Thursday, August 30, 2007

A loss of perspective

Yesterday, August 29th, was the second anniversary of hurricane Katrina's landfall on the gulf coast states. It was the worst natural disaster in the country's history. To many people died, over 1,800; to many left destitute. It was a great tragedy. And it was a spit in the ocean compared to what happened just seven months prior.

On December 26th, 2004 the second strongest earthquake in global recorded history caused the Indian Ocean to rise up and nearly obliterate parts of four countries. Almost 230,000 people were killed. That is a hair over 78% more than Katrina. The same as 127 Katrina's. But you don't hear much about that here in the US, do you. "It was tragic but it isn't our problem," is the basic frame of mind here. Now, I'm not making light of Katrina. Not at all. But this world is getting smaller and smaller by the year. What happens on the other side of the world affects us just as much as what happens in another state or neighboring country.

The problem is that the average citizen of the US has no perspective. None related to geography nor to history. A good example is the count of US military deaths in Iraq. The latest figures I have are 3735 dead. That's a lot of "our sons and daughters." But if you look at an historical perspective, it's a drop in the bucket as well. Some counts of a few well known wars from Twentieth Century Atlas - Casualty Statistics - United States might help:
Revolutionary War   25324
War of 1812 19,465
Civil War 618,222 combined (US: 360,222 - CS: 258,000)
World War I 116,516
Pearl Harbor 2,388
World War II 405,399 (1465 on D-Day alone)
Korean War 36,568
Vietnam War 58,177 (adjusted yearly with post-combat deaths)
The death of just one person in war, or anything much other than natural causes, is something I am against. But if you're going to quote numbers at least put them in perspective. You often hear the phrase, "Think Globally, Act Locally." But 99% of the time people forget the first half of that quote.

I'm not about to claim that I am the embodiment of Think Globally, Act Locally. I'm lucky if I can think period. But I do have a little more awareness of what's happening in the world, probably due to growing up in Europe.

I wish there were an easy way to help make the world more aware of what really matters but the best we can do is try.

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