Tsunami Disaster Proves We're All in This Together By Pierre M. Atlas, The Indianapolis Star January 6, 2005 As we move forward into the 21st century, our economic and technological achievements can be seductive. But with the earthquake and resulting tsunami that devastated the countries rimming the Indian Ocean, Mother Nature has given us a reality check. On Dec. 26, humanity was humbled. Technology enables us to live in the most hostile natural environments, to transmit voices and data across the planet in a microsecond, and to destroy a target not much larger than a garbage can from an altitude of 15,000 feet. But blizzards can still shut down interstates and earthquakes can level cities. It's been said that the quake that set off the tsunami was perhaps the most powerful in history. Registering 9.0 on the Richter scale, it was strong enough to alter the rotation of the Earth. The official death toll rises every day, millions are homeless, and thousands more might perish from resulting diseases. As of this writing, the death toll from the quake and tsunami is about 40 times greater than that from the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The natural disaster that spans thousands of miles of southern Asia has affected people across the globe. The vast majority of the dead and the homeless are residents of the countries that were hit: Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and even Somalia. But not all the victims were locals. Among the missing are about 7,000 European tourists, as well as Australians, New Zealanders, Israelis and Americans. Globalization facilitates a continuous migration of tourists and workers. Today, whenever a major disaster strikes, the victims likely will be multi-ethnic and multi-national. We tend to forget that the approximately 2,800 people murdered on Sept. 11, 2001, came from 80 countries. As we begin the New Year, the tragedy of Dec. 26 should be a wake-up call for all of us here in the U.S. and around our increasingly shrinking world. We all share this planet. National boundaries, invisible from Earth's orbit, don't protect us from natural disasters or from global problems such as ozone depletion, deforestation, AIDS or terrorism. In the final analysis, we all die and our wealth and our competing ideologies remain behind when we go. Nature pays no respect to the human dividing lines of local conflicts, socioeconomic class or faith. Those killed and made homeless were both Tamil separatists and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, both militant and moderate Muslims in Aceh, Indonesia. Somehow I doubt the thousands of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and Christians who died on the 26th cared that, the day before, so many Americans were obsessed with whether we should say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." The tsunami hit developing countries with limited infrastructures. The disaster relief is necessarily international in scope, and here we should take the lead and put our country's wealth, skills and logistical supremacy to work. If there is a silver lining in this dark and horrific cloud, it might just be the opportunity the disaster provides for America to once again demonstrate to the world its leadership and compassion. It looks like President Bush will seize this opportunity. Our best achievements are reached when we work together, not against each other. As Americans have learned the hard way in Iraq and in the fight against terrorism, even the world's richest and most powerful country needs the help and good will of others. The words of President John F. Kennedy resonate even more today than they did when he delivered them, at Independence Hall on July 4, 1962: "Acting on our own, by ourselves, we cannot establish justice throughout the world; we cannot ensure its domestic tranquility, or provide for its common defense, or promote its general welfare, or secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. But joined with other free nations, we can do all this and more. We can assist the developing nations to throw off the yoke of poverty. We can balance our worldwide trade and payments at the highest possible level of growth. We can mount a deterrent powerful enough to deter any aggression. And ultimately we can help to achieve a world of law and free choice, banishing the world of war and coercion." Atlas is assistant professor of political science and director of the Franciscan Center for Global Studies at Marian College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .