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COLUMN

Blood, Sweat, And Cash

Roy Esaki

On Friday night the country was covered with millions of somberly lit candles. On Saturday NBC showed an SNL rerun from the 70s. Last week the media was desperately trying to come up with flight numbers and to estimate the order of magnitude of the casualties. But now portfolio managers, diligent students, and coupon-cutting shoppers are straining their eyes to pinpoint the second decimal place again. For most of us, life goes on, as it must. But Dave Barry wrote an eloquent column that moistened my eyes, and cnn.com still makes me very, very sad. For all of us, the shock is still there, the grief ongoing, the anger ever growing. But there are new problems that we need to address and solve, if only to move past feelings of helplessness.

There’s a lot of anger, rightfully so, toward whomever is responsible. But there’s also a lot of misdirected anger towards other people, other victims. Generalized discrimination against all persons of certain ethnicities, religions, or countries is easily recognizable and reproachable as wrong. Hopefully, should we come across any occurrence of such behavior, we’ll have the conviction to voice our condemnation against bigotry, for it is with the tacit acquiescence of bystanders than such behavior grows.

More insidious is the tension that develops between people with differing views regarding the “proper course of action.” Some want swift and forceful vengeance, while others want to seek peace and understanding. People are very passionate about defending these convictions, be it through conflicts over posters, adamant dialogues on the Lobby 10 memorial banner, or fervent writings in the paper.

This passion is understandable, and heated argument is defended both by the First Amendment and by the legitimacy of free discourse. If the debate makes people more understanding and aware of global issues, brings about peace, and develops solutions, then it is useful. But I’m not sure how useful these political or philosophical quarrels are, to ourselves or to the direct victims. If it makes us defend ourselves more angrily and increases discord in our own community, it makes one wonder if there’s something else to be done.

We can give our blood, sweat and tears. Most importantly, we can give our blood. There’s a two-week waiting list at the Red Cross Blood Center, but there are other drives at Boston College and Harvard this month, and there will be blood drives at MIT in December and many more after that.

Our schedules may not always work out, especially considering the long lines, but we can make an effort.

We may feel helpless in other ways, but something everyone can and should do is donate money during this week’s fund-raising drive for the American Red Cross in Washington. One can contribute by credit card at paypal.com if that’s more convenient. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s more productive than waving a flag around.

Surely, everyone can afford at least several dollars, if not much more. If we can pitch in five bucks for pizza without a second thought, then we can surely donate at least that much to a far more important cause. How much excess do we spend? A movie at the theatres, a coffee at Starbucks, concert tickets, an overpriced lunch. It’s a few trifling sacrifices, in light of what others go through. I’ll try to donate ten cents for every person who donates this next week and e-mails me telling me so; there are thousands of potential donors. I’m a strapped student just like any other, but I’ll do it if I can.

Of course there are many other charitable organizations -- UNICEF, the Peace Corps, thehungersite.com -- that need donations to help save lives and improve welfare; it’s just as important that we consider these as well. If anything, having a tragedy so close to home would make us all the more sympathetic to those suffering and crying anywhere else in the world. This fund drive will end, but the need to extend help to each other whenever we can is eternal. Politics, philosophy, and rhetoric are important, but human life -- anywhere, anytime -- is more important and far more real than anything else.