I am a peacekeeper by nature. I’m not a big fan of confrontation and the odds are pretty good that if I’ve said something to you that could be construed in the least to seem as though I were putting you in your place, I’m either extremely hurt or it’s not the first time you’ve done or said whatever it is that I disagree with (I’ve just bitten my tongue). I don’t discuss politics and religion with strangers and I’m never the one to bring it up with friends unless I know they agree with me. Since this is the behavior that my friends are used to, I feel the need to issue a bit of a warning. I have bitten my tongue as many times as I care to with regard to this issue.
If you are in my presence and decide to be the idiot that says anything to the effect of “I get that there was an earthquake, but why aren’t we helping the people in our OWN country,” I need you to be ready for the verbal lashing that will immediately follow. You probably won’t be able to hold your own, but it’s ok, I don’t expect you to. I expect that the kind of person who would utter such an uncompassionate, thoughtless, uneducated statement probably puts more thought into what kind of toilet paper to purchase than they do the words that come out of their mouth and thusly, isn’t going to have a rebuttal of any magnitude to anything I have to say. And to show what a nice person I am, I’m even going to give you a heads up on some of the talking points I’ve mulled over. Let’s break down the stupidity of your comment and I’ll try to simplify things for you.
- Take a trip with me back to the early 1700s. Saint-Domingue (Haiti) was a French colony. The indigenous people from the island had already been enslaved and when the French needed more people to work on their sugar plantations they imported them from Africa. It was bad. By 1791 the slaves began a revolt that would last through 1803. On January 1, 1804, they declared their independence from French rule and the newly formed country (the only one born of slave revolt) became Haiti.
- Since Napolean was dispossessed of such a money making colony, and he was looking at war with Britain, his plan for expansion in North America had to be retooled. He sold the Louisiana territory to the U.S. dirt cheap. Had the Haitian slaves not fought, or had they given up, a map of this country could very easily look vastly different today.
- In exchange for France’s recognition of Haiti as a sovereign country, Haiti agreed to pay reparations to French slaveholders in the amount of $90 million francs. That debt was finally repaid in 1947. It took them over 100 years to repay that. They are an incredibly poor country.
- As for what we’re doing for our “OWN” country, I must have failed to notice the natural disaster that has struck somewhere in Iowa, obliterating the infrastructure and leaving people buried alive as the government struggles to dig itself out of the rubble (literally). There are a lot of amazing people doing amazing work for people in the U.S. and to make a blanket statement like that fails to acknowledge the hundreds of thousands of people that are so giving of their time, money, homes, talents and whatever else they have at their disposal. Just because it isn’t covered by CNN as part of a media frenzy doesn’t mean that people aren’t working to better the lives of their fellow Americans everyday. What have you done lately?
- Lastly, I remind you of compassion. After the World Trade Center Towers fell many other nations stood poised to send rescue teams, supplies, equipment and whatever else they could to help New York City and the rest of the United States recover. It wasn’t because we couldn’t provide for ourselves or necessarily needed the help. I like to think it stemmed from a need for other countries to offer their condolences and express sympathies on a greater scale.
A wise Richard Gere once said, “What we all have in common is an appreciation of kindness and compassion; all the religions have this. We all lean towards love.” Beyond anything I can offer of historical or political value, I remind you that these are human beings. These are are individuals who have lost their entire families, some of whom, no doubt, sat next to leveled buildings for days listening to the cries of people trapped beneath the rubble wondering if the muffled, pleading voice they heard was that of a loved one or even their child. I cannot imagine hearing the pleas of those trapped, but I think even worse might be the horror that comes with the realization that it stopped.
Many of those that survived have sustained such serious injuries that their lives will be forever altered. That is, if they continue to survive the lack of available medical care. See, it’s not a matter of not having health insurance there. There are no hospitals. Doctors, medical staff and supplies are spread thin, resulting in triage care to deal with the most serious of injuries and hopes of merely stabilizing the injured, never mind managing their pain or treating the injury. Imagine laying outdoors for days in unsanitary conditions with your crushed legs and no pain medication. The smell of the dead is becoming ever more present and you haven’t seen anyone you know since the men who brought you here on the makeshift stretcher left. I can’t imagine that you’d be quick to turn help away because it was coming from a stranger.
These picture that I’ve painted seems hellish, which even seems a gross underestimation of what is going on in Haiti right now. However, I hope they’ve given you cause to stop and think about the absurdity of what has come out of your mouth in the last ten days.
You choose to look at the events transpiring before us cynically and see opportunities better offered to others. I look at the same events and it gives me hope, hope that in spite of everything tragic and horrible that this world has to offer, there is an abundance of good and beauty and love.
The outpouring you see is the world’s way of expressing grief and a desire to do something to benefit another man in time of need. This is why we help. This is why we give. This is why we do.
“We can choose between the future and the past, between reason and ignorance, between true compassion and mere ideology.”
“Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.”
-Hubert H. Humphrey