Adele Elliott: We are all Japanese

March 20, 2011 10:26:00 AM

Adele Elliott - adeleelliott@bellsouth.net

 

These days it''s hard to think about anything except Japan. The crisis is almost impossible to comprehend. Entire cities have vanished. Thousands of people who lived there perished under crumbled buildings, or were washed out to sea. So many will never be found, leaving giant gashes in the hearts of those they left behind. 

 

 

 

Now, we learn that they face great danger from radiation. What little food they have may be contaminated. 

 

 

 

Haiti has not recovered from her earthquake two years ago. In some ways things only get worse. People still live in cardboard boxes, without running water. Disease flourishes in that tropical climate. 

 

 

 

This disaster is painful in a very personal way. It re-opens psychological wounds from Katrina. I know that I should be healed, but I am not. People ask why we chose to live in a place so often threatened by hurricanes. Well, isn''t there some risk of disaster everywhere? The Golden Triangle has tornados, the West Coast has earthquakes. There are volcanoes, tidal waves, tsunamis. Where are we really safe? 

 

 

 

For some reason, I also keep flashing back to memories of the bomb drills of my childhood. In those days, America was deeply involved in what was called a "cold war" with Russia, and concerned about a possible real war. We were frightened of spies. There was distrust of neighbors. We built bomb shelters in our backyards. 

 

 

 

We were taught that, in case of attack, we would be protected by crouching, head down, under our desks and locking our hands over our heads. My school was a mid-century cliché of a building, constructed of painted cinder blocks. Along one side of every classroom was a wall of windows. 

 

 

 

Even as a child I knew that my arms would be little protection from an explosion of shattered glass. But, I followed directions and pressed my elbows and knees against the tile floors, terrified of a Soviet invasion. 

 

 

 

I also decided that I would prefer to be one of the first killed. It seemed more horrible to me to be left to pick up bloody corpses. You must remember that this was Catholic school. We had an abiding belief in a heavenly after-life. 

 

 

 

The Soviet Union that terrified us no longer exists. The remaining countries are little threat to American school children. Today, our worst fears of destruction are realized, but not by foreign invasion 

 

 

 

It feels as though our mother, Earth, is trying to shake us off her surface. She must be profoundly angry at humanity. We seem to be riding a wild bronco, hanging on for our lives. 

 

 

 

One of the lessons that we learned from Katrina is that we cannot trust the government to protect us. The levees in New Orleans crumbled because the Army Corps of Engineers did not build them to required depth specifications. After the city was flooded, government (on every level) abandoned citizens on the streets. The only real help came from private groups, churches, and individuals who acted without waiting for direction from elected leaders. 

 

 

 

Even though billions of dollars were donated, no one really knows what happened to that money. Certainly, little money went to the victims. 

 

 

 

Japan''s multiple nuclear reactors are at risk of a catastrophic meltdown. (By the time you read this, it may have already happened.) We can''t blame natural disasters for that. The reactors were built in an area that is prone to earthquakes. Surely, more safeguards could have been incorporated. 

 

 

 

However, it is folly to believe that this is Japan''s problem alone. Japan, or any other country, is not just a place across the world. It is our neighbor on Earth. 

 

 

 

We live together on this small planet. The same winds wrap around the globe. The waves of each ocean wash onto many shores. The time for cowering, Ostrich-like, on our knees is past. 

 

 

 

We must think in global terms, be good neighbors, and work together to save our only planet. I hope it is not too late to make our mother happy.

Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.