Monday, March 1, 2010

Olympics of Earthquakes

Recently we have seen the unparalled devastation from two record-setting natural disasters and the response of two populations that could not be more paradoxical.

In Haiti, we see a poverty-stricken nation, barely educated, with a travesty of government, no humanitarian services or competent leadership, it's infrastructure totally devastated with a final death toll of 200,000.

Chili, a truly remarkable multicultural nation of Native American and European peoples with strong governmental leadership, highly educated, economically thriving, well-prepared for just such an occurance by advanced architecture and building standards, has a reported death toll of less than 1000.

Yet Haiti showed us, in image after horrible image, the remarkable beauty, patience and stability of its population.

Those first seventy-two hours showed terrible tragedy and sorrow. Grown men walking miles with injured women or children in their arms thinking to reach medical help that wasn't there. Silent women, surrounded by equally silent children, huddled in the dirt clutching each other, waiting for help that did not come. Grown men with tears streaming, fighting furiously, begging for help of any passer by to extricate a loved one. A child gripping the shoulder of a younger child and embracing two even smaller ones searching the moving crowd desperately, probably for a mother or a father whom he would never see again.

The media made much over the sporadic riots and vandalism for food and supplies after only EIGHT DAYS in 90 degree weather with no food supplies, no water, no homes, no protection for their women and children, living under cloths stretched across poles in the remaining open spaces, their injured loved ones dying on the bare ground beside them. Surviving families, doubled by traumatized orphans whom they accepted within the circle of what little care and protection they could provide, stood in line patiently for the few supplies available and the meager and inadequate emergency medical care . Of course the point was finally reached where only the strong could reach supplies and bad things did begin to happen but sporadically.

By weeks end these people, instead of striking out, stealing or destroying, amazed the world by weaving through the sad mutilated streets of their home city, Port Au Prince singing their gratitude, praising in song, in the manner of their community culture, for the lives that remained.

Chili, after only 36 hours of terror and multiple aftershocks, in both anticipation of shortages and plain old thievery and opportunism, is already having to send out troops in an effort to hold back rioting looters. Already we see scenes of the grown men and youths of Chili stripping the stores and homes.

Haiti, I salute you.

Chili, you have my deepest sympathy in this sad hour.

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