Earlier this week I watched and listened in awe as New Jersey governor Chris Christie accompanied our President to view the destruction left behind by Hurricane Sandy, and then repeatedly praised the President in front of the assembled media. Mr. Christie, who had spent a good part of this election cycle as the standard bearer for Mitt Romney, didn’t have to do what he did, and he certainly didn’t have to do it over and over again. In public. In front of the cameras. So, why did he?
Over the years our society has shown an amazing cohesiveness when confronted with unthinkable adversity. 9/11. Katrina. Joplin. And now, Sandy, to name just a few examples. We circle the wagons and come together to provide support and aid to those around us who are suffering. When our neighbor hurts, we hurt, and we want to help. It is a humanistic response to a primal instinct.
When disaster strikes on the level of Seaside Park or Long Beach Island, one struggles to comprehend the utter destruction that our eyes take in. In image after image, video after video, Governor Christie, at one destroyed community after another, looked shell-shocked, and broken. His state — his home — was devastated. And he clearly appreciated having the President there to lend him support–someone for him to lean on.
I remember reading once that comedian and political commentator Al Franken, prior to becoming Senator Franken, attended a dinner function in Washington, DC, and when President George W. Bush entered the room, everyone rose and applauded, including Franken. The man standing next to him, knowing of Franken’s outspoken criticism of President Bush, scoffed at Franken, to which Franken replied something along the lines of, “He is my President, and I will stand in salute of him when he enters the room.”
In this year of the corporate “personhood” of unrelenting, vile political advertisements, Chris Christie showed his humanity and his dignity in a time of crisis. He put aside politics and stood by his President’s side as he struggled to keep his composure. And then, when he stepped up to the microphone and spoke, he said what was in his heart.