Friday, August 30, 2013

Invisible Tragedy

    There's something I wanted to comment on, taking a break from my last few game-related posts and looking at the real world for a second.  I'm currently living in Prescott Valley, Arizona helping my Grandpa (some day I'll update my Google Profile that still says Colorado).  Last month there was a terrible fire in the nearby city of Yarnell that killed 19 firefighters.  All of the men were members of an elite "hotshots" crew and they were the entire team (except for one person who survived because he was on lookout and not with the others).  There was a gigantic and immediate outpouring of support, with fundraisers at the local bars, museums, BBQ joints, supermarkets, special concerts held, and even a massive memorial at the local concert hall that had the Vice President among the other dignitaries.  According to the paper, over $11 million were raised in only a few weeks.  It was a great and noble thing that the community did, and that I'm sure went around the world as well (the local paper just talks about local charities after all).
    So I feel a little like a creep to poke at it, but I will.  First, while the 19 firefighters were killed, and that is a tragedy of course, there were also many who lost their homes (about 100 I believe) in Yarnell, homes and possessions now burnt to ash.  Again, of course, it's better to be alive and broke than dead - but being suddenly homeless is a pretty big shock to the system (take it from someone who knows) and being homeless with your entire family is harder still.  These may be "little tragedies" but they are no less tragic for it.  Some of the hotshots were classified as part-time workers, and when the wife of one of them went on the news because she and the other survivors will not be receiving as much in death benefits - that story almost drowned out the fact that the federal government was not going to send any aid to the city of Yarnell to rebuild.  A recent story was about the money raised and how the groups in charge of it were trying to decide how to split it and hiring tax advisers to help those who receive it invest or otherwise use it wisely.  Again though, what about all the people who now have to rebuild homes and replace a lifetime's worth of possessions and memories?
    What bugs me, and maybe it's because I'm just a terrible person, is that while all this attention is going to something tragic, there are lots and lots of equally tragic things that nobody bothers to look at or talk about or start massive fundraisers for.  The same day those firefighters were killed women were being raped, people were being murdered by people they knew, husbands were burying wives, drunk drivers were destroying property, and, well, all the craziness and horror that is life was going on all around us.  The sorts of day in and day out horror that we've just become immune to, not even desensitized, but forgotten.  Death, loss, pain, crime, these are day to day events around the world.  Yet no one cares (except for the victims of course), no massive pushes or organizations because these things are everywhere.  Dog bites man isn't a story, but man bites dog is - so the old newspaper saying goes.  And while the families of the firefighters have lost husbands, who were possibly the main source of income as well, and thus some financial support would be a blessing indeed - again I can't help but wonder about all those smoking ruins that were once homes and think that they could use a little financial support too.  Bigger still, what about all the other, unseen tragedies that could use some help?
    Thing is, I flashback to several years ago when I first lived in Colorado. I was volunteering for The Tollgate (run by Cross and Clef Ministries), a day shelter for the homeless, where I was the cook (I was homeless too at the time).  We had a close partnership with WINN Ministries (whom I would also volunteer for later) who provided a lot of food and general support.  That year I believe it was a tsunami and a hurricane (my memory is faulty on the specifics, too long ago).  So people were flooding the Red Cross and the Salvation Army with donations for those tragedies.  But money donated there was money not donated to small, local non-profits like us.  We had a very, very bad year - and in fact the Tollgate would close.  We never had any national news talking about the homeless (except in derogatory ways of course), WINN was trying to unite and mobilize churches to help their neighborhoods and never a peep about them.  These were silent tragedies that the two groups, along with countless others throughout the nation, were working to help.  Day in and day out.  Because tragedies happen day in and day out.  I just wish that the people who donate to these big events, the tragedies that make the national news, would instead split their money in half.  Donate half to the big event, and donate the other half to a local non-profit or charity - because the invisible tragedies leave behind just as much suffering as the ones that draw headlines, and in every neighborhood there is somebody, some group, that is trying to help those not fortunate enough to get a spotlight when tragedy strikes them.

No comments:

Post a Comment