The following editorial published in the San Antonio Express-News on Feb. 19:
The storm, so beautiful at first, morphed into a sprawling humanitarian crisis. While the arctic blast that froze Texas was unstoppable, it was forecast, and with the right investments and policies, the pain and suffering could have been mitigated. This was a crisis unleashed by the unharnessed power of nature, then magnified by the consequences of past policy decisions and poor leadership.
The winter storm that blanketed the state with ice and snow left 4 million Texans without electricity, hundreds of thousands without water and dozens of people dead. But words can’t capture the stress and suffering Texans endured.
The Book of Proverbs says “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”
The great tragedy isn’t when the haughty and prideful fall from their own missteps but when the innocent is buried in the destruction or actions and words express indifference.
There are few people as haughty as Texas politicians, puffed with “Texas Pride,” boasting about the superiority of our beloved state in all things that don’t include providing adequate health insurance, education and social services.
A power grid disconnected from the rest of the nation and from federal regulations is an extension of that haughtiness. It’s a reflection of the belief that a reservoir of do-it-alone independence flows as naturally through Texas as does oil and natural gas. Except when it doesn’t.
The power grid collapsed because the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which manages it, didn’t believe winterizing the system was worth the price of investment.
ERCOT officials have said the system was seconds or minutes away from catastrophic failure before blackouts were implemented, which would have made it weeks before Texans had power.
Much worse, we understand, but to have people living in darkness and cold with diminishing supplies of food and water is also a catastrophe.
Independent of the winter storm, in any night in San Antonio and throughout Texas, there is great want among people for whom every day is a “winter storm,” leaving them without appropriate sustenance and shelter.
Like COVID-19, this storm magnified existing inequities while proving that wealth and living in high-end neighborhoods doesn’t inoculate anyone from the pain. As Texans, we are in this together, even if some of our leaders don’t behave that way.
There will be time to better understand the failures at ERCOT and the decisions made locally at CPS Energy and SAWS. But the immediate failure in state leadership is a punch to the gut.
Gov. Greg Abbott’s instinct during his first national interview about the power outages was to score political points about the Green New Deal. He was intellectually ineffectual.
Sen. Ted Cruz decided this was a good week to skedaddle to Cancún, throwing his daughters under the bus — or on the plane — by saying they wanted to go.
And former Governor and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, in the most stereotypical hubristic statement of a Texas politician, blubbered, “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.”
We don’t know what Perry’s living conditions were like this past week, but among his fellow Texans are people, including children and the elderly, who lived in frigid darkness; whose homes were flooded from burst pipes; who have lived in cars or emergency shelters; rationed oxygen and baby formula; stood in lines in subfreezing weather to get into a store; had no water and little food; who hugged their children tighter and longer, not just because they love them, but so they can keep them warm.
Texans deserve so much better. And better is out there. You can find it in the Texans who are responding to this humanitarian crisis with humane responses, and who are ferrying food and water to strangers, making calls for them and picking up their medications.
It’s not only Texans. People across the country are opening their hearts and resources to the Lone Star State. They understand that while Texas and the rest of the nation aren’t connected through power grids, all are connected through our humanity.