Apparently, there has been and will be much ado about the way in which the ice and snow snarled up things in our Southern cities this week. Highways and freeways turned into massive parking lots with all sorts of interesting incidents and accidents. Students were stranded in schools, people deserted their vehicles and workers spent at least one night in their offices, cubicles and work areas. Reportedly, some Northerners laughed, scoffed and ridiculed the ridiculous helplessness and Southerners responded with predictable resentment.
Others, much more familiar with the situations than I am, have offered up explanations, some of which caused some folks to reflect a bit more and alter their judgments a bit. Those with greater determination to mock and demean their fellow citizens continued unabated with the criticism and feigned disbelief that a bit of ice and snow could wreak such havoc. When you’re used to several feet of snow each winter season it can be pretty easy to judge those who get an inch or two every ten years. I’ve lived in the land of moderate snow and annual ice for over twenty years now and even here I’ve seen as many as twenty cars in the ditch in a few mile stretch. If only one or two drivers don’t manage the situation properly, the calamity can escalate in dramatic fashion. Even in good weather, a single accident can block miles of road for a few hours.
I’ve also noticed that snow tires are a mighty handy asset, as is front wheel drive. All wheel drive provides even better advantage but the fact is that ice and/or packed snow can send even experienced drivers sliding out of control after the slightest bit of error in judgment or reaction.
Rather than making my defense of the citizens of Georgia or Vermont, I’d like to suggest that with adequate training and practice, it’s always easier to criticize than to understand. In our culture, where sarcasm and ridicule have become staples of entertainment and standard devices of interaction, responding with empathy becomes a deliberate choice rather than automatic. But it is still a choice and it is still possible. Proposing feasible solutions is always more challenging than pointing out the problems.
To pervert what is alleged to be an old Native American adage, never criticize a man until you’ve slid a mile on his tires.