I suppose it's easy for me to say, when my house is dry and I do not live near a river that's going to crest at four feet above flood stage today. But for those of us who are dealing with the kinds of suckitude that mark life in 21st century America -- religious witch hunts, unemployment in our families, a lack of jobs and rampant age discrimination in those that are out there, high fuel prices, John Boehner advocating for nuclear power here in the US even as the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan approaches meltdown -- the nightmare unfolding in Japan ought to put our own problems into perspective, at least temporarily.
Because I have work colleagues in Japan (Osaka, not Tokyo), my first thought upon hearing of the earthquake in Japan was for them -- for M., who greets me in e-mail as "Dear Jill-san" and whose charming formality and cheerful demeanor mask a disciplined and detailed mind; for Y., he of the endless patience with the raucous American women he has to deal with regularly, who loves the Yankees and who just got married a few months ago; and for A., who is an avid scuba diver and takes photographs of astonishing beauty. As at turns out, some were in Tokyo for a conference, but managed to get out on the bullet train between the quake and the tsunami. A disaster like this is something we watch on television. Brackish mud and water overflows a neat row of greenhouses that look from the helicopters taking the footage like cigarettes neatly lined up on a table. Our minds simply cannot fathom what is unfolding in front of us. We've seen scenes like this done with CGI any number of times in the movies, but this is no movie. And yet, we watch with a kind of detachment, because such things just don't seem possible. In A Clockwork Orange, Alex says, "It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen" Real disasters play out in real time and we watch them from our living room sofas as spectators. We empathize but can't actually FEEL that it's real.
I'm not sure what there even is to say at this point. I can't recall anything like this ever happening before during my lifetime. It's enough to make you think the 2012 kooks are on to something.