After all, recently we’d been hearing more about Charlie’s narcissistic ramblings than about the struggling economy. It was something you could count on: Charlie would say something wacky and everyone would react. The pattern was dependable and soothing, like the evening tide moving in and out (if the tide were a raging egomaniac, that is).
Now, Charlie’s place in the headlines has been filled by someone else: Muammar al-Qaddafi from Libya. I didn’t think it was possible, but Qaddafi’s head is even larger than Charlie’s. Imagine that.
And if that weren’t bad enough, a couple of weeks ago, the world shifted. Literally. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan reminded all of us how fragile our lives are and how quickly things can change. Understandably, the story has been all over the news. Footage of the disaster is imprinted on our consciousness — I know I will never forget the sight of the mountainous water ripping apart buildings and whisking away people.
The tragedy and danger are far from over for the people of Japan. Not only must they pick up the pieces, but they must contend with nuclear radiation leakage contaminating their food, water and air. When the radiation crisis became more critical, it wasn’t long before the American news led with that story, rather than the search for survivors in the wreckage. And what was one of the biggest worries for Americans? Not how the radiation was affecting the Japanese, but how the radiation could affect us.
Are we really that selfish? Seriously? Watching the news coverage, it took everything I had not to contact CNN and FoxNews and tell them to take their heads out of their own rear ends. Japan is falling apart and we are worried about traces of radiation contamination coming from more than 5,000 miles away? Across the world’s biggest ocean, which itself naturally absorbs and dilutes radiation? If it were me, I’d be more concerned about the chemical exposure of someone farting in front of me at Save Mart.
But Americans were worried, apparently. Newspapers across the West Coast have reported stores selling out of potassium iodine pills — which are supposed to protect the human body from radiation. And people aren’t buying the pills for just themselves, but their pets, too. Yes, you heard me right. People are buying iodine tablets for their pets, in case a trace amount of radiation makes it into their backyards. Call me cynical, but it seems to me that all that money would have been better spent on donations to the Red Cross, which is mobilized to help the people of Japan.
Let’s stop the fear-mongering and focus on what’s really important: helping each other. If we can do that, the world will be a better place. (Even with Charlie Sheen.)
• Elizabette Guecamburu, a volunteer columnist for the Irrigator, is a writer and native Patterson resident. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.