During the genocide in 1990s Rwanda, doctors there noticed an ebb and flow to humanitarian aid for the victims. They eventually found a direct connection. Aid fell by nearly 18% with each average minute per day of television coverage of the OJ celebrity murder of his ex-wife and his add-on murder of the accidental witness. It seems distraction can kill.
As a kid, I once tried to raise money for relief efforts to save children starving in Biafra. That was about 40 years ago. Biafra was a small African nation that seceded from Nigeria after a military coup in that country. It was not a peaceful time. Nigeria blockaded the area, millions of folks died in the famine. Biafra winked out of existence.
But many were saved, despite the blockade. Doctors Without Borders, the international organization that gives medical assistance to folks around the world today was formed because of news from Biafra. Why was the world so responsive? It seems it was because so many of us ... well … noticed.
Which brings us to the tragedy of Myanmar. A major cyclone killed tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands more are slowly starving to death or dying from disease. Aid is mostly not getting to them.
The immediate problem is that the xenophobic dictatorship in that country tries to stop rescue from getting through. The sad fact is that General Ne Win is a murderous fool, afraid that saving lives with outside help will bring foreign ideas, like freedom, to his imprisoned population. Major decisions in that junta are made by astrologers (really), and the stars are strangely unmoved by human suffering.
The need for US leadership in breaking the deadlock has run into a snag. The administration does not act because public outrage is absent. It seems we are too caught up with Jeremiah Wright, the Clinton derailment, and the McCain embrace of the madcap Paris Hilton clone who is still our President. We lumber toward these interesting shiny objects and away from desperate people, oppressed and dying.
We live in a breathtaking world in which every nuance of American life has a profound, potentially life saving, effect around the world. We are a beacon, not simply for the freedoms our current administration seeks to destroy, but for our generosity.
It’s just that right now, right this minute, the folks in Asia are kind of boring and we are busy with cartoons and comic books.
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