Skip to main content

Taking Pictures of the Tsunami

It’s easy in hindsight to ridicule the foolishness in gathering along the beach to watch an approaching tsunami. What idiots.

Currently out of work because of the pandemic, too afraid as cases explode across the country even to apply for other jobs, I spend a bit too much time watching YouTube videos, hoping my savings will hold out long enough for me to get the vaccine. There’s one video explaining how the majority of patrons at the Beverly Hills Supper Club failed to evacuate when told the building was on fire. They didn’t see any flames, didn’t smell any smoke. It couldn’t be that serious.

Is that what we’re doing as we laugh at Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani?

Another video I watched showed campers in Los Alfaques encountering an unexpected fog that was clearly no cause for alarm, unaware that more than 200 of them would soon be dead. The most incredible part of watching disasters unfold is seeing people about to meet their doom go on about their lives, oblivious despite all the warnings.

The day after Christmas, a family at a seaside resort in Thailand films approaching waves from their deck, laughing as they see boats overturned and people on the beach suddenly in knee-deep water. The vacationing family continues filming as the next wave crashes into the beach, the water now almost to the top of the wall separating their hotel property from the ocean.

They keep filming as the next, higher wave comes barreling toward the shore. Suddenly, they start screaming and running as the water crashes against them.

What the hell were they thinking?

In Japan, someone films a tsunami flowing upriver. The videographer is filming from a balcony three stories up. We see the concrete wall separating the river from the town. Two folks on bicycles casually pedal downriver, toward the coast, while we watch large boats on the other side of the wall being tossed about, crashing into bridges, being ripped apart and sinking. We watch as the river rises and rises until it overtops the wall. Black water comes crashing into the town, carrying fishing boats and other debris. Cars are soon added to the flow.

Where are the two casual bicyclists?

It’s easy in hindsight to ridicule the foolishness in gathering along the beach to watch an approaching tsunami. What idiots.

It’s easy in hindsight to ridicule the foolishness in gathering along the beach to watch an approaching tsunami. What idiots.

I wonder what people will say about us ten or fifteen years from now. “Didn’t they see what was about to happen? Wasn’t it obvious?”

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Will they be asking these questions about a coup and overthrow of the election? Will they be asking about widespread white supremacist terrorism?

Will folks be asking because we thought “just this once,” we could take our masks off to have dinner with a friend?

Will the questions be posed because the Democratic Party has self-destructed by refusing to embrace the working class and offering more than lip service to Blacks, Latinx, and other historically and currently oppressed groups?

Maybe they’ll be asking these questions because we still refused, in the face of overwhelming evidence, to address the climate emergency.

I listen to pundits on TV insisting “the guardrails are holding” against the multiple coup attempts we’ve already witnessed, and I think of the two bicyclists killed while pedaling along the river. The concrete barriers did hold, even under the weight of all that water.

But “holding” isn’t enough when a tsunami is coming.

We need to build higher, stronger walls, as the mayor of Fudai did, his coastal village surviving the 2011 Japanese tsunami almost unscathed.

It means we don’t “forgive and forget” the crimes committed against democracy.

It means we pay people to stay home until the pandemic is under control.

It means we ban all new fossil fuel extraction and pipelines.

It means we cancel all student loan debt, one of the simplest ways to start the long process of reparations.

Johnny Townsend

It means we implement universal healthcare so that our citizens are no longer crushed under pharmaceutical overlords.It means much more even than this. But the one thing it doesn’t mean is that we relax and go on about our lives as if nothing important is happening just one hundred yards away.

Johnny Townsend