Friday, January 15, 2010

Race Track Playa and a Hundred Million

Back in the early aughts, Granny and I went from Las Vegas up to Race Track Playa. You’ve seen pictures in National Geographic of the rocks on super-flat surfaces which have long tracks indicating some unseen force propelling them. It’s a fascinating spot in the extreme far west corner of Death Valley National Monument. Average temperature there is 114º.

After we returned from looking at the rocks and their tracks and puzzling over the cause of the obvious movements, I put the key in the ignition, turned it and was rewarded with the sound of the starter turning over without firing. At the end of a one-way road, we had not seen another car in about two hours and it’s probably about 125 miles from the nearest mechanical service out of the park over in Beatty, Nevada over rough and dusty roads. My challenge then was to rely upon my personal knowledge and a handful of emergency tools to solve the problem. Help was not on the way and there was no cell phone service available.

I quickly reviewed what it takes to start a fire in the cylinder of an engine on a Ford Explorer (or any other engine) and ran down the check list. Fuel: we had plenty in the tank, 5 gallons in a spare can and the line was clear and the fuel pump was working. Fire: Holding a plug wire against the block I discovered we had an adequate spark. The last remaining component was the air. I pulled the air filter and found it had succumbed to the dust on the road and removed it. At that point the engine fired and we carefully made our way back to civilization and a new air filter.

“Well Cec,” you say, “that’s a lovely tale but what does it have to do with $100,000,000?”

I thought you’d never ask. If a plane had flown over and dropped a canister with that amount of cold cash it would not have made a whit of difference in starting that car. A billion or a trillion would also have failed in that effort. Money has certain advantages but it is not always the answer. It is useful in recovery but does not always help master the critical immediate problem.

All the money on earth will not fix a broken limb or dig a victim out from under mountainous piles of rubble. It offers absolutely no protection from an after-shock. In a devastated area without leadership, infrastructure, or commerce, it of no use what so ever. Grubbing for the dollars becomes a distraction to those who should be single mindedly concentrating on relief from real time suffering. It does offer some “feel good” points to the donor though. Haiti, at this moment, needs hands-on assistance for rescue, sustenance, and repair. Our military has the capacity to offer that help.

I want to hear that we have hospital ships, manpower, heavy equipment, rescue dogs, relief supplies and an organized structure (military discipline) on the way to help those unfortunate people. Save the money and send actual response to real need. Later, when things are under control, by all means render whatever financial aid we can to help our neighbors. Meanwhile, see to the immediate rebuilding of water supplies, sanitation, healing arts, and the restoration of the confidence of those who have lost everything. Let the locals know that we are there for them in realistic measures of immediate importance. Let us be part of burying the dead and comforting the survivors. Let it be done because we genuinely care and understand their loss and also their remaining peril.

I recall several years ago being warmed to the bottom of my Yankee heart to learn that George Bush had instructed our Navy to send a flotilla of 7 or 8 vessels already on station, including a hospital ship, to help Tsunami victims. They were not on the way to provide assistance to just the Americans in the area, but, to anyone in need.

Our military with its training, fitness, intelligence and willingness to serve is our greatest asset not just to our people but also to others who suffer temporary loss. Place the emphasis of relief on them and they will prove most dependable.

By the way, if you’re tempted to go to Race Track Playa, you might want to throw in an extra air filter.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

1 comment:

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