by Frances Edstrom
The death toll from the tsunami that hit countries around the Indian Ocean last Sunday has, by some estimates, reached over 120,000. Public health organizations estimate that the toll will climb even higher from disease, as water supplies were destroyed or contaminated in many areas, and thousands of bodies remain unburied.
Initial reports of deaths from this natural disaster were horrible enough. At one point, the number equaled the population of Winona County, the thought of that many dead in such a short time boggling the mind. It seems each day the number increases. In some communities nearly an entire generation of children is gone, many of the rest orphaned. The impact of the tsunami will be felt for decades after the palm trees are regrown, and the beaches once more full of tourists.
Most people react to such news with sympathy, and an urge to reach out and help. The response in Winona County was nearly instantaneous "” relief organizations, private citizens and businesses alike began to plan a relief effort. There was not a negative response that I heard. (See page 1A)
Except when I turned on the television and read the metro papers. There, I was astounded at all the national and international accusations of stinginess, directed especially at George Bush (read U.S. of A.).
It's astonishing that people would be so quick to put such devastation and sorrow to use for cheap political grandstanding, as though charity is nothing but another political category.
Winonans have just completed an entire month of giving on a very large scale "” two efforts that come immediately to mind, because of their long successful runs, are 10 Days of Giving, and Tree of Lights, but there are numerous efforts on a smaller scale as well. Yet, the minute we began to hear about people in need half a world away, Winonans were again opening up their pocketbooks to help.
There is no way to respond to accusations of greed and stinginess from those who have nothing but their own political agenda to run. Generosity is dismissed as guilt or political haymaking. Sympathy, empathy, any pure human emotion is denied us.
As our hearts go out to those victims of the tsunami disaster, perhaps they should also go out to the heartless, the emptiness of whose lives cannot be filled with any amount of giving.