Thursday, March 17, 2011

Americans love disaster.

By Mike Ullery

Chief Photographer

Nothing gets American blood pumping more than a good disaster. Few will admit it, but American’s love disaster.

Maybe it is because, like a train wreck, one is appalled but unable to avert their gaze. Maybe it is a human tendency to feel compassion for those who are suffering.

Unfortunately, I believe that too many Americans love disaster for the wrong reasons. Much of the blame goes to national media who descend, like vultures, upon a region ravaged by nature, to report from the scene.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper relayed a story from Japan on Thursday that the Japanese people are losing faith in their government leaders. I will say that an American reporter would be a natural to make that determination since the American people lost faith in their government leaders some time ago. How is it Cooper’s place to make that determination and broadcast his assumption to in international audience? Is it based on his vast, what … three days experience in Japan, interviewing people who are still in a state of shock?

Cooper is just one journalist who is working from Japan following the recent earthquake and tsunami. It is obvious that we need news from areas affected by natural disasters. What we do not need are rogue reporters from major media outlets looking to find whatever angle possible, not to give readers/viewers the most accurate picture of what is happening, but rather to get the most viewers, readers or website hits. Ratings, not responsible journalism, seems to be the major motivator today.

Far to the east, Americans are hanging on to every embellished news story, looking for a way to be somehow involved, to feel as if they are a part of the “action.”

What better way to feel like you are a part of the “action” than to convince yourself that possible radiation from a potential nuclear reactor meltdown in Japan is a threat right here, in the good old U.S. of A?

American drug companies report that they are running out of anti-radiation pills, a potassium iodine pill, that counter-acts the effects of some types of radiation. Never mind that Japan is more than 5000 miles away from the west coast of the United States. Many Americans, mostly in California, decided that the “cool” thing to do was to panic. What a great thing to talk about at cocktail parties later, “Yeah, I remember back in ‘11 when I nearly died from radiation sickness. If I hadn’t taken that pill…”

What happens, Heaven forbid, if an earthquake should strike in the U.S? If an American nuclear reactor should suffer a catastrophic failure, would we have enough anti-radiation pills, right now, to potentially save the lives of those who could really need the protection?

Another aspect of Americans and natural disasters is our belief that relief, in the form of food, fuel and medicine, not to mention manpower, should be available instantly.

In many ways we are victims of our own government when it comes to getting off the dime but it is unrealistic for anyone to believe that any individual, up to and including the President, can issue an order and reasonably expect troops and/or aide, of any kind, to be sitting on the affected area’s doorstep within hours.

People made a huge issue of President Bush not being like Jeanie, on I Dream of Jeanie, or Samantha, on Bewitched, and just “blinking” billions in humanitarian aide to the doorstep of New Orleans.

Within 48 hours of the earthquake in Japan, I heard reports of people asking, “Where is the aide?” Get a grip on reality folks.

Another factor at work in this case is that Japan is not Haiti. Granted, the Japanese people are in need of assistance. I do know, though, that the Japanese people, in addition to being prosperous and hard-working, are a very proud people. The Japanese people and their government will let us know what they need, and where and when. Contrary to popular belief by some members of our federal government, the U.S. does not have the right to make decisions for other countries.

I am very sure that we will respond with everything in our power, to assist … when they ask.

In the meantime, one thing that all of us can do, is continue to pray for the people in Japan. Their road to recovery will be a long one, but as they have proved in the past, they will overcome this, and a better, even more modern Japan will prevail.

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