The images have been stupefying, and maybe that’s the problem, because for every picture I’ve seen of the devastation wrought by last week’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan, I’ve heard or seen or been linked to some American saying something idiotic about it. To wit, this March 11 tweet by Family Guy co-producer and writer Alec Sulkin:
“If you wanna feel better about this earthquake in Japan, google ‘Pearl Harbor death toll’.”
In case you were wondering, dear reader, this is the planet you live on.
Now, apart from the poor taste in terms of timing and that Sulkin forgot to capitalize Google and put his punctuation outside his quotation mark—also, “wanna” still isn’t really a word if you want to be orthodox in your copy editing—it’s hard to imagine a stupider thing to say mathematically. Hey, remember that time the U.S. vaporized over 100,000 Japanese citizens in a day? Yeah, there you go.
You could sit and psychoanalyze for six years and still not come up with what produces this kind of horrific, narrow-sighted mentality. You could do that. Or you could take my approach, cut out the middle-man, and say, “People are assholes.” Either way, you’re right.
Sulkin isn’t the only one, either. Facebook this weekend was littered with posts either implying or saying outright that the Japanese somehow deserved the vicious hand they’ve been dealt by nature. Amazingly, many of them had to do with killing whales and dolphins, as though a certain number of dead sea-creatures added up to one massive earthquake. Maybe the problem here is that I’m trying to put logic to it.
I’m not saying I expected the Internet to be a bastion of intelligent discourse or anything, but come on, man. You’d have to beat yourself in the head with a ball-peen hammer to wind up thinking that shit is acceptable in any way, shape or form. And even if you think it, to then go ahead and say it, or broadcast it like an advertisement for your own dumbassery on the internet, that’s a whole different level.
I know that in terms of the potentially tens of thousands who lost their lives, the billions of dollars in property and infrastructure damage, the fact that the whole country was literally moved two meters from where it was before and that the entire planet shifted on its axis as a result of the quake, it really matters very little what some mustachioed douche from Family Guy who posts one-liners on his Twitter page like “I wonder if John Candy laughed when he folded his own underwear” (from March 13) thinks, or what every jerkoff on Facebook thinks, but you know what you get if you add up the sum of human action? Humanity. All this kind of thing proves is what’s been proved a million times before and will be proved a million times hence. See the quoted line in the fifth paragraph if you actually need to read it again.
Because the truth here is that Sulkin, at best, is a symptom of the problem. He’s a convenient example of the shallow depths of human empathy, but he’s not the beginning and end of it, and on the scale of this disaster, he doesn’t even rate. I’m sure by this time next week, dozens of conservative radio pundits will have said much worse. It’s just that, at a time when you can see and you want to see people pulling together and being there for each other, to have reminders that there are these sneering voices on the other side is enough to make you wonder if human beings are worth saving in the first place.
And to everyone on Facebook—I’m tempted to say “all the kids,” but you and I both know it’s not just kids on Facebook at this point and that grown-ups can be just as ignorant and hurtful as children—talking about karma, I hope your job sees the stupid shit you wrote and cans your ass, and I hope you lose your house, and I hope the ocean eats you. Because that’s how karma really works, and the next time you invoke it, maybe try not being a complete dickhead while doing so.
Donate to the Red Cross at redcross.org/donations.