Concern should not be a fleeting emotion

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 3, 2012

It has been nearly a year since an earthquake and massive tsunami crippled the region on the northeast coast of Japan.

In the days following the event, news reports had near-constant coverage of the damage and the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant as the workers there tried to stave off a catastrophic meltdown. Then, just as quickly as it began, interest waned, and reports dwindled. Nothing had been resolved, and the country was still in a major crisis, but the American people had moved on. It was eerily similar to the situation a year before when a massive earthquake leveled much of Haiti.

The situation can be seen again and again. The New Orleans area experienced it firsthand in the months following Hurricane Katrina. There are several theories about why this occurs. One is that the attention span of the American public has shrunk to an alarmingly low level.

Another is that people have become accustomed to news as entertainment. Still another is that with so much information coming at the average person these days, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless.

Regardless of the cause, it is a dangerous state, and not just because there are people suffering off in some distant land but rather because the apathy has spread to concerns about one’s own community. The outrage over a murder quickly evaporates until the next one shocks people out of their complacency for a few more days.

Lasting change can only come about through lasting concern. Anything less and the change will be as fleeting as a Facebook comment.