As the pictures continue to arrive from the region of China impacted by the massive 7.9 earthquake of last week, the reality of the scale of the devastation sinks in.
80,000 are dead or missing, and that number will almost certainly rise.
7,000 schools collapsed. 4,000 children were orphaned in the space of minutes.
There are an estimated 5 million newly homeless Chinese.
The response to such an epic of suffering ought to be generosity, and indeed hundreds of thousands of Americans have been digging deep to send private aid to China.
On my radio show I have pointed listeners to Caring for China, which has been operating orphanages and medical clinics in the earthquake zone for more than 25 years. The Christians who run Caring for China can be trusted to get the donations directly to those suffering in the devastated cities and towns. You can contribute online to an earthquake relief fund at CaringforChina.org, or via a check made out to Caring for China and sent to their American office at 3300 S. Fairview, Santa Ana, CA 92704.
Think about the shocks to the American political system that followed Katrina and 9/11. Disasters -- both natural and man-made-- impact cultures and governments in profound and lasting ways. Many journalists are shocked at the changes the PRC's government have initiated in the aftermath of the quake, allowing private efforts completely divorced from the party or the state to rush aid to the region. Given that the destruction and loss of life has been easily 50 times that which followed Katrina ashore in Louisiana and Mississippi, we can expect China to engage in a long period of soul-searching after the rush to dig out the trapped and bury the dead slows.
When the Chinese begin to mix their massive grieving with the necessity of looking forward and to preventing a recurrence, they will also have occasion to ask who came to their aid? Americans certainly did after 9/11, and again after Katrina.
While the Party in the time of Mao and even in the last years of the 20th century could effectively control the media, the new China is wired, and the Chinese are well aware of the terrible scale of the disaster that has hit them. They are also aware of who is helping them. This is not a time to allow legitimate grievances over heparin and other product scandals or rightful concern over PRC aggressiveness towards Tibet or Taiwan to limit the response to the human suffering and the vast changes set off by the shaking of the ground.