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Politics

Texas storm rescues reveal a common humanity

By Rex Huppke, Tribune Content Agency on

Tragedies like the one unfolding in Texas, as rain continues to fall and flood waters rise, have a way of peeling layers off people until only their humanity remains.

Just the bare essence. The good stuff.

Stripped away are the things that bog us down so much, things like faith or skin color, sexuality or political beliefs.

A few days before Hurricane Harvey began unleashing its fury on the coast of Texas, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Army combat veteran who lost both her legs in Iraq, released a statement reacting to a proposed ban on transgender men and women serving in the military:

"When I was bleeding to death in my Black Hawk helicopter after I was shot down, I didn't care if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender, black, white or brown. All that mattered was they didn't leave me behind."

When it comes to life or death, biases and bitterness tend to wash off rather swiftly. So it has been in Houston and Rockport and Dickinson and other Texas cities and towns.

You don't see videos of people squabbling. You see regular people becoming heroes and stranded people accepting help with tears and elation.

A story by Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times described it this way: "Across Texas, there were reports of citizens mobilizing with boats and boots to help pull people from the rising waters. Social media lit up with a video posted by a reporter for KARK News, in which a man from Texas City, near Galveston, was preparing to deploy his small boat. 'I'm going to go try to save some lives,' he said."

That man is black. I don't imagine that made a lick of difference to the people he went on to help.

The same Los Angeles Times report described a young man, Daniel Gross, who was out with his father in a kayak rescuing people in their Houston neighborhood. Gross is "a sports columnist at his Jewish private school's newspaper."

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