Friday, December 31, 2004


Can you imagine a 20 foot wall of water barrelling down on you, sweeping everything in its path, houses, furniture, boats, people? Can you imagine spotting this liquid monolith coming in your direction and the desperation that would sweep over you, the desire to run, to run faster than that water can reach you, to find the highest point, the farthest corner, the island of safety? Can you imagine watching your children swept away, crying, screaming, reaching out for you and you so enveloped in this force of nature that you cannot reach them, cannot save them, cannot answer their cries?

In your darkest nightmare, you have not dreamed of this, nor thought it possible that more than 100,000 human beings could be flung like toothpicks along the course of this angry tide. Yet it happened and the beaches, playgrounds for the leisurely, places to swim and wade, sunbathe, watch a lovely sunset, stroll along looking for shells or driftwood, were turned into charnel houses, covered with death and destruction.

Now, days later, many people...the lucky survivors...struggle to find food and water, the very air filled with the stench of decaying bodies, children clad in ragged clothing or no clothing at all crying for food, for a drink of water, for warmth. What faces them now could be disastrous...the diseases that follow such tragedies, the dysentery, the typhoid, the malnutrition. And the world around them is mobilizing to send them help, difficult as it will be to reach some of these islands, cut off from civilization, routed by water.

These things happen, it seems, in the poorest parts of the world, although that wall of water was a great leveler for rich or poor. But, inevitably, it is the poor who suffer most, who have no resources, no extended hands. Or perhaps it just seems that way, because of the great number of poor people in the world.

President Bush was silent for three days, vacationing in Texas. He did, he said, keep in touch with the leaders of some of the stricken countries. However, the words of sympathy and comfort his own people would have liked to hear did not come, except for a few words relayed by his staff. After that three day silence, our President finally gave the speech that should have come directly after the tragedy. The aid promised has been rising, undoubtedly because of criticism. At first, 35 million was pledged. Now, the promised funding has risen to $350 million. Hopefully, he will not insist upon Abstinence before he allots the money.

Who do we blame such a disaster on? Is it God? Is it fate? Is it Mother Nature? Is it the force within the earth that is bubbling and boiling and threatening every moment of our lives? Could this same disaster, or one like it, take place here? Could Kentucky blow off the map, taking several states on either side with it? Since those caves were formed by movement of the earth, one could surmise that it certainly could happen. Could California and half the West Coast slide into the sea? Could Florida be submerged? Is anyone safe?

The answer to that, of course, is no. The tragedy which struck with such force a few days ago or one just as forceful could strike anywhere. And we are all at the mercy of nature gone berserk, with tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons, blizzards. The more one studies such things, the more he realizes how necessary it is to fund research on these catastrophes. Global warming, for instance. What angry forces could follow a few degrees of warmth all over our globe?

Warnings. A siren here or there. How pitiful it is that most of these afflicted people had no idea at all that their morning would turn into a nightmare of mammoth proportions. There is no warning system in most of those countries, because most of them are poor and cannot afford them. But it seems that even "towncriers" might have helped, people ready to run down the beaches and give warning. It is said that even a few rows of mangroves give some protection. I suppose they just didn't dream that such a gigantic Behemoth of waves could engulf them.

We invaded topple one man. Nature can topple 100,000 in a blink of an eye. There is no mercy in nature. It has its own version of Shock & Awe. If you happen to be in its path, you are in trouble. No defense, no excuse, no explanation, no alibi will save you if nature points its finger. There is no reason to its selection, its pointing finger. Some survive. Most don't. The very forces that bring us so much beauty, the mountains, the sea, the islands, can bring us cruelty beyond measure...or thrilling stories of survival.

But, thinking of Iraq, I cannot help but think of the massive amounts of money we have designated for its "reconstruction". The people on those islands will build lean-to huts and makeshift homes. They will make do. It will take years for them to reclaim their former lives, if they ever do. If only we could lay down the rifles in Iraq and send that reconstruction money to these pitiful people. If only the cost of the War could be used to help people and not to blow them to bits.

You know, at first, we went to war with Iraq because we were told we were in danger, that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. When that didn't come to pass, suddenly George Bush started talking about "a better world". The imminent danger from Iraq was forgotten, and we became great humanitarians, innocently wanting to bring Democracy to the Iraqi, to free them from a terrible dictator, to liberate them. Our change from frightened defenders to big-hearted Samaritans was almost instant. And unbelievable.

Well, now, George Bush has his chance. We'll see if the Great Liberator, the Humanitarian who wants to make a Better World will step up to the plate and help the hundreds of thousands of people left devastated. We'll see if, without the oil to grease the helpful urges, he eagerly joins in the expense and work of reconstructing entire islands. We'll see if he thinks he can help the world without starting a war first, without explosives, without aggression.

It's up to you, George Bush, to show what you mean when you say "it's a better world"!