on saturday, march 12, i watched tv news and read internet news for the entire day.
as the hours passed, the increasingly severe impact of the disaster became more and more known. it was unfathomable. the scale of the destroyed area, the impossibility of reaching many places, the terrible combination of earthquake and a gigantic tsunami wave that came before anyone had a chance to escape, and was larger than imagined possible. and then also there was a nuclear power plant, with damaged reactors.
one of the things that i found remarkable was the professionalism, calmness, and usefulness of the japanese news media, and also the fast, organized and competent government response.
the last time i was in a country that was experiencing an unfolding natural disaster on it’s own soil was the united states, during hurricane katrina. in that case, the mass media was completely irresponsible, reporting rumors and mongering fear, spreading lies that turned out later to be false, but had a severe and negative impact on relief (people died who could have been saved). similarly, in the case of katrina, the official relief activity was late, slow to start, disorganized, and not effective.
the difference watching the scene in japan was like night and day. of course, this is a disaster on a huge scale, and the work of rescue and relief can’t accomplish everything they want to, as fast as they would like. but the feeling is totally different, i could feel like the government is doing their best. in the u.s., i don’t feel like the government was even making an effort to appear as if they were doing their best.
and the japanese tv channels were also clearing working in the support of the people. to give calm factual information, when possible that will help the victims. every tv channel that i can get broadcast news coverage of the disaster, and only the disaster.
it made me very angry at my own government.
later in the day, when i went out to run errands, i saw for the first time groups of people gathering money to benefit the disaster victims. they were students, and in chorus, they raised their voices with a really energetic and eager tone. ‘for the victims of the disaster, please help us!’ they were so young and earnest. in the coming days, this kind of sight often made me cry.