Normally, my intent is for the "Sunday Edition" to be an exclusive for Left of Center, but since Cernig seems to still be tied up with his move and all, I figured I'd cross post this week's Sunday Edition here as well. So, without further ado, here it is.
I slogged my way miserably through Atlanta’s enormous airport. My daughter’s car seat slung over my back as it was snuggly packed in its carrier (along with a pillow, four bottles of water, a bag full of snacks, and a few baby toys, all of which weren’t so snuggly packed) pulled down heavily upon my shoulders, only further agitating my already weakened and throbbing frame. As I pushed my daughter through the hub on her cheap fold up stroller, she even seemed to have had enough of our little unscheduled adventure, and would start to cry any time I stopped moving.
My wife caught up with us, a bag of food for her in one hand, and a smoothie for me in the other hand. I had not taken up a new diet, but since we first were stranded in Atlanta, I had been struck with both a nearly debilitating case of stomach flu on top of having one of the remaining pieces of my dental bridge fall out, thereby making solid food an impossibility.
To say that there were better endings to a winter vacation would be an understatement. My few ventures outside of the restrooms around Atlanta’s airport were spent rushing from one gate to the next in hopes that we might get on a standby flight back home to Norfolk.Taking the smoothie into hand, I unburdened myself and sat. There were still three hours until the next flight out to Norfolk, and we had decided to just sit and try and get some sleep and rest. Parked in front of a ceiling mounted television, we were bombarded with the news regarding the Tsunami.
Just over night the death toll estimates had climbed from 24,000 to 50,000. Rudimentary computer generated graphics detailed how the tsunami had come to be in the first place. Stories of the lives torn apart by the 30 foot monstrosity rounded out the coverage.
The Earth did what the Earth sometimes does. Continents moved. Atlas shrugged.
By now the death toll has climbed past 150,000 people. 150,000. It’s not within human capacity to truly comprehend a death toll like that. We cannot grieve for that many souls. To do so would render us incapacitated.
So instead we find our sympathy not with the catastrophic numbers, but with the stories surrounding them. Just like the 9/11 catastrophe, we did not mourn the 3000 dead, but instead we mourned for the family members pleading on the evening news with a photographs, desperately searching for their missing loved ones. We shed our tears for those trapped inside the World Trade Center who spent the last few minutes of their lives saying good bye to someone they loved over a cell phone. We grieved for the firefighters who, as everyone else was frantically fighting to get out of the collapsing buildings, rushed in to save whom they could.
So too do the stories come from the Tsunami. There are the stories of the young Swedish boy who lost his family to the Tsunami while on vacation, as well as stories of parents sifting through the wreckage only to find the lifeless bodies of their children. Only a few weeks after the catastrophe there are stories everywhere you look, and as one astute late night television newscaster put it, “we may not be able to fully understand the repercussions of this disaster for years to come.”
The Virginia Pilot reported that an hour after the earthquake hit, wells in Virginia monitored primarily for drought purposes showed a three foot rise in level, but this is only the most cursory of repercussions. People come together. There seems to be a great determination to extend an early warning system to those nations hit hardest by the Tsunami. As NPR predicts that reconstruction will take at least ten years, it seems as though everyone is trying to find some way to help out.
It’s the kind of event that we as humans can never fully comprehend, but at the same time we can not just sit idly by. Cultures will change. Years from now, people will remember where they were when the Tsunami hit like when Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon, or when 9/11 hit. It’s the kind of event that you hope transcends the pettiness that people are capable of. It’s the kind of event that you hope transcends politics.
But if there was anyone that was capable of politicizing this event, you know that man. Only one player in modern politics has a resume that proves he’s qualified to politicize the Tsunami, and that man is none other than the Idiot King himself, our president, George W. Bush.
I’ve drawn several comparisons between 9/11 and the Tsunami, but while they may have similar abilities to affect society, they really are nothing alike. Aside from the sheer magnitude, there is another stark difference. There is no bad guy that caused the Tsunami. In the greater 9/11 story, there is a villain, a bad guy to go after, but in the case of the Tsunami, you can’t very well declare a “War on Earth…ism.”
