This past week end, for those of you with your heads buried in the sand, or stuck on American Idol* or Keeping up with the Kardashians*, a cyclone struck Burma leaving destruction in it’s wake. First estimates gave the death toll at 22,000, a terrible number. In the normal course of events, a government would do whatever it could to help the people survive.
Unless, of course, it’s the military junta that currently reigns in Burma. So far they have refused aid, taken what foodstuffs that did manage to make it in country and refused to notify it’s people of the pending storm. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people are dying, suffering and starving.
None of this is surprising if you’ve been paying attention. Last year, thousands of monks were slaughtered. Before that, the Burmese have kept Aung San Suu Kyi under arrest for years and oppressed it’s people for years since the junta took over in 1989.
Years ago I was introduced to Burma through a tiny restaurant in Chinatown in Washington, DC. Last time I looked, it was gone. I ate the most ambrosial mango pork curry, an ethereal stew that made me happier than I can remember. I discovered it again later at Mandalay Restaurant in Silver Spring, Maryland. That pork mango curry was enough to give Burma a spot in my heart forever. Later I learned about Aung San Suu Kyi, learned of her sacrifices and strength. Of course I’d remembered the Burma Road, from WWII fame.
Many more people will die this week. Rain will be falling again shortly, flooding already flooded villages, washing more bodies into already fouled drinking water sources, spoiling any remaining food that wasn’t spoiled last week. Current estimates at the eventual total death toll of Cyclone Nargis are at 500,000. One half of a million people are expected to be dead before this horrible event is over. The Indian Ocean Tsunami killed 250,000, spread across many nations and several continents. I can only imagine the loss in intellectual, cultural and familial knowledge. Add to that the loss of fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, neighbors…..it really is more than they can bear.
My father suggested that perhaps the junta is allowing all these people to die because they intended to kill them anyway, it’s just cheaper to let mother nature kill them than to spend the bullets. I don’t know. I just can’t imagine any other reason why the extraordinary suffering is allowed to continue.
I’m praying for the people.
*I hate these shows. A lot. I’d rather shove needles in my eyes than watch them.**
** Except for the audition episodes of AI. After those, I refuse to watch it.
From an article in The Independant:
For two hours, the villagers were standing in water up to their waists. “There has never been a storm like this before. This is the first time,” said another man, Ko Khin My Aye. He said that when the storm struck he had been on his boat, which was tied by rope tight to the trunk of a coconut palm. While he and his family survived, some friends and an aunt were among the dead. “There were many, many children. We could not hold on to all of them.”
That last line breaks my heart. I can not imagine the heartbreak.