The great Tsunami of 2004 inspired a commensurate wave of shock, grief, and sympathy - as well it should have. And the widespread emotional pain led to a widespread emotional outpouring of support for the survivors - laudatory and reassuring.
Yet, I can't help but compare the horrendous toll of this event (and the wonderful response it received), to other recent events in which there was also widespread death ON THIS VERY SCALE -- OR GREATER -- and yet there was VIRTUALLY NO RESPONSE... and it leads to me to ask:
Why has this event inspired such a good and global response when the others did not?
Could it be because the other events -- which dwarfed the great Tsunami of 2004 -- were political - or "man-made" - and not natural?
I'm mostly thinking of just three or four recent genocides: The Bosnian Serb genocide which killed 250,000 humans; the Rwandan genocide - which killed 750,000 humans (SIX TIMES AS MANY PEOPLE AS THE TSUNAMI!); and the 20,000 per year Saddam slaughtered and tortured for 20 years. And then there's the Sudanese genocide (of 1.5 MILLION Christians and southern Sudanese animists, and of the Darfurians). Each total is GREATER than the Tsunami toll, but each genocide received virtually NO response from the "world community." THEY WERE VIRTUALLY IGNORED!
YES: they were bigger than the Tsunami of 2004 (at least as far as we know as of this writing), yet each inspired NO wordwide outrage at the time - even though ALL could have been prevented - or at least halted; YEAH, all were within human power to avoid or restrict!
Did the fact that they were man-made make them "less tragic"!? Does the fact that they were victims of other people make their victims less pitiable!? And what does it say about most people that they respond to one and not to the other type of tragedy??
I think that the Tsunami of 2004 instilled more fear and anxiety and more sympathy in more people because more people felt "there but for the grace of God go I." It's easier to identify with the victims of natural disasters - especially one so widespread - than it is to identify with people who are targeted by other people because of who they are. (As if people have control over who they are; as if the Batutsis of Rwanda could've un-made themselves as Batutsis and remade themselves as Hutsis.)
Of course, people CANNOT remake themselves - we are who we are. And - in my mind - that should make the genocide they suffered seem WORSE than the suffering of the victims of the Tsunami of 2004. And it should make the people of the world feel MORE GUILTY for having FAILED to prevent those genocides.
The fact that - over the last two decades - MAN-MADE genocide has taken more lives than natural disasters should remind people that we can AND SHOULD do more to prevent them.
After all, we can't prevent earthquakes or tsunamis - or asteroids from hitting the Earth. But we can prevent genocide. And we should. And that should be another lesson we learn from the great Tsunami of 2004: the widespread death and destruction of people, families and property is especially horrible. We should do whatever we can to eliminate it - or minimize it: with more tsunami warning systems AND also with an assertive/proactive - even PREVENTIVE AND PREEMPTIVE interventionist foreign policy that dares to to act in time, BEFORE genocide takes place.
That's my hope... my prayer. That's what I hope the world learns from this most recent horror.