Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Wonder What Sumatra Is Like Right Now

Though most major news outlets overlooked or gave only passing coverage to the floods that ravaged Middle Tennessee less than two weeks ago, by late last week Nashville had become a major national news story. It remained so for about two days; then just about everyone outside of Tennessee, southwestern Kentucky, and northern Mississippi moved on.

Most people here haven't moved on. For many, moving on is not an option. In greater Nashville, flood relief and cleanup will be a major news story for several months. And even after the local news outlets move on, there will still be neighborhoods that need help cleaning up and rebuilding.

With that in mind, I wonder what things are like in Thailand and Sumatra and Sri Lanka right now. Little more than five years ago an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in the Indian Ocean took the lives of more than 200,000 people. I wonder what Azad Kashmir, where a magnitude 7.6 earthquake killed nearly 80,000 people, is like. I wonder what Sichuan, which lost nearly 70,000 people to an earthquake in 2008, is like. I wonder what Haiti is like right now. And I wonder what Cedar Rapids, which less than two years ago experienced flooding that was more widespread (albeit not as deadly) than this month's Tennessee floods, is like right now.

I'm not sure what my point is, except to say that national media outlets devoted a few days to the flooding in Middle Tennessee, but cleanup efforts here will last months, or even years. And, while I am aware of some out-of-state church groups who have made plans to join the relief effort this summer, I imagine that, by Labor Day, most Americans will have only vague memories of the Nashville flood. So what of this decade's many other historically deadly and destructive natural disasters? How many people have forgotten them? I know I have. I mean, when given the task of making a list of twenty-first-century disasters, I can come up with quite a few; but I've done nothing in recent months and years to raise awareness of or donate money to post-quake Pakistan or post-tsunami Thailand or post-flood Iowa. Like most people, I've moved on. The public's capacity for empathy and generosity is limited.

If you'd like to donate to the Middle Tennessee relief efforts, text REDCROSS to 90999. Then consider also donating to UMCOR's International Disaster Response.


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