🅼

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