On this first day of 2005, a day of dappled clouds and unseasonable warmth in my corner of the world, my thoughts are with the victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Asia, and the families of the victims. And what a diverse and mournful congregation it is: the poorest of the poor swept from their barely adequate villages, and the foreign visitors, jet-setting tourists, backpacking stragglers, sunbathing royalty, all washed away together in the shocking wave. More than a hundred thousand dead. Many thousands missing, missing forever. Their families will never know what happened. The earth shuddered, the wave came, and then what? There are countless options for helping in this catastrophe. Here is one: Red Cross
When George Bush belatedly acknowledged the disaster and pledged a meager sum to aid the nations affected by it, a debate flared (like a fire in a coal seam that burns stealthily and erupts into view miles from where it began) over the timing and the adequacy of the pledge of American help. There should be no debate: the pledge was late and was paltry. Period. Yesterday, though, the President stood a little taller, increasing that pledge tenfold. But the debate will continue. After the initial pledge, I joined, briefly, an online chat that allowed many hopeless ignorant loudmouths the opportunity to gripe about everything, all in the context of a discussion over the US response to the disaster—terrorist attacks on America, the serial hurricanes in Florida in 2004, Bill Clinton—and to argue that America should not raise a finger, or spend a nickel, to aid these countries. It was astonishing, but should have been nothing of the sort. The recent election should have taught me that intolerance is endemic in this country and the lack of compassion a hallmark, despite the Christian aspirations of the loudest and most foolish among us.
Which leads me to what is likely to be a focus of these occasional ramblings: the hypocrisy of American conservatism. Stay tuned.