A few years ago (four, to be exact), I wrote a column about how for three action-packed basketball weekends, March Madness managed to take my mind off everything else that was happening in the world. There’s nothing like a buzzer beater by one of your favorite teams to make you momentarily blissful with a feeling that all is well in the world. Looking back to 2007, I recall that I needed March Madness to keep my mind off of the war in Iraq (remember those nonexistent weapons of mass destruction?), and an attorney general who was being investigated for firing eight federal prosecutors in the midst of another giant administration cover-up. Thankfully, except for Iraq, all that is behind us now.
I’ve been trying really hard to get into the groove of nonstop basketball this year, but I just can’t seem to do it. What’s going on in the world is just too horrible to escape. First, there’s the escalating situation in Libya and its frightening repercussions. And then there are the continued mass demonstrations spreading through North Africa and the Middle East.
However, the images and stories coming out of the Japan are by far the most disturbing and haunting. Perhaps it’s the fact that we are connected by ancestry and tradition, but watching the situation in Japan unfold is enough to take anyone’s mind off anything as trivial as looking at 12 guys in long trunks.
Stories like the nuclear power plant worker who continues to risk almost certain death by reporting to work each day while his wife and daughter quietly worry with tears. Or the 80-year-old woman found alive in the rubble after nine days, thanks largely to her teenage nephew. There are poignant images of masked women clutching their crying babies, and (for doggie lovers like me) the man joyfully being reunited with his drenched pet dog.
It’s alarming that in situations like this, reactionary nuts have to take the glow off of Japan’s bravery and gaman. Take the statements by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who claimed that the reports out of Japan were exaggerated, saying that people in Tokyo were out “playing golf.” He followed that up in an interview where he said that it was ironic that an environmentally friendly country such as Japan had been hit by an earthquake since “even now refugees are recycling their garbage.”
And then there’s the spiteful comment from Glenn Beck, who claimed on his radio show last week that the earthquake is a “message from God.” That’s enough to offend both Christians and Buddhists.
I find these kinds of observations much more offensive than the jokes made by people like comedian Gilbert Gottfried, who lost his job as the Aflac duck because of his tasteless and inane attempts at humor. The difference: Gottfried is joking, Limbaugh and Beck are not. And these commentators with their own talk shows (while looking for even more media attention) are preaching to a large audience of like-minded crazies. Now that’s scary.
As I write this and my blood starts to boil, I realize that I am in the throes of another kind of March Madness. I hope that instead of the basketball one, this one is more productive. Perhaps it will spur me to start writing letters to editors and broadcasters to exercise a little of my own freedom of speech. It’s important to note that we all have a voice, and after all, isn’t that a crucial part of what our democracy is all about?
Sharon Yamato writes from Playa del Rey and can be reached at [email protected] expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.