Sunday, January 17, 2010
HAITI: THE GOOD AND BAD OF IT
I have been heartsick over the horrifying misery and suffering I have seen on the news these past few days about the disastrous earthquake in Haiti. From stories of rising death counts, to husbands losing wives and children when just at the brink of rescuing them, to an 11 year old girl being pulled from the rubble with a crushed leg only to die the very next day - it has been a very sad and wrenching week.
I have never been so proud of our country or a President as I was to see the immediate responses to aid the needs of this impoverished, devastated Haitian nation. President Obama immediately called upon his two previous predecessors to help raise relief aid, both of them having been superb fundraisers. Major League Baseball stepped up to deliver $1 million in aid. The National Football League and many other groups publicized the need for emergency donations repeatedly on its own NFL Network and also numerous times during heavily-watched playoff games. Hollywood celebrities opened their wallets. And hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens started donating personally to the relief cause through churches and charitable organizations. All of this was done quickly and continues. THAT is what a civilized nation is supposed to do, and I am happy to say we rose to the challenge at hand.
But, as always, cynically dark forces of the far right muddied up the picture. Rush Limbaugh, vile, racist puke that he is, questioned the President's motive in responding so quickly to this disaster. He accused the President of trying to appeal to black voters by responding quickly. He also questioned whether donations for aid sent through the White House would actually go to disaster relief, suggesting that Obama might pocket some of the money for political campaigning. This conscientious scumbag never once on his radio show advocated any of his listeners making ANY donations to ANY charity for relief, nor is there any evidence HE has donated even a penny to relieve the misery of suffering Haitians, even though he himself is a multimillionaire...
And then, of course, the far right, insane "Reverend" Pat Robertson broadcast that the Haitian earthquake was God's punishment on the Haitian people for their supposedly javing made a pact with the devil 200 years ago enlisting his help in gaining freedom from France. What absolute idiocy! And how hypocritical, too---he makes this claim even as his website provides a link for sending donations for Haitian relief in! Well, that's better than Limbaugh's been doing, I guess, which has been nothing. But not much better...
That other darling of the far right, Sarah Palin, has been strangely silent on the Haiti disaster. There has been no report of her raising money to aid the stricken people, nor has she herself contributed any money that we know of, nor has she made appeals for her followers to donate. Surely we would have expected much more leadership from one who believes she is a leader qualified to be President, and who professes to have both strong family and Christian values! (I never knew Jesus was so arbitrary about these matters of helping those in dire need). Perhaps she has been confused about it all. I can just hear her backstage at Fox "News", asking bewilderedly: "What's Haiti? WHERE'S Haiti? Why don't they have any money, and why can't they take care of their own problems themselves?" But more likely, Sarah Palin has been far too busy making money for HERSELF and advancing HER TV career to have had time to even think of the needs of a devastated people outside our borders!
As I mentioned earlier, I am very satisfied that most of the country has responded so well and quickly to this tragic situation in Haiti. We have averaged well over $2 million per day in small contributions, these coming from a population beset with high unemployment, high pharmaceutical and health care costs, frozen and/or declining wages, and eroded buying power. It is a testament to our compassion and generosity as well as our sense of responsibility and obligation. If you yourself have not yet contributed to Haiti relief, won't you join others and please do so today? The Red Cross can accept your donation online at http://american.redcross.org/HaitiRelief (my apologies for this not properly hyperlinking). Or, you may also contribute through World Vision International at http://www.worldvision.org/, Catholic Relief Services at http://crs.org/, or NICEF at http://www.unicefusa.org/. There are many, many others as well.
It appears that the good in this disaster (if there is such a thing) has been the rekindling of American benevolence and sense of duty, as well as a new and heightened awareness of Haiti, its current situation, and its needs going forward among the world community. This is truly a nation which has been needlessly neglected for far too long. The bad, of course, has manifested itself in the words and behavior of far right ideologues like Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson, as well as the ignorance and inaction of Sarah Palin and many of those corporatist plutocrats in the upper 1% of the income scale. If each and every corporate executive drawing an eight figure income in the banking, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries were to climb down from their pedestals and donate $5 million apiece, relief and rebuilding of a collapsed Haiti would proceed at a very rapid rate. Instead, many of those upper elite prefer to remain blissfully ignorant, sitting on their money in their counting houses, counting it over and over again as people starve and wail in distress.
That, my friends, is the good and bad of the unfortunate Haiti situation, as I see it from here.
COMING SOON: "THE U.S. AND HAITI'S LONG, UNEVEN RELATIONSHIP"