At about eight o’clock in the morning, on the day after Christmas along the coastal region of Indonesia, a tsunami rose up to assault the beaches and shores. A massive earthquake offshore generated the waves, some small but others approaching a hundred feet in height. Many hundreds of thousands died from the impact and effect of the killer waves, and their sweep into coastal regions. There’s a particularly poignant video that’s just been released on YouTube in which a young Australian experiences the effects of the waves and the reactions of those around him. One must take care in viewing the video because several people are swept away never to be seen alive again. In watching the video, and listening to the narrating young man and the people in hysterics around him, one thing became very clear to me. Neither the narrator, nor any of the people around him that I could hear, had any idea of what was happening.

It wasn’t that they could not see the ocean retreating for quite some time, and well out into an unbelievable distance. That was difficult enough to fathom from a current observer’s viewpoint, about how the ocean waters could retreat out miles to leave rocks, sand and coral all bare and forlorn, and not get an emotional or even panic reaction from almost all observers. What was even more surprising was everyone’s reaction when the waves started to come in. Endless growing waves, one on top of another, that buried the resort town where the video was made. Nobody recognized what the problem was, or knew the ocean could possibly act that way. Even though there have been tsunami events that have killed even more people than the Christmas tsunami, not one person in the real time video ever says the word, or uses the more old-fashioned phrase; tidal waves.

A native tribe, still living semi-isolated in a more primitive lifestyle on an Indonesian offshore island, got up en-mass on that morning, after someone in the tribe noticed that the ocean was retreating. The entire tribe, including animals, crossed the island and then traveled two miles of wet sand and reef to make it to the mainland. Then they ran several miles, and climbed up some inshore mountains. When interviewed later, the chief of the tribe said that no one in the tribe had any idea of what a tsunami was. However, carried down in sacred tribal lore was a rule. If the ocean recedes then you must run inland for your life. That lore was passed down through the ages using oral history, as the tribe has no written language.

What does this dichotomy say about the modern age of global communications and electronic interconnectedness? When I was in Hawaii, and the Japanese tsunami was occurring with waves of unknown size headed for the islands in mere hours, the manager of the hotel put up cots so people might sleep while awaiting the event (it was two a.m.). Who would sleep under such conditions? When the waves were imminent many people gathered on the beaches with flashlight to watch for the incoming waves. Everyone has television sets in this modern era. Everyone has cell phones and iPads, for the most part. The waves hitting Japan were up to one hundred and twenty feet tall.

The probable reason that so many people ignore the ‘facts’ of what happens to other people under similar circumstance in far away places, and then ignore the effects of ignoring them, is distance in space and time. Nobody moves from their home, even those actually located on the sand of an ocean beach, because a tsunami hits Japan or Indonesia. That was back then, and over there. The Alaska earthquake caused a large tsunami in Alaska that injured a lot of people along the West Coast of the USA. But not many people died. Ho-hum. That was in 1964, up there and over there. Just about every square foot of buildable coastline has a house or some structure on it, up and down the many thousands of miles of both coasts of this country.

What does that say about life itself and the human condition? It explains a few things about why the recent push to throw a traveling clown show into the White House is not seen for what it is. In a recent phone call to a representative of Congress (friend) living in D.C., the man argued that the current president has acted brilliantly in his every move. From lying about the crowd size at his inauguration, to banning the Muslims, and more. He believes each is a well orchestrated move to create movement in a system that is filled with fraud, decay and stupidity, and each is designed to make life better for us all. The truth does not matter. The effect matters.

What do you do with humans standing down there on the beach with their flashlights, looking into the darkness as the water begins to recede? Do you shout down to them that a tsunami is coming, or do you merely ask them to reposition their flashlights so your view of events will have plenty of illumination?

It’s not the political opposition that needs to shout down to the true believers on that beach. It’s fellow beachgoers like the very republican judge in Washington State, and the two beachgoer republicans going against party lines on those nominations. It’s John McCain and even Arnold. The beachgoers will not respond to those opposition party members standing up on the balcony, because they see them as not being in a place where they can properly see what is going on, or understand why the beach is a better place to see the coming event. It is going to take other people on that beach, snapping off their flashlights and trying to encourage their friends to do the same, and then to get the hell away from what might very well be a crushing cold and unrelenting sea of anger and retribution.

There have been plenty of giant, murderous and earth-changing dictators, kings and leaders, known and reported on in humankind’s past. The numbers of humans dead at their hands as a result of their treatment and policies far outnumber the humans killed by tsunami waves, or the earthquakes that generate them. But those leaders have faded into the past, or ruled lands distant in geography and memory. There is no tribal lore in the American consciousness capable of alerting the people, and inciting a run for the hills with respect to this kind of killing human tsunami. There is only the same electronic interconnection and mass media that “didn’t” save so many people along the shores of either Indonesia or Japan.

Incidentally, in that video where the Australians viewed the beach and pool area below, the incoming tsunami became so violent and deep, that the entire building began to shake. The video ends with that small group near panic, because if the coming wave became high enough then they were toast right along with those beachgoers.
~James Strauss

Latest Novel by James Strauss

Arch Patton Down in the Valley

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