This morning, Japan is facing what may be its worst crisis since World War II. The government there is estimating that a minimum of 10,000 people in a single prefecture may be dead. One whole town at least was erased from the map by the tsunamis. There are 2 near melt-downs in a single nuclear plant and more feared.
So far, the Japanese seem to be pulling together to rescue the living, recover the dead, and eventually to rebuild their country.
I wonder if we would do so well here in a similar situation. The optimist in me recalls the extraordinary response of New Yorkers, not exactly famous for their generosity, in the wake of the September 11th attacks. That new found solidarity and generosity lasted for months in the wake of the catastrophe and played a vital role in the city's comeback.
The pessimist in me recalls the official lack of response after Hurricane Katrina and the amazingly callous remarks from official Washington about New Orleans no longer being "necessary" and how it really wasn't that bad. I remember Dubya promising to rebuild Senator Trent Lott's vacation home while thousands were still stranded in their flooded only homes. I remember the harsh response the mostly Black refugees got in Texas. People forget that while these folks were poor, many of them owned their homes.
The Japanese were never strangers to calamity, natural and otherwise. It is all over their art from medieval emaki scrolls to Godzilla movies to Anime.
And speaking of the mighty creative and destructive forces of nature, where we are only spectators or flotsam, here is the great Sotatsu's Matsushima (Pine Island) screen paintings from the 17th century that are about that very subject.
And here is a detail: