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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

When living in your country feels like riding out an endless summer storm

It’s summertime, and that has WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson thinking about storms. In his On My Mind commentary, he ponders the storms that arrive in the sky … and the ones that arrive in the news.

Every morning, at breakfast, my mother-in-law asks what the weather is going to be like that day. Around here, in the summer, the answer is always the same: hot, with a chance of storms in the afternoon. The clouds gather every day around 4 in the afternoon and talk amongst themselves about whether to rain on us or not.


One of those storms came through the other night just after supper. This one brought some flash and rumble with it. It made me think of our old dog, Fred, who would come over to where I was sitting at the first sound of thunder and wedge himself between the back of my legs and the chair. This was not especially effective, given that he weighed 65 pounds. But it seemed to bring him comfort.

Our cat, Jack Reacher, barely pays attention to storms. This makes sense. Cats are their own storm systems.

I’ve been in five or six hurricanes over the years, starting with Hugo, which came through here a couple of months after I moved to the area in 1989. I was living down in Lancaster, South Carolina, in a duplex with a pecan tree in the yard. Hugo arrived in the middle of the night, and I watched that pecan tree bend over the top of the house until I thought it would snap.

One night a few years later, I was staying in a hotel down on the coast somewhere, on assignment to write about a hurricane after it came through. My room had a sliding glass door out onto a balcony. I had put some tape on the door but when the storm finally hit, the glass warped and wobbled for hours. I crouched on the far side of the bed, just knowing that door was going to shatter. But it never quite did.

That’s what I remember from the big storms — how things get pushed to their limits.

It struck me the other day that it feels like this country has been stuck in an endless summer storm. The things that hold us together — the Constitution, our political system, the sense of working toward a common good — don’t feel like bedrock anymore. They’re like a sheet of glass, pushed to the breaking point by the hurricane winds of a movement that wants to blow this country back into the past.

You wake up every morning and wait for the clouds to gather again.

More and more, I’m tempted to do like our old dog and try to find a hiding place until it all goes away. But we have obligations to one another. We need to help the ones the storm hurts the worst, and rebuild where we can.

And we need to shore up our defenses to get ready for the next one.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column runs Mondays on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary, On My Mind, which airs every Monday.