Oh, Come On, NPR…

I listen to Michigan Radio, a National Public Radio station, pretty much exclusively. While I recognize the generally liberal slant of NPR, I think they do a pretty good job of presenting issues fairly. Very rarely do I hear something that absolutely outrages me coming from one of the NPR hosts, but two days ago, I very nearly drove off the road as I gaped in disbelief at my car stereo.

The offense was committed (even more appallingly) by a BBC host(ess), although she was an American. She was interviewing an Ethiopian official about the alarming food shortage there. We are all aware (or at least we should be) Ethiopia has had food issues for rather a long time; currently, however, things are as bad as they’ve been in quite awhile. The official said the food reserves were largely non-existent, so they had no resources to fall back upon. The BBC interviewer said, and this is a direct quote, “Why don’t they have reserves? It seems like they would have learned by now.”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

The “why don’t they have reserves” part of the question isn’t necessarily troublesome in and of itself; it’s the “it seems like they would have learned by now” that absolutely blew my mind.

The Ethiopian official took it in stride, however, and answered her questions honestly, citing many sources of the villages’ troubles in the desert.

Ethiopia has long been the butt of many a starvation joke, even among people I know (“Your favorite restaurant is an Ethiopian place? What do they serve? SAND? Flour?” Haw, haw, haw.) It’s tragic and it’s awful, but what is the real long-term solution? I doubt any of us has the answer. Still, a bit of sensitivity is warranted, and a sneering “it seems like they would have learned by now” is a bit out of line.

Hm. It seems the only time I can be moved to update my LJ is when something pisses me off. I should fix that, now that I’m not all Crazy With the School.

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