20,000 Dead and Rising

As of this writing, the death toll in Iran is 20,000. Here the blogosphere, that’s just a number. But in the world? 20,000 people crushed, suffocated, or otherwise killed? Unimaginable.

It was big news to me when I got up this morning and the number was just 4000. I was amazed that the national morning news programs could still chuckle over digital camera batteries when tens of thousands were still trapped under the wreckage.

By the time I got home this afternoon, though, Reuters was saying 20,000. And in came the pictures of parents carrying their dead children to mass burial locations.

Yes, people know how to kill people, and we’ve certainly been witnessing a lot of that, lately. But 20,000 or more in day? I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on the loss of this much human life, so suddenly. Nature can be a bitch, sometimes.

Perhaps it’s wrong to blame this completely on nature. These people were living mostly in human-built structures that toppled on top of them as the earth shook. But some of these structures have been standing for about two thousand years. It gives them a different status, I’d think, than some shoddily tacked together apartment house in the Marina, knowingly built on a fault line.

In any case, this tragedy should remind us that there are more pressing dangers out there than one another. So let’s just get over our differences and get on with it.