Originally created 10/11/05

Shaken - and stirred

This planet, work in progress that it is, finds many ways to swallow its unwitting inhabitants. We've seen those awful methods at work far too much of late.

But perhaps no mode of nature's wrath is crueler than an earthquake.

You can, after all, escape a flood via higher ground; tornadoes and hurricanes can be avoided, with any luck, with sound warnings; fires can be seen, smelled and stamped out. There are even simple steps you can take to avoid lightning strikes.

An earthquake, though, comes without the least warning, destroying much in its radius of influence. And it shakes the very foundation of our existence: If we can't count on terra firma, what in the world can we count on?

Saturday's 7.6-magnitude earthquake - history's worst have been in the 8s and 9s - is aggravated by its location: the rugged, remote, fought-over, mountainous terrain between Pakistan and India. The temblor's 30,000-or-more immediate victims are likely to be joined by many others who die trapped or cold or hungry, due to the difficulty of getting aid there.

The cries of innocents imprisoned by the rubble will never move the Richter scale - but they should move us.

We have our differences with many in that region - or, more accurately, they have their differences with us. But earthquakes do more than bring down buildings and boulders; they also erase borders and crumble grudges. Once again, a diverse and bitterly divided world must come together.

Indeed, financial aid, rescue teams, sniffer dogs and all manner of equipment are pouring into Pakistan from every point on the globe. Some Pakistanis may resent the U.S. presence in neighboring Afghanistan - but eight military helicopters and two C-130 airplanes with tents, blankets and more were that much closer to the epicenter.

Politics, and even racial and religious hatred, are necessarily part of the rubble at a time like this. There is no place for enmity and distrust when children lie buried. Helping hands of all pigmentations, caring faces of every ethnicity, will be needed and should be welcomed.

Let us hope that out of the rubble, the earthquake has shaken open more than a few minds and hearts.

If we can't count on the earth beneath our feet, surely we must count on each other.

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