Haiti was a Tragedy Already

And where were you? Certainly not glued to cable news or Tweeting/retweeting links to organizations looking for donations to aid the Haitians now that an earthquake has heaped insult on the misery of their lives.

In spite of his idiocy, the most soulless Rev. Pat Robertson, a great number of Americans will watch the drama du jour in Port-au-Prince via Fox News, or whatever channel their political ideology requires they watch, feel terrible. Because even if they are unemployed and technically squatting in their yet to be foreclosed homes, they have a sense of “there but for the grace of God, go I” and “at least I am being allowed to squat in comfort, because my bank is too afraid of economic collapse to evict me, and not living in a shanty shack on a mud hill”. Except for those things, they will be could be one of those poor wretches someday.

And they could. Remember Katrina? The Superdome? Thousands of soon to be abandoned strip malls have the names of the homeless of tomorrow written all over their walls.

So the privileged (like Will and Jada Smith who are bravely auctioning off some personal art) and the not so much anymore (who never owned art anyway)  will dig not too deep really or deeper than they probably should to send money via the growing number of aid efforts to line the pockets of the incredibly corrupt Haitian government, who might let a bit of this lottery booty trickle down á la Reaganomics to the crushed and dying in the mud-they-used-to-eat Haitian earthquake victims.

And I know how cynical I sound.

But Haiti was a hell-hole where people were so hungry they ate mud. The hills around Port-au-Prince were stripped to build shanty towns which promoted a topsoil erosion that literally has left a brown ring around the island that probably shows up on Google Earth. The government is corrupt and lest we forget, the Haitians are the ones piling into leaky boats and making the dangerous trek for the U.S. coastline back in the 90’s.

If there’d been no earthquake the other day, Haitians would be filling the empty tummies of their toddlers with mud today while Americans got fatter on fast food all the while totally oblivious to the Haitian plight.

And I am not against helping out a neighboring country in its time of need. We should do all that we can. My late father, for example, sent money every year to a Catholic church in Haiti and left instructions in his will for a final donation from his estate. Haitians deserved help before despite Pat Robertson’s misinformation about them having made a pact with the devil* and if they’d just embrace Christianity they could be as enslaved to tourism as their Dominican Republic neighbors.

I just find it sad, and telling, that we can ignore suffering that isn’t catastrophe based. Americans do love their drama. And a good disaster is better than watching the first rounds of American Idol, which I am assured are too boring to bother with.

This is sweeping generalization, of course. Like my father, there are people who care enough to help even when the in crowd isn’t paying attention.

*Which is Assembly of God-speak for being Catholic as 80% of Haitians are.

3 responses to “Haiti was a Tragedy Already

  1. Smug, do gooders? Comments made via “Barack Obama’s” newsfeed on Twitter and Facebook re Haiti have led me to the same conclusion. I’m not a fan of American foreign policy nor their sometimes collective overinflated sense of self-importance. But, as you say, every generalisation has its exceptions, and there are many who have demonstrated they do care – and without an earthquake having to provoke them into action.

  2. i agree… we turn a blind eye to consistent suffering and only act when it suits our purposes to respond to disasters. not just in Haiti, but all over. are just numb?

    • I wish I could say we are numb, but I think it’s that perverted American sense that people living in poverty brought it on themselves whereas disasters are blameless. Haitians were ignored before because Americans believe that hardships can be overcome by hard work and faith in God and perhaps they weren’t trying hard enough. The earthquake devastation, however, makes them deserving of our help. So not numb, self-righteous and full of an over-inflated sense of do-goodery.

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