Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sidr Anger

It is hard to be a Bangladeshi and not think about Sidr.

First, I was reading an aid worker's diary.
Then there are local policemen, people who are meant to be trustworthy, who are using this disaster for their own ends.

I heard one story of a policeman stroking a young girl's cheek and telling her that if she went with him, he would give her some biscuits.

The girl, who had lost her mother in the disaster, told him that he should bring the biscuits out if he had some.

But how long will they be able to resist these kinds of men?
Doesn't it make your blood boil?

Second, I was reading Rezwan's post on Operation Sea Angel. To summarize, in 1991, Bangladesh was overwhelmed by a huge cyclone. The United States responded on May 10 1991 by launching Operation Sea Angel, a relief operation that involved over 7000 US soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen. The relief efforts of U.S. troops are credited with having saved as many as 200,000 lives.

Think of this vast number and contrast it with this story. Last month, when I was in Dubai, I was at a store buying some bread, and got talking with the Indian owner. When he found out I was from Canada, he asked me, "so have you seen the California fires?"

Before I could reply, he continued, "Praise be to God! So many people dead and may God kill some more!"

I just ... did not know ... what to reply.

To be honest, it's not a one-way ingratitude. Hardly many people know Bangladesh contributed $1 million in aid to USA (that still sounds funny) during Katrina. Yet on my travels down South, especially in the Bible Belt, people were hardly bothered by what's going on outside their state.

"We should make the Middle East one big glass bowl," said one (it's a slang, meaning "nuke 'em"). "India, Pakistan, what's the difference?" Said another. "You guys are all weird." This was another (and I am not even from one of the two!). This ignorance and callousness goes both ways. Why?

"Bangladesh is being over-run by the militants." Said one New York junkie to me. "I know people are being dragged from their homes by the fundamentalists. They are raping Hindus on the street. We should send in the army."

*shakes head*

I don't know what the point of this post is. I am just upset at the scale of destruction and the callousness of people involved. I guess we can take relief from one thing - in 1991 the death toll was 138,000. This time it's officially 6000 and unofficially 10,000. It seems the early warning system and storm shelters have helped.

International Federation and Red Cross and Red Crescent Society:
Bangladesh Red Crescent Society
A/C No. 01-1336274-01
Standard Chartered Bank
Dhaka Bangladesh

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