Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Tsunami Reactions

Real World

I’m as stunned as everyone else by the devastation from the tsunami. It’s hard to get my head around the damage reports and the numbers. When you also consider that these are some of the poorest countries in the world, the horror and injustice seem almost cosmic.

And yet, the United States had to be almost shamed into taking decisive action. We can spare untold billions to bring chaos and death to the Middle East, but have to wait for worldwide criticism before we can bring the full weight of our resources to bear to help people who need it.

A commentator on ABC News last night pointed out that this is a chance for the US to turn its image around in a part of the world where it is much needed. Indonesia has one of the largest Muslim populations in the world, after all. I think it’s a good start, but as long as we are occupying Iraq, we undo the good we do on a daily basis.

I remember going to the Mount St Helens area when I was in college. It must have been close to ten years after the eruption. They were just starting to let people visit the area, but there were strict regulations about what you could do and where you could go. The ecosystem had just started repairing itself and they didn’t want to jeopardize anything. I remember everything being gray and brown and very quiet. Nothing but twisted, mangled trees for miles. It was eerie and, yet kind of awe-inspiring. You can’t walk through a demonstration of that level of power and not be moved.

I was active in anti-nuclear causes when in those days. This was the 80’s, after all, and it seemed Reagan was hell-bent on destroying the world. As I looked over the scene at Mount St Helens, I kept thinking to myself: “Human beings should not have this kind of power. We cannot handle it.”

Nearly twenty years on, we have another colossal natural disaster and another Republican President hell-bent on destruction. Looking the news reports, I hear that same refrain playing in my head.

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