Getting Real About Japan – A Challenge
By Susan Scruggs
I wrote this piece in June shortly after IndyCar announced that the Motegi race would go on, disaster or not. George, ever the diplomat, thought it might be too inflammatory on a topic that incited so much passion. It is not my intention to open those old wounds and get everybody riled up. For the most part, I feel that this piece is timeless, as there are always disasters and people and places that are undergoing unimaginable situations. My intention is aimed at helping people realize that sometimes it is better to step off your soapbox and get your hands dirty. I have always thought money is great in terms of helping, but there is something more precious than money—time. You can always make more money, but you can never make more time. I am getting on my soapbox now…
I’ve seen the “Twitter Wars” about the Motegi Race, I’ve seen people get inflamed about adding another road course, I’ve seen people thrust their opinion about “this is the Big Picture, not about racing” down everyone’s throats. Shortly after INDYCAR announced that the Japan race would be run as a road course, George was crucified on this site and Twitter for stating the Japan race should be cancelled and replaced with another US oval. He was called insensitive, uncaring and selfishly looking at this from just a racing perspective. While you all comfortably sit at your computers and SmartPhones and say “help the people of Japan, this race is going to do wonders for their morale.” I say get real.
A year and a half ago, my city of Nashville was under water. Tourism, which is one of our leading sources of income, was lost for the summer season as our beloved Grand Ole Opry, the Opryland Hotel, and most of our downtown area stood under 10+ feet of water. What did we do? Well, Tennessee is not called the Volunteer State for nothing. We pitched in, we helped our neighbors–an IndyCar race would not have made a big difference here neither would have any big event. We had recovery on our minds. Just three weeks removed from the flood last year, we brought my son’s then-girlfriend, Devin, to Indy. Her house stood under about 9 feet of water. They pretty much lost it all. Luckily, she was one of the few who had flood insurance. Her family was separated as she slept on the floor at her uncle’s house with her sister, while her parents stayed with another relative. Sure, Indy was a nice distraction for her, as I’m sure she was grateful to sleep in a bed at the hotel, away from what was left of her house. I could tell that underneath it all, her heart was at home–a valuable weekend lost of helping her family rebuild their home.
Our homeless community who lived near the river was destroyed. The company I work for is right beside the Cumberland River; backing up to the levees holding the river back from destruction of our large business park. With news of the levees leaking downriver, we were only allowed to go in just long enough to get our computers and our servers during the week of lost work. I hate to think of the millions of dollars that would have been gone had we lost all our files during our busiest season. The consequences of this would have been far-reaching as we use China for the back-end of our production. Many people a world away would have lost much-needed income.
I am privileged enough to work with an organization called Hands On Nashville (most major cities in the US have a Hands On community). I work primarily with our local Humane Shelter as we provided refuge for many of the displaced animals—as flood victims had to find shelter wherever they could, their pets had to be taken care of somewhere. It sounds trivial, but how many of us have a beloved pet that is a member of our family? Adding to the worries of the flood victims was what to do with their family pet while they live somewhere that there are “No Pets Allowed.” We provided shelter and comfort for pets separated from their owners. It is hard to comfort a pet that spent most of its life sleeping at the foot of their owner’s bed, be suddenly stuck in a 4” x 4” cage. Hands On Nashville became volunteer central for those who wanted to help. This organization got a much-needed shot in the arm as their volunteer roster overflowed. Once you get the great feeling of helping people, pets and land (yes, they planted trees in areas where the flood destroyed vegetation and forest), you want to keep helping long after the disaster is over.
Nashville, for the most part, has rebuilt. People lost their land as the government came in, declared their land a flood plain and would not allow them to build on the flooded land where their house once stood. Devin’s family was within 6 inches of losing their land to the same restrictions. Insurance money on the structure of a home does not go far if your land is lost. Her family rebuilt and was able to be in their home by Christmas. My son spent last summer jackhammering and helping her family rebuild.
Many people lost their homes and businesses and their lives will never be the same. The city went in and helped the homeless find housing, as the shantytowns were destroyed by the flood and replaced with better housing. Our city was forced to focus on problems that for the most part, were ignored. Benefits were held, money, and helping hands poured in. The job market opened, as many people were needed to rebuild. We have come back stronger and better than ever.
Japan will be no different. Many people, who had little before the earthquake, will have a better living situation as the world’s eye turns to them. It happens–we for the most part, overlook the people who need the most help, until disaster happens. THEN they get the help they have needed for years.
I challenge you who are condemning people for not looking at the “Big Picture—it is not just about a race” to DO something. For the most part at Indy, I saw very few people at the Help Japan table, which stood behind the concert stage in the Pagoda Plaza. Collect change from your co-workers, write a check, and get yourselves over to Japan to get your hands dirty. I see Racing for Cancer tweets, but I have not seen any links to Help Japan.
For every time you tweet, condemning people for being heartless and not thinking of Japan during this disaster, you should be providing links to how to help–where to write a check, what YOU can do. You should write a blog entirely dedicated to how you can help. Be intentional about your feelings about the Japan race and how to help. Be realistic about a race where probably the only people who can attend have NOT been left homeless after this earthquake. The morale of a country—get realistic about THAT, too. The people of Japan who need the most help are probably too busy working at rebuilding their lives to even remember that there is an IndyCar race in their country. It’s easy to condemn when you fire off tweets about people being unfeeling and heartless for the loss of an oval.
Yes, I also think it is Big Picture for the racing community and the drivers who do better on ovals. Big picture for racing–if a team does poorly in the standings, they lose money, they lose sponsors, their lives are changed. End of story. That’s not being selfish, that’s being realistic about the sponsorship world of racing and the fact that some drivers do better on ovals than on road courses, a tilt in that balance DOES have devastating effects for them and the overall championship picture.
I also think of the drivers, teams and broadcasters that have privately admitted serious concerns of radiation exposure. Many feel it is an unnecessary risk. INDYCAR officials have joked that “we’ll know if it was a mistake in about ten years”. Not a laughing matter
I, for one, help the smallest and often forgotten creatures. Nothing gives me more pleasure than comforting an animal who has been abandoned just for “being more trouble than I thought it would be,” “I’m moving and there is just no place for my pet anymore,” or “We just had a baby and I don’t have time for animals in my life.” Volunteer in your community, get your hands dirty, you may not be helping Japan, but you are helping in your community. Nothing gives you greater satisfaction.