The Editorial Board
It’s not too often that we comment on or extensively cover national and global issues. We try to avoid covering such grand topics that may have less of an impact on Stony Brook students than a possible tuition hike, or how reckless and nontransparent a University President’s administration can be. After all, we are the community news and features paper of this beloved state-funded institution.
But the events that have unfolded over the past month and most noticeably this past weekend have put things into perspective—or at least they should have. Now more than ever, global events remind us to take one giant step back from our highly-important lives busied with exams, work and all of the other curveballs to realize that, at times, many of our menial concerns and stresses really don’t matter.
Japan is suffering the world’s fourth strongest earthquake since 1900, when such records began. The ensuing 30-foot waves crashed as far as six miles onto Japan’s eastern coast. Traveling at excessive speeds, they washed away everything—cars, boats and houses, trailblazing a path of wreckage that left little room for mercy.
Now headlines have shifted from the destructive force of the earthquake to the fateful future of the cooling systems in reactor No. 1, 2, and 3 at the coastal Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Since the 9.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the southeast Asian-island, explosions have occurred at the plant, sparking fear of a nuclear meltdown and the massive spread of radiation that is forcing thousands to evacuate.
As bodies continue to wash ashore on Japan’s eastern coasts, complete villages are idle—left in ruin. It is estimated that more than 10,000 lives have been lost with thousands more missing.
But as news reports magnify the nuclear crisis, Japan’s survivors are left scrounging for food, shelter and safety amidst a country grappling with an unspeakable tragedy.
Just a week prior, the Internet was buzzing with hash tags of Charlie Sheen, winning and tiger blood—distractions that far eclipsed the monumental protests taking place in the Middle East. American audiences were treated to interview after interview with Sheen, even as the chants of protesters in Wisconsin were muzzled while the state government stripped unions of their right to collectively bargain.
That it took a 9.0 magnitude earthquake to finally shut Charlie Sheen up speaks volumes about where we as Americans, news consumers and as people are today.
As undergraduate and graduate students, we are preoccupied with concerns over a bleak economy. Amidst these state budget cuts and a University administration that seeks to relay the baton of burden to the students, we are concerned with value of the education we are paying for.
But that is giving ourselves too much credit. We complain about everything from bad-tasting coffee and long lines to busy work schedules. We live in a me-first generation where charity is scarce and generosity has become a low-supplied, high-valued commodity.
In the upcoming weeks, Japan will inevitably fall to the back of our minds. The Pakistani floods and Haiti’s quake will soon find new company. Everything will go back to normal. And we’ll go back to hash tagging the next celebrity steamrolling his or her way to another rubbernecking train wreck.
In the interest of not sounding too preachy, let us leave it at that. Priorities are, after all, personal judgment calls. So it’s up to you—show interest where your heart really lies, compassion when you feel it is true, and empathy when you can honestly label it pure and genuine.
The almost incomprehensible tragedy in Japan throws into stark relief so many things we take for granted, starting with the very ground under out feet.