Sometimes I love America. Like when there’s a big controversy about the redundancy and bureaucracy of federal agencies (in this case FEMA vs. the Department of Homeland Security, of which FEMA is a part)—and that controversy is played out with cartoon animals.
The DoHS has just introduced Rex, a “family man” mountain lion and part-time cartographer with movie-star biceps who helps his wife and cubs prepare their home for a disaster. But critics say that Rex competes with Herman, a hermit crab who raps about emergency readiness on http://www.fema.gov/kids/ (and the FEMA number’s “hold” line, which is soooo much better than soft jazz).
Disaster…it can happen anywhere,
But we’ve got a few tips, so you can be prepared,
For floods, tornadoes, or even a ‘quake,
You’ve got to be ready—so your heart don’t break
Herman also searches for a “disaster-proof shell” in the online short story “Herman, P.I.C. And The Hunt For A Disaster-Proof Shell.” The story uses the device of repetition (he finds a shell he thinks he likes, but it gets damaged in a flood; he finds another shell, but it gets damaged in a fire) popular in many kids’ stories and SNL sketches, but if this were a work of literary fiction, even lit fiction for kids, Herman would learn a sad but valuable lesson: No matter what we do to prepare for life’s twists and turns, bad things happen and we just have to weather them the best we can and deal with loss.
But this is an optimistic website sponsored by the American government, so at the end Herman tells us (spoiler alert!): “I knew I was safe and had learned my lessons well. My shell was completely disaster resistant!” He then fulfills his destiny by handing out FEMA pamphlets to other hermit crabs.
As for Rex, “a leader that many forest animals are happy to follow,” my primary reaction was, Why can’t Rex be a GIRL mountain lion helping HER family—and her neighbors, the rabbits whom she totally does not eat or try to force fake democracy on because she’s a peace-loving mountain lion who sees herself as part of a larger global family?
Because that would make all the difference, really, the next time a kid is trapped in rising flood waters.