Well, six days was as long as I could stay away from blogging. I am on my brother's old Mac in his little Exeter flat. We're having a happy family visit here in Devon; I am enjoying my little niece and nephew and filling up on Cadbury Cream Eggs. But as much as I love Britain, the weather this time of year is a bit much for this Californian! It's just after four in the afternoon, and already getting dark. This morning, I went running just before seven -- and by the time I finished my jog along the river Exe, the sun had still not yet come up, though it was almost eight.
I love visiting the UK in late Spring and early Summer. I am one who loves light -- nothing makes me happier than sunrises at 5:00AM and sunsets after 10:00PM. But the price of so much wonderful daytime in summer is the dreary winters and the near-endless darkness that balance things out. It's a bit daunting -- I can bear the cold of an English winter, but not the absence of light. (Parenthetically, I note that I've always been a morning person, as I don't like to be in bed when the sun is out. Somehow, it seems wrong to waste good daylight. As you can imagine, this belief wreaked havoc with my social life in my youth, and still makes me a bit of a bore at parties -- I start to yawn uncontrollably around 9:00 in the evening.)
I have nothing useful to add to the coverage of the appalling tsunami tragedy. I grew up near an ocean, and my most consistent childhood nightmares were always of massive tidal waves. They were always the same -- I would be standing on a beach, unable to move, as a colossal wall of water drew nearer and nearer. Thus this awful Boxing Day event has shaken me more than other natural catastrophes. I have donated online with the Red Cross, though I suppose virtually any charity might have worked as well.
I have been struck by the photos the various English papers have chosen to put on their covers. This morning, all the major dailies had the tsunami aftermath as their top story. The two left-leaning major papers, the Independent and the Guardian, chose images of non-whites. (The former paper had a single injured Sri Lankan boy; the latter had a grisly photo of dozens of dead bodies from Indonesia.) But the major right-leaning papers all chose to print photos of grief-stricken or missing Europeans: the Times of London showing an orphaned Swedish boy on Phuket island, the Telegraph offering a huge picture of of Richard Attenborough, the acclaimed director whose daughter and granddaughter were killed when the wave hit their Thai beach resort. The conservative dailies put the suffering of brown folks on their inside pages, while the more left-leaning papers put similar photos of missing Britons and suffering Swedes on their own insides.
Listed from left to right, the Independent, the Guardian, the Times and the Telegraph are Britain's four biggest non-tabloid dailies. I cannot help but think that the images they chose to convey the immense tragedy of the tsunami in some way reflect the sympathies of their target audiences. I don't mean to imply that the left has a monopoly on compassion. But not all humans are stirred to sympathy and compassion by the same visual images. Some of us are able to identify with the suffering of those who don't look like ourselves; others of us seem to respond only when those whose loss and grief we see on television or in print look like ourselves. To be more moved by the plight of those whose outer appearance resembles that of our relatives is an all-too-human failure of the imagination. And standing at the newsagent today, looking at all of the papers at once, it was hard not to have the impression that some folks have deeper and richer imaginations than others.