Friday, November 8, 2013

The One About the Superstorm

A massive typhoon, Typhoon Haiyan, hit the Philippines as I am sure many of you are aware.  The news keeps talking about how this storm is the strongest storm to make landfall in recorded history.  The weather people have made comparisons to hurricanes Katrina and Andrew and to superstorm Sandy. Typhoon Haiyan just doesn't begin to compare.  In case you haven't heard any of this, here are some of the facts for you:

Haiyan had winds clocked at 195 mph with gusts reaching 235 mph.  Hurricane Andrew which caused $48.1 billion in damages clocked in at 167 mph.

Haiyan's storm surge was between 40 and 50 feet depending on which island coastline was being measured.  Hurricane Katrina which caused $108 billion in damages had a storm surge of 28 feet.  Haiyan's impact is consider 3.5 times more powerful than Katrina's

The massive size of Haiyan is unlike anything we have ever seen in the US.  The storm would stretch the entire east coast of the US, from Florida to Maine.  Haiyan managed to cover all of the Philippines and is now on the way to Vietnam.

We are about to hear a lot more about this storm or the media is going to forget it completely.  I do not think we should forget about it.

The scope of this storm is something we simply cannot fathom.  We compare it to storms we have endured in order to make it seem more real.  But most of us did not understand Andrew, Katrina, or Sandy.  We watched the news coverage and we were terribly sad for the people who were affected.  We may have donated to an organization that helps.  Some of us may have gone to help.  Or hired someone that was displaced at our business.  Maybe we adopted a pet that was left homeless.  We did what we could.

But we do not understand what happened.  And we cannot begin to understand what has just happened to the people in the Philippines.  First, we probably did not know that they just endured an earthquake.  The island of Bohol sustained a 7.2 earthquake on October 15th.  222 people died and nearly 1,000 were injured.  Bohol has not even begun to heal the damage done or even finish searching for those who were declared missing.

At this point the military has begun surveying the country.  In one particularly hard hit area they have reported over 100 bodies in the street.  They have said it looks like a tsunami hit.  Communications are down throughout much of the country so it will be some time before there is much news.  It will also take time to figure out how much damage has been done and to see who is missing, who can be reunited with loved ones, and who has died.

Even those of us who have lived through earthquakes and hurricanes cannot fully understand what the people of the Philippines are going through at this time.  What we can do, and what I think we should do as fellow human beings, is to pay attention.  Don't turn the channel on the news.  Honor the humanity of our Filipino brothers and sisters by acknowledging their pain and their suffering rather than turning it off.

Pray for them.  It doesn't matter what faith you belong to or if you describe yourself as a spiritual person and not a religious one - pray.  There is great power in faith and in our faith working together to heal the world.  God listens to all of us.  Keep talking in whatever way you know how.

Consider helping as you are able.  Donate to responsible organizations at your religious organization.  As a United Methodist we have UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) which uses 100% of all donations to fund relief efforts.  I'm sure there are other organizations in other faiths and denominations. Or when the Red Cross comes out with its handy text to donate $10 do that if you can. I'm sure there will be other organizations that pop up that are specific to the Philippines, but do your homework.  Make sure whatever you choose to give will actually go to and help the people.

If you can't help, don't feel guilty.  We aren't all relief workers who fly around the world to help those in need.  Nor are we all reporters who are paid to travel and bring us the news of these events.  And sometimes we cannot afford to text in for $10 for charity.  Caring and wanting to help are important.  You can also spread awareness to those who do not know what is happening.

Our brothers and sisters are hurting.  I am asking you to care.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The one about the Washington football team

It was suggested to me that I should start a blog.  So now I have.  I will probably write about all sorts of news and faith issues, but this first post is one that is deeply irritating to me.  I am rather passionate about not oppressing people.  Native Americans are one of the groups that I find people know very little about.  The remainder of this was originally contained in a note on my Facebook page. 

Dan Snyder has made his position clear once again (as if anyone thought it would change) about the name of our local football team.  It's his team, he can name it whatever he wants.  I do have a few issues with his logic though.

1.  Claiming you had a coach and players who were Native American and therefore cannot be racist against Native Americans is inherently flawed. People are often intolerant of groups they claim to love and support directly in front of them.  May I introduce you to the phrase, "I'm not racist, but..."

2.  Consulting with the Red Cloud Athletic Fund about your logo is a lovely thing to do way back in 1971.  Images have changed in the last 42 years.  Also consulting over an appropriate image is not consulting over the offensiveness of a name.  Do you know or care that Pine Ridge, SD is the second poorest county in the US?  Are you hoping to get sympathy points by name dropping them?  The Lakota didn't take kindly to Johnny Depp attempting that earlier this year.  Or are you actually doing anything to further support young Lakota athletes? 

3.  The Annenberg Public Policy Poll was conducted "over [a] very long period of polling, October 7, 2003 through September 20, 2004" (per their website).  Do you think people's thoughts may have changed in 10 years?  The poll was also done of 768 people who self identified as Native American, you claimed nearly 1000.  The population of the Pine Ridge Reservation, which you name dropped earlier, is estimated to be 40,000.  I could personally find 768 people who could prove their tribal affiliation offended by the name of your team in less than a year. 

4.  The Patawomeck tribe is not a nationally recognized tribe.  They were rediscovered by an anthropologist in 1928 as an offshoot of the Powhatan tribe.  Ironically, they would not be included in many federal programs and polls about Native Americans.  While I have no doubt that Mr. Green and the estimated 500 members in the Fredericksburg area tribe have had struggles over the years and certainly have much to contribute to any discussion on Native American culture and issues, you cannot discount the 2.9 million Native Americans in the US because 500 are not offended.

5.  People buy all sorts of things.  Yes, they buy your merchandise.  They would buy it with a new logo too.  Just because people purchase things does mean it is not offensive to others.

6.  Lastly, you do not get to decide who is offended and who is not.  You are a white man and are the most privileged member of our society.  You are probably the last person who will be offended.  Who you discount is entirely up to you, but do not pretend to understand when there is no equivalent for a person of your position.

In case you would like to read his letter,