With the latest death count from the earthquake/tsunami passing 52,000, even a normally ethnocentric cocooner like me can't help but be moved to action. Maybe it's the sheer magnitude of the devastation. Maybe it's my embarrassment by the shamefully inadequate response by both our news sources (the lead story on the radio news just now was of property damage from flooding in, get this, Southern California) and our government ("stingy" doesn't begin to describe the paltry amount of initial aid we're sending) that's getting me off my ass. Or maybe it's just because this time, I know someone, my friend and fellow blogger, Evelyn Rodriguez, who was caught in the middle of the storm (her leg is broken, but she and her boyfriend are both alright).
Whatever the reason, my usual neat-'n'-tidy donation to the Red Cross didn't help and my extra blankets and clothes are apparently too far from the source of need to be of much help just now. So I figured what the hell, I'd do a little praying (I absolutely credit the prayers made by many friends and friends of friends for my pulling through the Crohn's onset over two years ago).
The answer, or part of it, anyway, came in a flash: get the U.S. to donate the amount we'd be spending on inaugural festivities to the relief effort. Atrios pointed out in a post today that as a country, our initial pledge of $15 million in relief was shameful next to the $30-40 million (plus security) that's earmarked for the inauguration, so I'm sure that's where the idea came from, but ordinarily, I'd say "harrumph!" and go back to my coffee.
Instead, I wrote two letters, one to President Bush, one to Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, asking that as a start, we scrap the festivities and donate the money to relief as a pledge of solidarity with our brothers in need. God knows I won't make much of a difference (and leading a crusade is not in my nature) but perhaps if the few of you that read me do the same with your own elected officials, we can get some action.
I'm posting my letters to cut and paste, if you like, but feel free to write your own.
To President Bush:
I'm sure that you are as saddened as the rest of the world over the devastation that the recent earthquake and subsequent tsunamis have wrought upon our friends in Southeast Asia.
I've been following the news with a growing heaviness of heart, not sure what I can do to help beyond the usual donation of money to relief organizations. The magnitude of the tragedy is so huge, I feel like extra attention must be paid.
While I was praying for the victims, an idea came to me: why not donate the money we as a country would be spending on our upcoming inaugural celebration to these people in need? Surely, we can't feel like celebrating on such a grand scale while there is so much suffering we could ease with a small sacrifice on our part?
I think that both the citizens of our great nation and the citizens of the world would be greatly served--and moved--by this simple act of generosity.
Please consider making this gift to the world in its time of need on behalf of the United States. Not only would it be a fitting and gracious gesture, it would be an extraordinary legacy for an American president to leave.
And to Senators Boxer & Feinstein:
I'm sure you've been following the news of the devastation in Southeast Asia with the same horror and heaviness of heart as the rest of us.
I must add my own voice to that of thousands insisting that additional U.S. aid be sent to the victims.
As many have pointed out, we are sending but a fraction of the amount we will be spending on our upcoming inauguration--festivities that are somewhat inappropriate given the pain and suffering that hundreds of thousands will likely still be reeling from as they attempt to pick up the pieces of their lives.
Why not send the right message to the rest of the world and start by donating the amount we'd spend on the inauguration and having a simple swearing-in ceremony?
I hope you'll consider this type of measure specifically, and support the donation of greater relief in general. It is high time that Americans start recognizing we cannot be citizens of a truly great nation unless we are citizens of the world as well.
More links I've found interesting and/or helpful below. I hope all of you who are reading are well and safe, along with your loved ones.
Up-to-date info and aid resources from worldchanging.com. Send an email to the President and your elected representatives here. The latest NASA photo of Mother Nature's fury (which is also the JPEG above left). Evelyn Rodriguez blogs about the devastation from Thailand.
UPDATE: Evelyn Rodriguez has posted a post-tsunami update from Bangkok. She's on her way home Thursday and her knee was just really cut up (she's on crutches) but not broken. Hey, I'm a shitty reporter with a flair for the dramatic. Evelyn, I'm just glad you're okay and coming home soon.