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Mar 13 2011

Overwhelmed.

When reality assaults us,
Giving more than we can take
Like the utter devastation
Of tsunami and of quake
When admitting in the horror
Opens up the very heart
I suspect that, just to save itself,
The brain shuts down a part.

When the death and the destruction
Overwhelms your every sense,
Then your frontal lobe may run and hide
In simple self-defense;
It’s a manner of escape—
A means of slipping terror’s yoke—
Then, brainless, daft, and frightened,
You see cruelty as a joke.

If disaster breeds heroics,
As we see it sometimes can
When we put aside our differences
And help our fellow man,
It may show reserves of courage
When we feel our hearts may burst
Or it may peel back civility
And show us at our worst.

By now, you have likely seen the shameful comments on facebook, the callous, stupid references to Pearl Harbor, karma, and the ongoing disaster in Japan. Tragedy of this scale is overwhelming; perhaps stupidity is these people’s way of distancing themselves from it.

Of course, the same process goes on all the time. I followed a twitter link from GrrlScientist to this story, of a 92-yr-old state representative who advocates eugenics. His (final?) solution to his state’s financial problems is to wish they could send a portion of the population (“You know the mentally ill, the retarded, people with physical disabilities and drug addictions – the defective people society would be better off without.”) to Siberia to freeze.

Apparently, the nonagenarian freshman lawmaker is past his prime (according to accounts by his fellow representatives), which does not excuse but which may explain his statement. What is inexcusable, though, is the defense of his statements by members of his party (care to guess?). The comments at GrrlScientist’s link are shameful, but unsurprising. Someone says something utterly indefensible, and what do we do? Admit it, condemn it, and work together? No, of course not! Circle the wagons, bring up the worst of the other side, even take the current idiocy and claim it is more characteristic of one’s opponents!

I suspect that some things are just too far beyond the pale to contemplate. But rather than face it, some portion of the population (and I cannot help but wonder, could it be any of us, given the right situation? I hope not.) takes flight to fantasy. To some alternate reality where disasters are deserved, where contemplation of eugenics is justified, where the appropriate response to every crisis is to blame one’s political opponents or the victims.

Sorry, this is a rambling rant. Fortunately, being utterly incoherent seems to be in fashion these days.

6 comments

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  1. 1
    L.Long

    'a 92-yr-old state representative who advocates eugenics.' Puts him on the list to Siberia for 2 reasons..1…old and useless to society. &2…a politician which again makes him useless.

  2. 2
    Melissa

    I'm glad you addressed this issue here. I think some people need to find a reason behind such tragedy, even if it is a poor and cruel reason. I have a neighbor who still blames Katrina on voodoo practioners. She cannot see a loving god causing such destruction without a reason. I dare not ask her why she thinks Japan is suffering now.People like her and the posters on facebook demonstrate a great deal of what's still wrong with humanity. We still need a "greater reason" and fall into tribalism too easily.However, I do have hope for humanity. I've seen wonderful connections and expressions of sympathy and charity in the last few days. I follow the youtube videos of sirowan and his corgi Goro. After the quake hit, he had tons of comments from people wanting to know his and Goro's status. He had to post another video just to stop the worry.And, of course, we have the Cuttlefish. You manage to remind your readers on a constant basis to embrace reality and think about how we behave to one another.

  3. 3
    Cuttlefish

    L. Long–if you look at the comments, someone has posted a recent letter to the editor written by the rep, who writes of not knowing anything about a particular issue and simply voting the way those around him did. So, although there are certainly 92-yr-olds who are sharper than I am, this is not one of them.Melissa–yeah, we tend to seek big causes for big events. I suspect that's part of what led to the invention of gods in the first place.And if *I* am a reason for hope for humanity, we are in worse shape than I thought!

  4. 4
    Kaessa

    *sigh* I have someone on Facebook who retorted "But I've heard environmentalists say the same thing, you know". No, you haven't.

  5. 5
    The Ridger, FCD

    Ummmm. Aren't we supposed to learn in elementary school that (a) everyone else is doing it or (b) he started it! are neither one of them good excuses?The comments over at Anderson Cooper's page were a bizarre mix of everything, including "the shuttle", 2012, "God is using this to bring his people closer to him", and – because AC apparently also addressed Libya – a lot of saber rattling. Yes, many comments of solidarity, but many just crazy.Of course, it's too huge to comprehend. But that doesn't mean we have to get mean, crazy, or both.

  6. 6
    The Ridger, FCD

    ps – I also think you paint yourself into the proverbial corner once you assert that your god is (a) all-powerful and (b) all-good and benevolent. Because if those things are true, how do you explain this? You kind of have to fall back on the "more in sorrow than in anger, it's for your own good, you made me hit you" defense…

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