Myanmar is one of those mirrors Nature suddenly holds up every so often to make human beings face hard truths about what we call civilization.
As tens of thousands die, many needlessly, and millions face disease and starvation, international aid officials struggle against the barriers set up by politicians to preserve their power.
"(W)ith relief efforts still largely stymied by the country’s isolationist military rulers," the New York Times reports, "frustrated United Nations officials all but demanded Thursday that the government open its doors to supplies and aid workers."
As Americans watch in horror, Myanmar is a demonstration of how high the price of political self-protection can go, how much life can be lost to incompetent and uncaring exercise of power.
As we distance ourselves from such behavior, questions arise about Katrina, Iraq and the games that our own leaders are now playing in Washington over efforts to keep tens of thousands from losing their homes to foreclosure.
As we silently congratulate ourselves that life here is not held as cheaply as it is in Southeast Asia, it may be a good time to take a look in that mirror Nature is holding up there and ask our ourselves some hard questions about how much better we are doing here.