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Stateside With Rosalea: I am

Stateside With Rosalea: I am

By Rosalea Barker

Even two weeks' silence is not enough to honour the dead. There will never be enough time to do that. So I give in to my own need to make sense of the event of (almost) 1 am UTC, 26 December, 2004 and write.

I am traumatised by it. And swiping at mosquitos in an effort to take my mind off the crocodiles circling just below the surface holds no attraction. It's no surprise that the event has been a boon for the PR industry in the US, from the White House and the Department of Defense right on down to the most insignificant celebrity, so why even bother swiping at them.

I am traumatised that the event has no name. Hurricanes and cyclones have names. Earthquakes have names. Why are tsunamis nameless? Shouldn't it be called Tsunami Aceh? After all, earthquakes have a much more widespread effect than the name they are eventually known by. Who even knows where Loma Prieta is, yet that is what the earthquake is called that wrought havoc in San Francisco in 1989.

I am traumatised that the earthquake of 1 am UTC was so strong it caused the earth to "ring like a bell" according to one scientist and was recorded on seismic instruments as far away as Central Park in New York, yet no one--no one in the whole wide world--thought of calling radio stations in the neighboring regions to be sure they were telling people to evacuate the coastline.

I am traumatised that the oh-so-human instinct was to wonder at the way the tide had gone so far out, and instead of running, children went to play with the fish left stranded on the beach. Whereas the animal population took to the hills--in those regions that had hills--five minutes before the wave could even be seen.

I am traumatised that as far as I can tell, no one has recognised what a trauma this is for everybody in the world. Surely, after the destruction at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Dresden and other places during World War II--the only events that really compare to the scale of this catastrophe--someone came on the radio in countries other than those immediately affected to help people through it. Where on the airwaves is Laura Bush?

I am traumatised at the thought of the ideas that might take hold in people's minds as a result of this event. God or DoD? There is no good outcome possible by going down either of those paths, because neither can be proved to be a cause, and the most traumatising of all thoughts are those you can't be sure of, especially when they are used to frighten people.

I am traumatised by the thought that pouring all this aid money into the local economies--as the aid organizations insist they should do--will cause galloping inflation. Don't send clothes and food they say, just money. And the expert commentators on the news shake their heads at stories of local Sri Lankans sending containers of food and clothing, as if they know better than folks who are in direct contact with family and friends in the region.

I am traumatised at the thought that the US military in its effort to look good in the region, is--by its very enthusiasm--obstructing the efforts of other more local entities who have, after all, gotten down to a fine art the methods and know well the needs of reconstruction in the wake of cyclones and tsunamis, for example in the Pacific and in Japan.

I am. And oh so many people no longer are.


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