A nation not so divided

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Autumn Brown/The News

The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board

Americans are no stranger to natural disasters – the tornadoes of Oklahoma, wildfires of California, and more recently, the impact of Hurricane Harvey on Houston, Texas, have all pushed people to their limits. Following on the heels of the Charlottesville riots, it might be a bit difficult to find a silver lining in it all.

But all one has to do is look to the people of Houston.

From severe tragedy, sadness and loss has come a sense of togetherness and fraternity that’s not often seen. Thousands of volunteers and locals have temporarily shed their prejudices to help those in need.

According to a press release by the American Red Cross, at least 2,300 relief workers have been dispatched by their organization, with another 700 workers on their way. And they aren’t all Texas locals; many of these relief workers are traveling across the country to aid those displaced by Hurricane Harvey and heavy flooding.

While volunteering isn’t a feasible option for everyone, monetary donations, alongside food and sanitary supplies, have come from the far corners of the United States and beyond to aid people who have potentially lost everything.

Good will isn’t always rewarded though, as shady charities are a dime a dozen in times of distress, and everyone should practice mindful giving and exercise due caution.

In an announcement by the Federal Trade Commission, readers are warned to not “…assume that charity messages posted on social media are legitimate” and to “be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events.”

It’s an unfortunate fact some people will take advantage of any situation if it earns them a quick buck, so being cautious is especially important if one wants to make the biggest difference possible.

Reputable charities, such as the American Red Cross and United Way, are usually upfront about their expenditures and practice due diligence in reporting their impact accurately.

No organization is without its faults though.

Brad Kieserman, an American Red Cross executive, has come under fire for fumbling an explanation of how much of the group’s funds actually go to relief efforts in an interview with NPR. Kieserman even went on to say he’s not sure if the chief fundraiser even knows how much money has been allocated to relief efforts. The organization’s spending was later clarified by a statement on the American Red Cross’ website: “…91 cents of every dollar we spend for this disaster will go to help people affected by Hurricane Harvey.”

Ultimately, the dollars or time spent assisting those in urgent need are just one thing to be thankful for.

Our culture is undergoing a massive shift in public consciousness about race, sexuality, gender and economic status. It often seems that we spend more time arguing over issues of morality than finding common ground and accepting each other’s differences.

But in a time of great need, we have come together as one people to serve a greater purpose. Even if for just a moment, the differences and disagreements neighbors once had have seemingly vanished – not for good, but for a moment.

Our society must permanently bridge the gaps that divide us if the fraternity formed in Houston is to become the norm and not an outlier.