Flooding and Independence

In 1970, Bear Creek flooded, ripping out our family’s bridge and the bridges of a dozen of our neighbors. A state official proclaimed Bear Canyon a disaster area. Money began flowing, other peoples’ money. The FEMA worker came around with his clipboard. He had a talk with Dad and Mom. He offered to pay for fixing the damage with federal taxpayer funds. I remember the check he offered was for about $2,500.

Dad had a chainsaw. He had standing timber. He had tools and know-how. He knew how to mix concrete. He had an independent spirit. He and Mom would rather not take handouts. They felt squeamish about burdening others.

They refused the handout. They told the FEMA worker they would rebuild the bridge with their own funds and labor. It would have been a lot easier to take the money and call a contractor. But it would have clipped their independence. Theirs was the wise, dignified choice.

They rebuilt the bridge at great personal effort. It took a couple of weeks and entailed much inconvenience.

How admirable and rare is such pride and independence. How desperately it is needed. Handouts are killing us. They are the root of our nation’s spending and debt problems.

At this time, when so many people will be offered other people’s money to fix flood damage, people would be wise to inventory what they can first do to help themselves.

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14 Responses

  1. […] Flood Victims: Meet Your Republican Party By Cowgirl, on June 10, 2011, 6:42 am | Discuss A Republican state legislature has been quick to rush to the assistance of flood victims with that favorite Republican commodity, derision for those who need flood assistance. […]

  2. Montana CowardGirl holds self-reliance in derision.

    • Where did said bridge lead to ? Did they also build the roads that lead to it ? Did they build the US Highway and Interstate system that the roads connect to ? Self reliance my ass . They relied on others that came before them and on the collective monies of people in their community . I guess they will put out their own house or barn fire and preform needed medical services on themselves ?

      • Apparently self-reliance never built anything.

      • If the offer of help had come from members of your family’s church, would it have been refused as well? How about if it was from a secular local group that held a bakesale to raise funds for families like yours? Why is that support from the government (which we have paid into) is evil and character destroying? Or is all community-centric help evil? It’s fine for your Dad to make the decision to rebuild on his own, but there is no natural segue to moral superiority as you suggest. This blanket vilification of anything associated with government is at best, short-sighted, at worst treasonous.

  3. FEMA wasn’t created until 1979.

  4. The disaster relief agency that preceded FEMA.

  5. So, HUD, then? Was the person with the clipboard white or black?

  6. Self reliance didn’t clear Montana of the Native people that were already living there , it took genocide by the Federal Government . Mankind didn’t survive by self reliance . Who built that chainsaw , who forged that plow , who made the rifle , who made those tools to build that bridge ?

  7. Though if you wanted we could test our individual self reliance and live in the bush for a couple months in my beloved Michigan or your beautiful Montana .
    De Oppreso Liber

  8. Looks like this genius has no response. He is used to just posting whatever comes into his small mind on the internet and hoping no one calls him on it.

    • In fairness, I have seen exchanges between Tom and critics that reveal both reason and a willingness to see the other side of the story. But that kind of civil discussion only seems to come after he has made some sanctimonious pronouncement, steeped in the mythology of American self reliance (apparently the only kind of self reliance that really counts) and/or the evils of any government but the one he imagines and flavored with a heaping helping of religiosity. I credit him for keeping a public blog. I give him demerits for summarily “cleansing” the blog of strong criticism rather than publicly responding. This was a criticism I had for Tom in the campaign. He dodged any but “safe” public venues. Profanity and personal attacks have no place and rightly can be removed. But the removal of criticisms and questions of substance may reveal a psyche that is not nearly so self reliant.

  9. Implicit in Rep. Burnett’s remarks is the notion that self-reliance and helping, and being helped by, one’s neighbors are mutually exclusive propositions. I think that confuses self-reliance with going it alone. Enlightened self-reliance includes forming mutual cooperation associations, and risk pooling, both private and public.

    I do find myself wondering whether the financial assistance offered to Burnett’s father was a grant or a loan.

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