Thoughts on Crisis

I have used this break

to get caught up on some reading.

I picked up this first edition copy of Susan Sontag’s

Trip To Hanoi

from a vender on Bedford Ave some days previous.

The book was printed in 1968

by The Noonday Press.

I have been thinking a lot about a culture’s reaction

to disasters,

and how the press captures these reactions,

since the earthquake in Japan.

Sontag journals of the

Vietnamese’s reaction to the bombing during

The Vietnam War:

“We see only a handsome, evenly impoverished, clean Asian city; we see charming, dignified people living

amid bleak material scarcity and the most

rigorous demands on their energies and patience.  The leveled towns and

villages in the countryside to which we drive on short trips already constitute a tableau from the past,

a thoroughly accepted environment

in which people go on functioning, working toward their victory, making their revolution.

I wasn’t prepared for all this calm.

Thinking about Vietnam in America,

it seems natural to dwell on destruction and suffering.

But not here.

In Vietnam, there is also a peaceful, fiercely industrious present with which a visitor must be connected; and I am not.

I want their victory.

But I don’t understand their revolution.”

Sontag goes on to note:

“Breton has distinguished two forms of the will

in authentic revolutionary struggle:

“revolutionary patience” and

“the cry.”

Much of the current news coverage of the earthquake

in Japan

has recently shifted to an understanding

of the country’s response to the devastation there.

I was reading an article titled,

“Reeling From Crises, Japan Approaches Familiar Crossroad,”

in The New York Times this morning

where one reporter predicted

that the

earthquake would “signal a new era”

in Japan’s history.

Having not traveled to Japan,

I feel ill-equipped to grasp

this statement in its totality.

And yet I feel compelled to understand it

and what it signifies for the people of Japan.

My thoughts are with them.


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