Thinking About Haiti

January 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog

We heard about and saw the results of an earthquake. Images of massive destruction, of the landscape and the victims flooded the media. The images and the reality were so shocking that it was greeted with a universal outpouring of sympathy, caring and generosity.

Haiti has long been known as the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. It has a unique history. I recommend a trip into Wikipedia land to get a quick review of the turbulent history of this “should be rich” country, which has been occupied and plundered and the victim of internal and external greed and corruption.

Once you absorb some of this horror, perhaps you will wonder, as I do, why the citizenry of the world that has now rushed to try to help the starving, poor, ill-clothed, sick people of Haiti who are victims of this natural disaster, were so oblivious to the documented day-to-day horrors that the Haitians were suffering before the earthquakes.

As you read a compendium of the events in Haitian history, you will recognize things you had heard before. Aristide, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, the US occupation of Haiti, the first only successful slave revolution in history may well resonate with you. And you may ask, as I do, why the world does not unite, as they do after a natural disaster to work to alleviate the suffering?

For me, Darfur comes immediately to mind. Genocides, past and present, are revisited. What’s wrong with us? How can we be so caring and at the same time be so oblivious? How is it that we can send a contribution to the Red Cross, our Church, the Cancer Fund, and not insist on healthcare legislation the guarantees coverage to everyone including people that have lost their job, have no job, or have previous chronic illnesses. Why are we unable to conceive of supporting a tax or a fee which will not affect our standard of living to pay for humanitarian foreign aid or aid that will help some poor country out of the poverty suffered by the Haitians before the disaster?

And, I wonder how long this interest in the people of Haiti will last? Rebuilding a country and alleviating systemic poverty made more horrible by this disaster will take time and continued support. We have many who question our staying power to continue to keep troops and supplies in Afghanistan and Iraq to nation build. Do we have the staying power to continue to care about Haiti?

Caring should not have to be shaken out of us by a 7.0 earthquake.