The Week That Was

February 3 - 9, 2008 goes down in history.

An article by Ted Anthony, an AP writer, tallies it up:

"Fifty-nine dead from the tornadoes in the South. Five dead after Edwin Rivera opened fire on his family and a SWAT officer in Los Angeles. Six killed in Kirkwood, Mo., when Charles Lee 'Cookie' Thornton opened fire at a city council meeting and was slain by police. Five women herded into the back room of a suburban Chicago Lane Bryant store and gunned down by a man still at large... Three dead in an Oregon plane crash, three dead in a Louisiana vocational college shooting, five dead and three missing in a Georgia sugar refinery explosion. An Ohio teacher stabbed in front of her grade-school students after her estranged husband walked into the classroom and pulled a knife. Across the state, hundreds of homes damaged in severe flooding. Hordes of motorists stranded on Wisconsin roads by snow."

Though far too close for comfort, all of this happened at a distance around me, as if I had a dream-like bubble keeping it all at arms length. I had 15 minutes of heavy thunder, lightening and rain, and then it was gone. I wasn't aware of the devastation that storm brought to other areas until after it had passed and the satellite signal came back. I was terrified as I always am when weather hits here. It never just rains, it always storms. There is never a breeze, it's always gales. Then the news reported the tornadoes and whole towns destroyed within miles of me, and I started to shake.

Still, life goes on, as it does for those not hit by disaster. I had three interviews this week, for three very different positions, and though it means a lot to my little life, to me, it is insignificant compared to what others had to deal with not so far away. Yet, my own survival had to take priority, at least during those interviews. I met some wonderful people; smart, dedicated, committed people just as focused on the here and now as I had to be, and all seemingly untouched by the disaster.

I remember the day that President John F. Kennedy was shot. The news broke in to interrupt that morning's Captain Kangaroo to televise the motorcade, and when it said the President was shot, my mother screamed. Soon, my father came home from work. Schools were let out, businesses closed and the world seemed to come to a deathly quiet standstill while waiting for further news of the President's condition. Everyone and everything stopped.

I had a 9:30 class on September 11, 2001. I had just watched the second plane hit the Twin Towers on the TV in the main office and had to walk in to tell my students what I had just seen, though I didn't believe it - yet. Some of my students screamed and ran down the hall to the pay phones; more than a few had family in New York City. Instead of doing what I had planned, we all searched the Internet for updates and talked. I let our collective little world stop to begin to come to terms with what was going on, but the rest of the world went on as though nothing unusual had happened. Nothing closed, schools didn't let out and life just went on in the rest of upstate NY.

It was the same this past Tuesday here in Arkansas. Many died, hundreds hurt, even more lost everything, yet everything just went on as though nothing happened. There was no time to process, to help our neighbors hit by the tornadoes, or to mourn.

A horrible week filled with devastation, and life goes on around it, as though all the horror is just another Hollywood fabrication. Explosions, shootings, tornadoes, floods, and none of us are allowed or able to step off the wheel of the rat race.

When did we become such a cold, cruel and uncaring society?


  1. I don't think it's so much a matter of becoming a heartless society as it is reverting back to our natural, violence-loving selves. It's only natural to welcome the loss of lives of those in your species, and not just with humanity. Ecologically, the greatest competitors for resources are the other members of your own species. Any environment can only sustain so many organisms, and once the limit is reached, the first one's you'd want to see go are the ones that need the same stuff you do - and that's everyone else. Of course, its preferable that they aren't in your family, with the instinct to pass on genes and such.

    Then why did America give such a damn back in the 60's and 70's? Simple: that's when tensions were highest between us and the USSR, and that meant one slip-up meant we were all blown to nuclear hell. People flipped out when Kennedy died because he was the one that averted the Cuban Missile Crisis. People held mass rallies against the Vietnam War because the Viet Cong were backed by the Soviets, and pissing off the Soviets meant Mutually Assured Destruction. Peace, love, and understanding were so in-style back then because that's what it took not to get us all killed.

