So we had to wait today for the announcement that a) the US will pony up more than the previously announced $40 million, though how much more no one is saying and 2) we're part of a four-nation team--whatever you do, don't call it a "coalition"--to help.

You know, the proper response to an event like this should not be hard for the world's only superpower to figure out--especially when that superpower is sitting in the global Dunce Chair. We're killing brown people in Iraq? Let's save brown people in Asia. That's right: let's put as much energy in helping the innocent as we do in hunting the "insurgents."

Alas, there are two flaws in this simple equation.

One is that it seems the only time our "Christian" leaders grasp that we are connected to the rest of the planet is when someone pisses us off--though the fabled "American people" are hard-wired to help, this particular set of white male leaders believes that relief work is not its job. Well, at least they're consistent; they're not rushing to help the poor and troubled at home either. And then there's the question of Getting The Work Done. One reason Bush had to spend a day playing Range Rider is that Halliburton was trying to figure out how to make a dime off the earthquake--and came up empty.

The other problem is that we can't really afford to step out front and do the right thing in Asia. Our larder is bare. The war, the tax cuts, the battered dollar --- every reduction in our ability to be a good planetary citizen turns us more and more inward. Anyway, it's cold. And the football playoffs are around the corner. And did you get a new video game for Christmas? Right: there goes the adult male population.

The genuine surprise of the earthquake is not that it happened, but that it might not go away. It's not just a disaster, it's a mega-disaster. Not just the usual two-or-three-day story, but a kind of global Laci Peterson case--the rest of the world may be involved in this event and its aftermath for some time. Too bad we don't have the attention span for it--or a President who understands that the first definition of compassion is how you feel about people with whom you have nothing in common.

Getting It Right: Volunteer America Day

Beliefnet readers are, by now, not waiting for Our Spiritual Father--that's George W. Bush, for those who have slept through the first term--to act. They come up with plans that we can execute all on our own. Here's one that arrived via email:

In the spirit of volunteerism that this catastrophe has ignited, I would like to suggest a "Volunteer America Day"--to coincide with the inauguration of this president who would not hesitate to cut the grants and federal funding of many of the very same organizations that are hurrying to southeast Asia to help. Why don't the 56 million of us who didn't vote for him get together and clean a park, or volunteer our time to help the elderly or the infirm - or work at the local VA to tend to the soldiers he keeps sending to the Middle East as so much cannon foder! Or just to irritate Dubya, why don't all 56 million of us donate one dollar each to Planned Parenthood or the World Health Organization or any of the myriad charities that the pious White House finds cringe-worthy?
Not One Damn Dime Day

This has been making the email rounds. I was saving it for later, but later seems to have come early.

Don't spend a dime on January 20, 2005.

It doesn't really matter that everyone will be out spending what they didn't the next day--a point or two will have been made: Since our religious leaders will not speak out against the war in Iraq, since our political leaders don't have the moral courage to oppose it, Inauguration Day, Thursday, January 20th, 2005 is "Not One Damn Dime Day" in America.

On "Not One Damn Dime Day" those who oppose what is happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a 24-hour national boycott of all forms of consumer spending.

During "Not One Damn Dime Day," please don't spend money. Not one damn dime for gasoline. Not one damn dime for necessities or for impulse purchases. Not one damn dime for anything for 24 hours.

On "Not One Damn Dime Day," please boycott Walmart, KMart and Target. Please don't go to the mall or the local convenience store. Please don't buy any fast food (or any groceries at all for that matter). For 24 hours, please do what you can to shut the retail economy down.

The object is simple. Remind the people in power that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal; that they are responsible for starting it and that it is their responsibility to stop it. "Not One Damn Dime Day" is to remind them, too, that they work for the people of the United States of America, not for the international corporations and K Street lobbyists who represent the corporations and funnel cash into American politics.