Disaster Snobs

Crazy week last week. First Virginia gets hit with its first earthquake since Robert E. Lee and his gang of slick bandits simulated one using a giant drill underneath the Earth’s surface (that was either how the Civil War started or a plot device in Ocean’s 13, can’t quite remember which). Then the Eastern Seaboard gets slapped with a weather-dick when Hurricane Irene hit this past weekend.

Plenty of people freaked.  And when they did, there was a vocal minority who condescendingly mocked these people for their confusion in a confusing time.

I call them disaster snobs. You know them. When a hurricane approaches, they chide everyone for freaking out over “some rain and wind.” When an earthquake hits, they’re the Californians who snidely remark how a 5.9 is “nothing over here.” They like nothing better than to trivialize the panic of others.

Except that their trivialization is not really valid in and of itself.  While Hurricane Irene ended up not being anywhere near as catastrophic as predicted, lives were lost. Lots of people were without power. Flooding continues throughout New York and New England. And, sometimes people get scared. They freak out. They shouldn’t be insulted or referred to in a condescending way because of it. It’s one thing if you want to criticize the media or the government (although anyone who insults the government for their preparedness in this case, particularly after the events of Katrina, must be smoking something pretty strong) but to talk down to everyday folks because they’re worried about their houses or families? Calm the fuck down. Sorry we’re not used to stormy weather as an everyday occurrence. Apparently you live on the Deadliest Catch boat or something.  

The earthquake in particular was shocking due to the lack of warning; when it first hit I thought someone was doing construction. Within minutes afterwards, people from California scoffed. “5.9? That’s it? In California those happen before breakfast!”  What do you want, a medal for living in a place where shitty things happen? California has wildfires and earthquakes fairly regularly. And the Californian response is to…scoff when other people finally experience the same thing and get spooked by it? Are you better than us because you CHOOSE to live in a place where gaping holes in the Earth could open up at any minute? Where do you get your superiority from? I can picture it now: two Californians, high fiving while they hang on for dear life before they plunge into the hot depths of an open fault line, all because they’re not pussies who overreact to earthquakes. “Isn’t it cool how we’re not panicking like all those East Coast tools who willfully chose to live in a place where this sort of thing rarely happens?”

The bottom line is no matter what the disaster, someone is always going to question the reaction of the masses as being overreaction. I would have loved to hear one of these guys on 9/11. “You call that a terrorist attack? I lived through one where EIGHT  towers went down, and SIX Pentagons were hit!” They would have also ruined Godzilla. “You call that a kaiju? When I lived in Vancouver, we used to see 300 foot lizards walk out of the Pacific Ocean every day before we had lunch. We used to ride them around town like horses, because we were tough!”

Topic for another day: how much differently would 9/11 have gone down if the U.S. had Godzilla on its side? Really makes you think. Next time we get attacked by a giant sea monster, maybe we should act with a little more sensitivity. Food for thought.

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