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As I read about the natural disasters that occurred recently in the Far East, I'm once again reminded of how fortunate I am to be an American.
Living in the safety of a country that does a pretty good job of protecting most of its citizens most of the time, it's almost impossible to fathom the amount of death and destruction visited upon China two weeks ago and upon Myanmar a week earlier.
We in the United States were understandingly shaken by the widespread devastation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina back in August 2005. But in terms of sheer numbers, the 1,836 people who perished in that storm pale in comparison to the estimated 50,000 who were lost in the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that hit China's Sichuan province or the more than 100,000 lost in the Myanmar cyclone. And those disasters were preceded in the region by the December 26, 2004 tsunami that caused the deaths of another 226,000 people.
No government can prevent natural disasters from happening, but all governments should be expected to provide relief and protection when they strike. That is where America shines and is why many devastated countries look to the horizon hoping to see the Star Spangled Banner coming to their rescue.
Even our bumbling response to Hurricane Katrina was much more efficient than the succor China was able to muster for its citizens, and certainly better than the ruling military junta in Myanmar provided its people. And Katrina was us at our worst.
A good case can be made that had the China earthquake or Myanmar cyclone hit the U.S., the resulting death and property damage would have been just a fraction of that which occurred in those Asian nations.
Reports from China indicate that many Chinese died trapped in buildings which were poorly designed and constructed. Especially troubling are comments from Chinese citizens who claim school buildings, which collapsed killing thousands of students and injuring countless others, were commonly regarded as accidents waiting to happen. Many Chinese are incensed that government buildings, which are reported to be better constructed, withstood the quake, while schools didn't.
The Myanmar situation is especially bizarre. The United Nations estimates that 100,000 lives will have been lost by the time a final accounting can be completed. Many of the deaths could have been prevented. But even though the nation is not equipped to deal with such a disaster, the military junta which has ruled the country formerly known as Burma for about four decades, has only allowed limited outside assistance.
With adequate medical supplies, food and water, many of those who died might have been saved, but the military junta has exhibited more concern about its image than its people.
We don't always do things right in America. However, we learn from our mistakes and generally do better the next time. And we always try to put people first. That's just the way we are.