Sunday, March 13, 2011


I was going to write something yesterday about the earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan on Friday. The initial shock at 2:46 pm (Tokyo time) was followed by repeated aftershocks, while waves as high as 30 feet inundated cities along the coast of northern Honshu, the largest island in Japan. The epicenter of the 8.9-magnitude quake, one of the most severe in recorded history, was about 100 miles east of Sendai, and 230 miles northeast of Tokyo. It was the biggest to hit Japan since they began keeping records in the 1800s. Millions around the world spent some part of Friday watching videos of the devastation on television and the internet. There is no lack of news about it, so there is no point recounting any further details here. I would only recommend that people motivated and able to donate to disaster aid organizations try the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders. I realize that Japan has the world's third largest economy, and my understanding is that they have not specifically asked for help; nevertheless, the disaster is extensive and these organizations, as well as others like them, are on the ground there.
Rant: Here is the part where I talk about what kept me from writing yesterday, and you can stop reading if you aren't interested in what pisses me off. Naturally, in trying to gather information about the disaster, I went to the internet, where there is plenty of news, along with more commentary than anyone could possibly handle. Some of what I read was certainly valuable, and for the most part the comment stream expressed only empathy and a desire to help. However, there is a segment of humanity (and I use the term loosely) that uses any occasion to vomit their ignorance and bile into the web. In this case, I am referring to hateful braindead comments to the effect that this disaster is some kind of karmic payback for Pearl Harbor. I got my first inkling on a visit to Pharyngula, who had appended to his post a collage of such comments culled from Facebook. "Tsunami/Pearl Harbor!!!Karma is a bitch" says one. "Apparently God hasn't forgotten about Pearl Harbor either...." says another. These are from people not too ashamed to have such shite posted under their real names with photos that show them to be under 30. It didn't take long to find others expressing similar sentiments. This is something only a total fuckwit would say: "...all of the Japanese people who are caught in that tsunami are totally the same ones who bombed pearl harbor/ordered it." It would be understandable, perhaps, if such comments came from WWII veterans or others whose losses during the war are still too painful to leave behind; it doesn't make sense coming from people born long afterwards. Pearl Harbor was 70 years and several generations ago. The Japanese people paid dearly for Pearl Harbor and even worse crimes committed up to and during WWII by the actual participants, who are mostly long gone. The rest of the world, while not forgetting the historical facts and human costs, has moved on.
Let's get it straight: there is no Karma and there is no God behind natural disasters. Japan is located along a subduction zone; there are others located, for example, off the coasts of North and South America. Last Friday it was Japan; tomorrow it could be the US. We live on a restless planet. Earthquakes happen because of Plate Tectonics; they are not due to the machinations of karma nor the wrath of some invisible all-powerful being who feels the need to punish homosexuals or some poor country that supposedly made a pact with the Devil in 1791. If there really were a God, idiots who promote and repeat such stupid and hateful ideas would be instantly struck by lightening or swallowed up by the earth like Dathan (Num 16:31). Unfortunately, they are not.