Saturday, January 16, 2010
Haiti Brings Out Our Best..and Worst
The public reaction to the Haiti earthquake confirms my belief in humanity's basic decency. Donations are pouring in to various charities. If you're still unsure of where to donate, I've heard Partners in Health is an excellent choice - they were already well established in Haiti with clinics and staff and were able to immediately respond. Doctors Without Borders, although also a fine organization, is said to have had just one clinic and it was destroyed in the earthquake...so I think for this situation PIH is a better choice.
You can donate to the Red Cross by texting 'Haiti' to 90999 to donate $10, through links on various sites, even through the White House. Text ‘Yele’ to 501501 to donate $5 to Yele Haiti, Wyclef Jean's foundation for Haiti. The donations are pouring in.
If you want a ground's eye view of what's happening, this man's entries on Twitter are compelling.
Frederick Dupoux on Twitter
Haiti was already a devastated country, a crisis we all knew about but managed to ignore. Margaret Trost, head of the What If Foundation, told me the people in the village where her foundation concentrates are so poor that they were eating dirt. Literally eating dirt for the few nutrients it contains.
Haiti was a country that did something amazing; its slaves threw off their shackles and won their independence. But it came at a high cost. France demanded a massive yearly payment or it threatened to come and reclaim its slaves. Haiti's been paying ever since. It's had a series of corrupt governments. Its lush farmland and forests have been decimated, leaving the land barren and forcing Haiti to rely on expensive food imported from other countries. The people cannot afford that food.
So this earthquake is just a massive hand slamming down a country already desperate and dying. The fact that the world's attention is now there, that global compassion is being directed at a people who may well end up losing as many as a hundred thousand people, is wonderful.
I'm less impressed with our media. It has sprung into action, as it always does, bringing hordes of reporters and camera crews to document the disaster for the folks back home. Does each network need a crew of a dozen? Aren't they using up precious commodities - gasoline, water, food? Their reports certainly contribute to our understanding of the depth of the crisis, but do we need ALL of them?
And worse, how about the reporter who brags, "I witnessed an amputation today, an amputation done with only a local anesthetic, while the person who was trapped under rubble was awake." There's something about the way it was reported that turned my stomach. She was caught up in the "I was there!" mentality and lost her humanity. It was her phrasing, not so much that she was there, a sense that she'd detached herself so far that these horrors were just "news".
And then there are Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh. I've seen the videos. Robertson has lost his mind. "They made a deal with the devil. True story." Really, Pat? True story? Pull the plug on this man. He's gone over the edge.
Limbaugh's hatred of everyone but Conservative White America was blatant. "We've already contributed to Haiti. It's called the Income Tax." Apparently we aren't supposed to reach out to suffering people if they're not us. He made other comments that were offensive, yet I could almost understand them if I attempted to view them from his fear-filled, hate-spewing viewpoint. But not that comment, not the one that makes it clear his initial reaction was that we have no business spending another dime to attempt to help a nation that is dying.
This is hate. This is what it looks like. It tries to turn a human tragedy into a political, ideological debate.
And meanwhile thousands of Haitians are digging through the rubble, hoping to find the people they love.