Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bad News

It's difficult to carry on a pose of grumbling and snark in the face of widespread death and destruction. 42,000 plus dead in China, millions in the street; in Myanmar, 130,000 killed by cyclone, they say, God knows how many really died. Homeless people, bodies floating down the Irrawaddy, no one to claim or mourn them.

One is almost speechless in the face of this.

The Chinese, at least are acting like a mature nation now. Maybe it's the combination of the Olympics coming and this earthquake that is forcing them to open up some more. To act quickly, to accept help, to let the world see what was going on. I can't imagine in the '90s that Melissa Block and Robert Siegel would have been permitted even to stay in the country, much less report from the scene of destruction. Melissa Block, especially, did some of the best reporting I ever heard from the site of the crushed school. Sensitive, heartfelt, heart-rending and devastating in it's detail. I cried. I heard a phone conversation with Ms. Block on NPR and you could tell she was having trouble keeping this at a reporter's remove.

Anyway it's quite a change from the days of Chairman Mao. He probably killed more than 40,000 every time he announced a new five-year plan. Between Mao and Stalin it's a wonder anyone was left alive in Eurasia.

I wonder if anyone had the same reactions as me in hearing of the two disasters, China and Myanmar? No tears for Myanmar. The leaders have that place locked up. No Melissa Block there to bring to us the extent of loss and the personal stories of loss. So many more died and yet it's difficult to feel the same grief. Knowing something is terrible is not the same thing as feeling it is terrible. Melissa block brought feeling to the knowledge in China. Some thing similar happened when the tsunami hit Indonesia and Thailand. Openness brings sympathy, and more relief.

It's a credit to our country that we are willing to send supplies and help to Myanmar even tho they consider us an enemy.

1 comment:

Scruffy said...

You make perfect sense and I agree completely. I was thinking the exact same thoughts following these two horrific tragedies. The respective government's responses could not be more different. Like you, I shed tears viewing the heart rending images of pain, sadness and despair that the Chinese were experiencing because of the very fact that one was allowed to view the tragedy up close and personal. The images from Myanmar were viewed from a distance, almost like looking through a window. With China, I felt like I was watching people EXPERIENCING despair; with Myanmar, I felt like a voyeur watching a documentary. An odd and disquieting comparison, to be sure.