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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Thatís a lot of death, a lot of bodies, a lot of lives washed away. More than the number of U.S. soldiers who were killed in Vietnam, though not more than the Vietnamese who died. More people than live in Petaluma, but fewer than live in Santa Rosa — hopefully. More than the seating capacity of SBC Park, though not more than the Rose Bowl — probably.

The thing is, we donít really know yet how many were killed in the tsunami in south Asia. It will take a long time before we know, and even after that there will still be more dying, from disease caused by the deaths of those who died before, and from the lack of fresh water and the inability of governments to cope with this kind of situation. Because really, when have governments ever had to cope with this?

And yet, in a world where tens of thousands of humans can be wiped out in one cataclysmic event, other humans are still killing each other, by ones and twos and tens. Just because youíre in the middle of a desert or in the heart of a great city, safe from the fury of the mighty ocean, doesnít mean youíre safe from being killed because of your religion, or your skin color, or for no reason at all.

If I were the truly hopeful person I try so hard to be, Iíd say that it would be impossible for petty rivalries and jealousy and greed to survive. All anyone would have to do would be to look at the videos and hear the stories and contemplate the magnitude of the disaster. Life is too precious to blast somebody away for cutting you off on the freeway or wearing the wrong clothes in the wrong neighborhood (or the wrong uniform in the wrong country).

But we know it doesnít work that way. Most peopleís vision is too narrow to see what the lives of others, far or near, are like. Many donít have the luxury of thinking beyond the next scrap of bread or the next dark corner. It must be nearly impossible to absorb the horrors suffered by thousands across the world, when your own life could be one wrong step away from ending in its own tragedy.

29 December 2004

We had some blue sky today, but the rain returned tonight.

At least the natural disaster that destroyed so much this week is equally distributed among rich and poor. Skin color means nothing to big waves or tiny germs. Everyone is poor after the calamity. Not so with wars and crime and injustice, where the poor are so often singled out. Where humans are doing the killing, the victims are targeted, often for no more reason than an earthquake or a hurricane or a tsunami has for choosing its victims.

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By the time anyone reads this, the numbers might be all off already. When I started writing it, the toll was estimated at 57,000. By the time Iím posting it, itís 77,000 and rising. Itís incredible. Humbling, too, when you think of one life against that many. But we all have to live the best we can. Maybe this event will help some of us value what we have a little more.

Recent recommendations can always be found on the links page.

One year ago: Mighty
"It was like seeing a bunch of penguins walking across the desert. Sort of."

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