Lots of news and reviews this week and last due to the anniversaries of the aftermath of Katrina and the 5th anniversary of the attacks on our Nation on September 11, 2001. The ethics of the responses to the grief and impact on our lives could (and should, in my opinion) be part of our discussions.
These things are happening each and every day, causing a total of death and suffering far greater than September 11, but they don’t make the headlines. Enough people who cared and who opened their hearts in the same way they did to the September 11 victims could make an unbelievable difference to many of these situations. I don’t mean to make light of September 11 or the victims’ suffering, but I freely admit it makes me angry that events like this are considered the epitome of tragedy against which all else is supposed to pale into insignificance. The real tragedy to me is the number of horrors in this world about which people don’t care.
Why do we mark the deaths and loss of a finite number of people due to a given event, while death and loss are daily occurances all over the world and throughout history? What makes the death of less than 3000 people in a few hours on “9-11” worthy of days of media coverage and conversation? On the other hand, how is it that we remember the flooding and its aftermath in New Orleans more than that in Mississippi due to the same hurricane or the tsunami, which happened in January of 2005, and which resulted in a huge outporing of charity and relief aide on the part of people around the world?
People aren’t totally logical when it comes to weighing the “value” of pain and suffering. We think and react in our linear time and often out of the degree of empathy with the victims.
We react one way to the deaths of nearly 3000 people in a few hours from a deliberate act that was intended to make us feel threatened, another way to the horrors of slavery ongoing all over the world, and yet another to possibly billions of women being ritually mutilated, confined to the home, denied education and decent healthcare, and treated as non-persons.
But then, even in our own communities, we react in different ways when we hear that a young mother from our neighborhood died in a car wreck on the highway that we use to get to work and when we hear that a great-grandmother died after a long illness.
I guess it’s sort of like the difference between the treatment of an acute trauma from a car wreck that shuts down several organ systems, a burst appendix in a teenager and Type II diabetes. All are life-threatening and will leave permanent scars and other effects, but the first is more directly threatening to us, making us remember that we could die the same way. The causes and results of the first seem completely out of our control unless we’re the trauma surgeon, while the others require a quick burst of emergency response or a chronic titration of treatment, but we hope we can control or at least moderate the effects and even the cause of the latter two, bit by bit.
(Note, edited at 16:42 to clean up some of the language and make the title more readable.)