Today, during an afternoon conference that wrapped up my project of the last 18 months, one of my Euro colleagues tossed this little tidbit out to no one in particular:
"See, this is why George Bush is so dumb, there's a disaster in the world and he sends an Aircraft Carrier..." After which he and many of my Euro colleagues laughed out loud and then they looked at me. I wasn't laughing, and neither was my Hindi friend sitting next to me, who had lost family in the disaster. I'm afraid I was "unprofessional," I let it loose......
"Hmmm, let's see, what would be the ideal ship to send to a disaster? Now just what kind of ship would we want? Something with its own inexhaustible power supply? Something that can produce 900,000 gallons of fresh water a day from sea water? Something with its own airfield? So that after producing the fresh water, it could help distribute it? Something with 4 hospitals and lots of open space for emergency supplies? Something with a global communications facility to make the coordination of disaster relief in the region easier? Well, "Franz," we peasants in America call that kind of ship an "Aircraft Carrier." We have 12 of them. How many do you have? Oh that's right, NONE.
"Lucky for you and the rest of the world, we are the kind of people who share. Even with people we don't like. In fact, if memory serves, once upon a time we peasants spent a ton of money and lives rescuing people who we had once tried to kill and who tried to kill us. Do you know who those people were? That's right Franz, Europeans.
"There is a French Aircraft carrier? Where is it? Right where it belongs! In France of course! Oh why should the French Navy dirty their uniforms helping people on the other side of the globe. How Simplesse... The day an American has to move a European out of the way to help in some part of the world it will be a great day.
The room fell silent. My Hindi friend then said quietly to the Euros: "Can you let your hatred of George Bush end for just one minute? There are people dying! And what are your countries doing? Amazon.com has helped more than France has. You all have a role to play in the world. Why can't you see that? Thank God for the US Navy, they don't have to come and help, but they did and they are. They helped you once and you should all thank God they did. They didn't have to, and no one but them would have done so. I'm ashamed of you all..."
He left the room, shaking and in tears. The frustration of being on the other side of the globe, unable to do anything to assist and faced with people who could not set aside their asininity long enough to reach out and help was too much for him to bear.
I just shook my head and left. The Euros stood speechless. Later in the break room, one of the laughing Euros caught me and extended his hand in an apology. I asked him where he was from. He said "a town outside of Berlin."
He is a young man, in his early 20's. I asked him if he knew of a man named Gail Halvorsen. He said no. I said "that's a shame" and walked away to find my Hindi friend.
For those of you who may not remember, Gail Halvorsen was the transport pilot responsible for the "candy drop" during the Berlin airlift. They called him the "Candy Bomber" as he dropped goodies for all the Berlin children.