    And in the modern day... Did people speak out against Afghanistan? Yeah. Iraq? Yeah. Were Buddhist monks burning themselves alive in the streets and students marching into the guns of the police in protest. Nope. Why? Because the crazy Muslim-fanatic bastards kill themselves and probably an average of ten Middle Eastern civilians for every one US soldier. Their herd is killing itself faster than it's our herd... and at pretty much no risk to 99% of our population.

    It doesn't matter that most of the Middle Eastern governments are brutal and would probably be better off as democracies. If it did, then we would've gone after Kim Jong-il quite a few years ago. Vengeance against Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden doesn't mean squat, either. Only two things matter: One, the Middle East is no real threat to us now, but would be if they were in the possession of WMD's; we have to tame them down a bit before they grow the fangs to bite. And two, the Middle East is the biggest supplier of one of the most important resources to the modern homo sapien: oil. So we don't really care if some soldiers die. We don't care if a bunch of Iraqi/Iranian/Afghani civilians die. We're only bowing to our perfectly natural instinct to establish control of resources and eliminate potential threats to us and ours.

    So why is it nobody cares about the loss of American lives, even right in our own back yard? Media-driven desensitization is one possible answer. The media obviously capitalizes on our interest seeing other humans getting removed from the resource competition. Another possible answer is that we know it lowers demand for resources right here in America, even if we don't want to admit it to ourselves. Nobody is stupid enough not to see the gas prices going up, making the price of everything else go up and resulting in a harder time acquiring the resources we need for survival.

    And if you think this whole attitude toward the loss of human lives is something new, well... just think about how popular the gladiator fights were in Rome, or the frenzy people went into over the Inquisition, or the Witch Trials of Salem. Any heating up of the Cold War was spoken strongly against because if we bit them, they would bite back just as hard.

  2. You make very valid points. There is no doubt that the ecology of the planet can only sustain so many humans. The Industrial Revolution not only taught homosapiens to squander resources, but also introduced greed.

    The hippy sub culture of the 60s and 70s were a powerful faction, mostly because they were middle-class college students unhappy with the way the previous generation did things. Peace, love and rock n roll was also very wrapped up in LSD and heroin and inhibitions went out the window along with a lot of common sense. The core of the this sub culture may have had political goals, but the rest of us just had fun. I certainly wasn't aware of anything political about what I was doing back then.

    My theory on the cause of no resistance to what is going on "out there" now is that this giant greed factor, those few that have the majority of the wealth and who pimp the rest of us, has forced separation of us to prevent us from getting together to share information and forming a collective force as strong as the hippy movement of the 60s and 70s. There is no such thing as extended families anymore, other than in name. Most live far away from family, and though the Internet now makes that physical distance shorter, the separation happened well before the Internet came into being. Besides, not many are brave enough to become the central figure of any 'movement' to offset the current power structure. Look how many of the hippy leaders were killed!

    Yes, you make very valid and strong points. But, consider this. Can you revert back to a prior state, not having learned what you've already learned? Outside of massive brain injury, that's not really possible. It is not possible to regress. What marks us as different from all other life on this planet is the ability to think, to reason. And once thought, it can't be unthought.

    There is also a very big difference between the way people behave in crowds vs the way they behave as individuals. Group/crowd behavior is such that a person will do things as a member of a group that he or she would never consider doing as an individual. St. Vitus's Dance is something to research to illustrate this, as it is a study of mass hysteria/insanity. I think that's the name of it.

    Unfortunately, it's very true that things could get to the point where we will have to physically fight for our basic needs. Nothing in place now can avert a collapse of this capitalist economy. Not really. I hope that we have evolved enough as individuals not to act as animals, but instead, rebuild a true, social culture that benefits all and not just a few. Today, it's very important that all of us learn the lesson this day and age has taught.