I wonder what General James Edward Oglethorpe would have said about last week’s snowjam that crippled Atlanta.
The British military leader and politician, who landed on the banks of the Savannah River 281 years ago this month and founded the Georgia colony, was a man of courage and vision. The colonists who came with him from England were hard-working, scrappy people. They had to be to survive. They endured oppressive heat and humidity. Clouds of mosquitoes. Diseases. The threat that the Spanish might invade from Florida and kill them.
Oglethorpe and his band built a great seaport city, Savannah. The gridlike street system with its strategically placed squares remains a brilliant blend of form and function.
So what would General O. have said about the embarrassing mess in Georgia’s capital city caused by a scant two inches of snow that had been predicted days earlier?
Two things. First, you reap what you sow.
Oglethorpe was a benevolent control freak who laid out Savannah to allow for uninterrupted traffic flow. In contrast, many modern-era leaders of the 160 local governments in metro Atlanta allowed explosive growth to occur with minimal connectivity and substandard mass transit.
They were short-sighted, selfish and incompetent. So when 5 million people all jump at once into a road system that resembles an undersized bowl of spaghetti prepared by a mad Italian, bad things happen.
Second – and a much bigger indictment – is this: Too many Georgians are becoming wussified.
Granted, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and others botched things by not sounding the alarm before Tuesday. Worse, even after the ship of state hit an iceberg that day, the governor and governor-in-training weren’t manning the wheel. They were accepting cheesy awards at a luncheon.
But remember. They’re politicians. That’s what politicians do. They disappoint. You can’t count on them.
Anyone who doesn’t know this fact is still in kindergarten (the true victims were Atlanta kids who had to spend Tuesday night on school floors), is dumb as a stump, or, let’s face it, is a wimp or wimp-ette – someone too weak-kneed, oblivious or lazy to make rational decisions and exercise personal responsibility.
Atlanta is a great city with plenty of smart people. They’ve even got cable TV and the Internet there, or so I’ve heard.
Didn’t any of the millions of Georgians in the metro area who learned about this advancing snow on Sunday, then were told Monday that conditions could be terrible on Tuesday, and then got out of bed Tuesday morning and saw an awful weather forecast for later in the day, have a 60-watt light bulb fire up in their heads? Did it illuminate any rational thoughts?
Such as, “I’m staying home today.”
Such as, “The kids aren’t going to school.”
Such as, “I’ve got enough food in the fridge, so there’s no need to get groceries.”
Let me paraphrase my level-headed mother and frame the question this way: If Nathan Deal and Kasim Reed jumped off the cliff, would you jump off the cliff, too – and into the ninth circle of Atlanta’s traffic hell? Apparently so.
That’s not the act of a clear-thinking adult. That’s the act of people who have turned in their man cards and woman cards. What’s next? Do they expect Deal and Reed to tuck them into bed?
It didn’t used to be that way in the Peach State. Georgians used to be rough, tough and hard to bluff. And smarter than others outside the South gave them credit for.
So what in the name of James Edward Oglethorpe happened last week in and around the I-285 beltway? It looks like wussification.
If so, the governor needs the National Guard to do more than remove abandoned cars. He needs guardsmen to hand out cards to each person who got stranded last Tuesday for hours upon hours. It should serve as an important reminder to them, in case Atlanta gets another two inches of white stuff.
No, it doesn’t say, “Vote for me, I’ll do better next time.”
Instead, it reads, “You’re the boss of you.”