Perhaps that’s why the initial White House pledge was a measly $15 million. It’s the only justification that I could think of, especially considering the billions of dollars that we pump into the Iraq war that is still not adequately justified. But pressure does work, and that pledge has jumped to over 300 million.
Don’t hold your breath. The BBC world service as broadcast on NPR reported that the nations commonly don’t live up to their pledge.
And then there was the “Coalition.” Honestly, Bush is making me very apprehensive about that word. The coalition was intended to be the front runner in providing aid but it didn’t even last two full weeks.
While The Great Divider may be great at playing “my club is better than your club” politics in America, apparently those tactics don’t fly quite as well around the rest of the world. See, movement conservatives ultimately hate the UN. They think it’s evil, probably because it’s not Republican, and not on Rupert Murdoch’s payroll. Seriously, they point to the UN as the very picture of corruption without once ever looking at their own political mafia. By establishing this coalition, what Bush was doing wasn’t to try and get help out to where it was needed most, he was trying to subvert the UN.
While that little gambit failed, there’s still much more to pay attention to. Take for instance sending Colin Powell and Jeb Bush. Colin, a retiring polico with his credibility on the death bed, and Jeb, the younger brother hoping to enjoy a little presidential nepotism were sent to show how much the United States really cares. El Presidente? Yeah, he never left his ranch.
And remember, this month is loaded with American Politics. With the 109th congress already underway, we got Gonzo’s confirmation hearing in process, POTUS has both an inauguration speech, and a State of the Union Address (and don’t forget the interview with Barbra Walters).
Oh, and yeah, elections in Iraq.
Despite pressure from involved parties to delay elections, Allawi and Bush&Co have stubbornly insisted on maintaining the Jan 30 date for elections in Quagmiraq. Violence has continued unabated, and hopes for stabilization are failing. This is the cost of stubbornness.
Now, I know that right now you may be asking yourself what does this have to with the Tsunami? It’s more like, what does the Tsunami have to do with American Politics? As The Note pointed out a few days ago, the Tsunami is, along with being a disaster, a severe set of political camouflage.
As Mark Halperin’s team has it, if the elections go well, The Idiot King will step up and take full credit for it just like he took credit for the Iraqi Soccer team at the Olympics. If they don’t go well, the administration will do the honorable thing and let the story get buried underneath Tsunami news.
As I told my friend the other day, in order for any press to be bad enough to come out of Iraq and actually have any political repercussions, it has to be catastrophic. Ultimately, it's sad to think that an event like this could be manipulated for political gain, but get used to it, because in all likelihood, the pathetic attempt to provide competition to the UN is probably not going to be the last thing we see. Still, as is the case with all disasters, there is some good to come out of things.
And no, I’m not talking about the cool mil that Sandra Bullock has donated.
Possibly the most notable is the determination to establish an early warning system for the nations hit hardest by the Tsunami. Also, there is the fact that, as reported by BBC radio, the UN has moved significantly faster in determining the initial monetary assessment compared to disasters in the past. This information is vital in allocating money to areas in need, and could save lives as the time it takes to get money to areas in need is reduced.
But, this is about perspective. By now, my stomach flu has passed. I saw the dentist a couple of days later and now I have my full temporary bridge back in, and I’ll have the permanent bridge in on the 27th. As for my daughter, in the words of the ladies that work in her daycare, she lost her “star” status for a few days, but as of this last Friday, she has returned to being the little angel they all love(I still don’t get it. She gets around strangers and she’s great. She comes home with just her mom and I, and she turns into a devil). And there are still over 150,000 people dead as a result of the Tsunami. We all have our small problems, and still time rolls on without care. Flags may be flown at half mast, but DC won’t shut down. And still, nothing will be the same.
My parents when I was younger told me, “don’t feel sorry for yourself because no matter how bad you got it, there is always someone out there who has it worse.” I thought they were being callous at the time, but now I realize that it wasn’t callousness. It was perspective.
Until next time, stay tuned, and keep on your toes.