Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, September 1, 2005
As I watch news coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I can’t help but think of last December’s tsunami. Like the natural disaster that ravished the coastal areas of Southeast Asia, Hurricane Katrina has reminded us of the incredible power of Mother Nature. With or without warning, first- and third-world nations alike are unable to escape natural disaster. While the effects of both events are largely the same – destruction of property, economic downfall, poor sanitation, loss of human life (all of which have the greatest effect on the poor) – there is one striking difference in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: the global community is silent.
Now, it seems to me that after the tsunami, there was a great deal of talk about being united in our humanity and coming together with the common goal of saving human lives. Are residents of the Gulf Coast not human? Perhaps they are lower down, as Michael Moore, Green Day and the Rolling Stones would have us believe: they are American.
Why does the world (led largely by the United States) dive in to aid the victims of the tsunami, and yet remain sidelined during our disaster? Granted, the U.S. is not a third-world country and already has much of the infrastructure needed to pull off a massive disaster relief effort, yet I have not heard report of a single foreign dignitary offering his/her condolences of our loss. Whole communities are underwater, people are still stranded on roofs or in attics, the chance of disease from the standing water is likely and yet the global community looks the other way.
When the U.S. donates money and manpower to disaster relief efforts, the U.N. responds with criticism: the U.S. was too stingy with its pledges, wasn’t timely in fulfilling the pledges, or some other load of baloney. What ever happened to, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”? No one should ever be criticized for giving. Yet this is the response the U.S. has grown accustomed to from the international community: damned if we do, damned if we don’t.
The apathy of the global community to our disaster is utterly insulting to the donations of individual Americans last December. If disaster bothered the world in December, why not now? I don’t expect a massive global contribution to the Katrina relief effort, but is it too much to ask for acknowledgment of our loss, or at least a break in the anti-Americanism?
Sarah Harwardalumnaclass of 2005Aug. 31