Saturday, January 16, 2010


I've been trying to wrap my mind around this disaster in Haiti. When they first said as many as 100,000 dead I was surprised and thought the estimate would end up being too high. Surely 100,000 human beings can not perish in an earthquake in the 21st century.

Today they say 200,000. It just blows my mind. The last time a rector scale 7 earthquake hit in the US was in the Aleutian Islands in 2003. Apparently, magnitude 7 or larger quakes happen on average almost 20 times each year worldwide, though there have been a good bit fewer than that recently. The ones in California aren't that big usually. That horrific tsunami that devastated parts of southern Asia in 2004 was due to a 9, the second largest earthquake ever recorded.

Pat Robertson says the Haitian earthquake is the result of a pact with the devil.

Let's see.
Brit Hume thinks Tiger Woods should become a Christian and drop this Buddhism stuff. Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh implies we gave enough to Haiti before the quake ever hit. As I try to wrap my mind around Haiti I can't but think that these men represent a large number of feeble American minds. And this is a democracy.

Let me be very clear about something. Religious belief has nothing to do with earthquakes. Nothing.

That this terrible crisis is subjected to the rubbish of neocon thinking sickens me. It only amplifies my complete lack of respect for the pseudo-intellectualism of radical (i.e. moral) conservatism, particularly conservative religion. The God of Wrath did not direct His vengeance upon a land of poverty so many thousands of innocent women and children could die. There is no such God. Thankfully.

Haiti, poor Haiti with 3 million human beings still to rescue. Still. Today. Five days after the event. There's no infrastructure to speak of in this country because what infrastructure there was was in Port-au-Prince. This is an 18th century culture in a world leaving it behind. Much of the infrastructure fell on everybody down there. The city has been destroyed. 200,000 might end up not being high enough. The country is increasingly in chaos, though US troops will bring a measure of control. All this just as the poor nation was finally establishing a fragile basis for economic growth.

World aid and sympathy has been inspirational. Perhaps everyone can find common ground when that ground has violently shifted and disrupted basic human life. This is an historic disaster.

Viewed strictly objectively, however, this is not
the Katrina Disaster magnified. So far as I know now, Katrina compares with Haiti in terms of the scope of disaster. While Katrina resulted in far greater destruction in economic terms, it resulted in far fewer deaths. In a wider view, the Asian tsunami was a much more powerful earthquake. Still, its epicenter was not a mere 16 miles from the capital of one of Earth's most economically impoverished nations. That destroyed its very ability to rapidly respond to its crisis. That is the important point I think.

From a selfishly human perspective, Haiti at least equals 2004's tsunami in the Indian Ocean and any other natural disaster of recent times. I don't cringe at human suffering, even on a vast scale. It is a historical reality. But, my heart is shocked more than saddened that there can be so much more misery in the world so suddenly.

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