Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Myanmar Death Toll

Can we even comprehend a death toll as high as 22,500, which is where the numbers stand from the Myanmar cyclone as I write this post. That's not even including the additional 41,000 people who are still missing. How do we handle something that tragic and huge from afar? (I'm sure it's a completely different matter for the people in Myanmar, and we can't even imagine what they're going through right now.)
In terms of the mass media, I've almost noticed that they seem to be latching onto one of the stages of grief. You know the cliche five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. What we're seeing, I think, is anger.
Look at this second paragraph from today's New York Times article on the disaster:
"Shaken by the scope of the disaster, the authorities said they would delay a vote in the worst affected areas on a new constitution that was meant to cement the military’s grip on power."
They are mentioning the fact that Myanmar is a military-controlled country, with a military who is trying to get even tougher controls, right up front. It is only in the third paragraph that they move on to expand on details of the death toll count. The article goes on to describe an "ineffectual government" and a "mood of anger and a grim resignation." And note the slightly threatening tone of this line from an article in the Seattle Times "... keeping out international aid would focus blame squarely on the military should it fail to restore peoples' livelihoods." Now, I am not disputing these charges by the NYT and the Seattle Times, only pointing out the way they might be using them to cope with the massive and almost incomprehensible scale of death.

Also, those who know me know I'm not a big Laura Bush fan, but I do want to say I think she did an admirable job speaking out against the government of Myanmar and their original refusal to accept foreign aid. I wish she would take more vocal positions like this. She did a good job and seems to have some diplomatic skills that she has been hiding. And hello media ... maybe we could cover this a little bit more?

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