What the...

Didn't you...wasn't there...I could of sworn...

Hey, Wasn't There Some Sort Of National Tragedy A Few Months Back?

Wait a minute. I could swear that I was recently shocked and outraged about something that felt really significant. But now I can't for the life...

Yes, Virginia, you did and there was. Our feeble little minds have let slip a previous "tragic event". That event (I presume) was the shootings at Virginia Tech. But this simply underscores the trivial nature of most of these events. Even the tsunami which slapped Indonesia like a fading pro-wrestler is largely excluded from our memories.

Take a moment and write down the top five recent disasters or tragedies, in terms of loss of life.

Okay, pencil's down - how did you do? Did you include the Frisco quake? What about the heat wave in Europe? If we expand to manmade disasters, did you include Rwanda, Bosnia, or Cambodia? There is, of course, a site which catalogs these events for you.

In fact during 2006 alone almost 40,000 people perished in disasters. They included Transport Accident - 7009; Epidemic - 6248 (almost exclusively Africa); Flood - 6020 (largely Asia); Earthquake - 5890. China leads the world in industrial accidents. With at least 702 reported in 2006. Who knows how many more are actually lost.

The bottom line is that most of the "terrible events" in the United States are trivial when weighed against this toll. Even the awful shooting in Blacksburg, dreadful in any measure, is hard to compare to the loss of 2500 innocents in one Phillipine flood.

We are bombarded with so much information and events so quickly, we can not even recall some of the most simple information about our recent past. People count on this fact. They count on the fact we can not remember.

Some of this inability is a good thing. Otherwise I predict we would be paralyzed by fear and simply curl up in a corner. But the less savory of our populations (and I mean folks like politicians) count on us not recalling when promises are broken or scandals emerge.

I don't know about you, but I'm gonna start writing this stuff down.

Now, where did my pencil go?


BostonMaggie said…
You really gave me a good laugh. Years ago the morning DJ on WBCN in Boston was Charles Laquidara. I don't remember if it was actually him or one of his cronies, but they had a foreign deaths to American deaths ratio thing. It was a running joke where every news story that mentioned a great loss of life in a foreign country had to be converted into American lives. "Oh, 300 die in an Indian train wreck, well that equals 5 Americans." "What? 500 dead in a Bangladesh flood, well that equals 7 Americans."
I know it's wrong and callous and very "Ugly American"........but I laughed everytime they said it.
First, this is probably the most brilliant thing that you have written to date. It also strikes home after the Vatech shootings when my school went after any images of guns in student shows, films, cartoons, etc., for fear that people might be "emotionally unprepared to deal with the image". As for Maggie's comments, it is sad but true that that is the feeling of most Americans....other lives do not matter as much as our own. I see it in the entitlement of my students in the county in which I teach. Sadly, we have taught them that there is no world beyond their own, and only their world can be affected by traged, and that only their problems matter.
Gone are the days of sacrifice and nobility embodied in the last lines of dialogue of CASABLANCA:

Rick: Last night we said a great many things. You said I was to do the thinking for both of us. Well, I've done a lot of it since then, and it all adds up to one thing: you're getting on that plane with Victor where you belong.
Ilsa: But, Richard, no, I... I...
Rick: Now, you've got to listen to me! You have any idea what you'd have to look forward to if you stayed here? Nine chances out of ten, we'd both wind up in a concentration camp. Isn't that true, Louie?
Captain Renault: I'm afraid Major Strasser would insist.
Ilsa: You're saying this only to make me go.
Rick: I'm saying it because it's true. Inside of us, we both know you belong with Victor. You're part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you're not with him, you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.
Ilsa: But what about us?
Rick: We'll always have Paris. We didn't have, we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.
Ilsa: When I said I would never leave you.
Rick: And you never will. But I've got a job to do, too. Where I'm going, you can't follow. What I've got to do, you can't be any part of. Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that. Now, now... Here's looking at you kid.

That my friends, is the the true spirit of America. And, sadly, one I think, that we may have lost...
sonicfrog said…
Sadly, we have taught them that there is no world beyond their own,...

...and it's worse than that. For many, their world has shrunk to a point where the ONLY thing that matters is getting what they want. There are no rules anymore, and even when their are, there are no reasons to follow them - No consequences. And that, as a society, is our fault.

Why do I feel incoherent right now?

I haven't watched "The News" for a long time now. I switched on today to get some info on the S**T going down throughout the Middle East, and for the first time in a long time, I was really moved to sadness. I can't imagine what it's like to live in constant danger as they do; do or say the wrong thing and get killed, always one step away from maybe getting shot or blown up. I think, by limiting my exposure to the news media, I may have de-desensitized myself.
Citizen Deux said…
Here is my take on the real issue. Unless it's you - and I mean the real, visceral honest-to-god you in jeapordy. Nothing matters. It is the same all over the world. If it happens outside your village, it didn't happen.
BostonMaggie said…
Absolutely. I have often described the level of my concern as rippling away from me as though I were standing in the ocean. My children, parents, siblings......then my uncles, aunts and cousins.....then my neighbors and fellow Townies, Bostonians......then Americans....and on out unitl you get to those nameless, faceless, (fill in the continent far away). Once I take care of the ripples close by and they are all set I will see what I can do for the outer circles. It's not that I wouldn't help atranger, I have and would do so again. But first my own have to be taken care of.