Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The American Media Makes Me Sick

In an effort to find out how the rest of Belize and the Yucatan Peninsula fared with Dean, I turned to the American mass media on-line sources since none of the Belize news sites are being updated right now. That was a mistake. I didn’t get any real news, and all it did was make me mad, and ashamed to be an American.

I’m not going to quote any specific articles, but I’ll paraphrase a few. Dean slammed into Chetumal as a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds in the 165mph range. Fortunately – and one source really did use that word, “fortunately” – the area where it hit is only – and that was used too – sparsely populated with indigenous Mayan people who live in wooden shacks. Well then, I guess it’s not really news, is it? The articles stated that no major tourist destinations received a direct hit. That’s definitely a relief. We wouldn’t want the tourists to be inconvenienced, and it would be a real tragedy if some of the resorts owned and funded by Americans were damaged. And God forbid any American tourists get hurt while on vacation; that would be REAL international news. Those indigenous Mayans only live in wooden shacks anyway, so no big deal, and they all have lots of kids, so if a few drown in the flooding, they can just have more. They should probably have fewer kids anyway, since they don’t really have room for all of them in those shacks.

The articles went on to say that after ripping a path of destruction across the Yucatan – also no big deal since no American tourist sites are in its path – Dean will head into the Gulf of Mexico, where the Mexican oil companies are evacuating their wells. That’s a little worrying since that could affect American oil prices, but the articles reassure readers that the American oil wells in the Gulf aren’t in any real danger. And, just so all of us Americans can feel better, when Dean makes landfall again, it will be about 400 miles south of the Texas/Mexico border, so don’t lose any sleep over Dean causing damage on American soil. Of course it will probably cause a lot of damage to Mexican cities like Veracruz and Tampico, but that shouldn’t affect any of us. Forget that these are major Mexican cities, and the whole beautiful Costa Esmeralda is in between them.

Okay, I admit I’m a little off what I can claim to be directly paraphrasing, but those really are the words between the lines. Tom and I traveled through the entire area affected by this storm on our way here, through Tampico, the Costa Esmeralda, Veracruz, and around the Yucatan Peninsula, and we can tell you that there’s a lot of damage and destruction to be done in Dean’s path, and a lot of lives to be affected. And we now call some of these indigenous Mayan people our friends and neighbors, and we can tell you that they’re just people, just like the rest of us, with the same day to day concerns, inspirations, joys and sorrows. I’ve also read about the havoc wreaked in the Midwest by the storms there, and wonder what it would be like to rewrite some of those articles with the ethnocentric twist reversed. The articles would have to say something like “The storm’s aftermath caused major damage in the Midwest, but fortunately only the indigenous people’s suburban tract houses (which take but a week or two to build) were damaged or destroyed and the only lives lost were the indigenous suburbanites. Major flooding or damage did not occur in any major US cities or tourist destinations.” The scary part about the media is that they only tell the public a small part of the truth – AS THEY SEE IT – and the public has been taught to believe what the media says and not think about what is NOT stated.

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