Wednesday, December 29, 2004


By Jack Random

As the magnitude of the tsunami catastrophe comes into view, there is a danger that we will soon grow numb; we may forget that numbers are only symbols of individual human beings, with lives as rich as our own and promise yet untold. I think of India’s renowned writer.

Arundhati Roy, speak to us.

We long to hear your singular voice. We need to know that you are well or, at least, that you and your loved ones have survived this catastrophe and that you will not suffer the cruelest fate: to have survived to witness the misery unfold.

Arundhati Roy, you have so often given words of comfort, words of solace, words of wisdom to ease us through our trials. We wish now to give some of them back.

Perhaps you do not live near the coast. Perhaps you were not vacationing with western visitors in your corner of the world. Perhaps you do not know how deeply you have touched so many of us. Perhaps you do not recognize the bond you have tied to those who have consumed your words. Still, we need to know you are safe. We have learned that Sri Lanka’s most distinguished writer (at least, from a western view), Arthur Clarke, has survived but we have yet to hear from you.

Perhaps it is selfish and ignoble but we would rather lose a thousand ordinary men, women, even children, than to lose one extraordinary being. Of course, the difficulty is: one never knows who is or might become extraordinary. Perhaps we will never know the full extent of our loss in this disaster. Who knows but that a small child in Bangladesh, if not for an untimely death, might have grown up to be the next Gandhi, the next Einstein, or indeed the next Arundhati Roy.

In America, we are mourning the loss of one of our own most precious beings. Susan Sontag was a voice of reason and, above all, a voice of compassion. She understood the value of human life.

We know in our hearts that every being is precious, that every child is or should be loved, and that every mother’s grief runs as deep as the divide that cracked the ocean floor. If only we cared as much for dark skinned children as we do for those draped in red, white and blue.

We cannot save those who are already lost but we can save those who will be lost if the world does not rally to this cause.

Arundhati Roy, speak.

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