With the announcement of envoys George W. Bush and Bill Clinton spear heading fund-raising for Haiti, Obama is demonstrating that when it comes to natural disasters there really is no politics. When people are in need, we respond. That’s just what we do. What makes this disaster extraordinary is that the Haitian people are not our next door neighbors but non-citizens of another country.

George and Bill
Bush Clinton

When natural disasters happen within our borders, floods, wild fires, earthquakes and such, there is a response usually locally to help friends and neighbors recover. It’s just what we do. The earthquake in Haiti has begun to galvanize the nation into reaching for their wallets to donate to the Red Cross, or other charitable organizations to bring relief. That’s just what we do.

In 2003, when the devastating earthquake happened in Bam, Iran, America was one of the first countries to offer aid. It was the Iranian government that hesitated to accept it. They wanted apologies for past transgressions like the coup d’état orchestrated by the CIA of the democratically elected government of that country in 1953, and America’s backing of Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war. But that did not stop the U.S. offering aid because that is just what we do. It is too bad politics got in the way.

Instead of a clean from the heart response to the catastrophe in Haiti, there are some who are mudding the waters of genuine compassion. I wonder what can be gained by this politicization? On the surface it seems that the us-them belief is in play. On another level I can only believe that it comes from racism and selfishness and a lack of understanding of what we as a nation do in these instances. Perhaps nothing this President does is any good.

When Rep. Steve King (R-I) drags in illegal immigration tying it to the Haitian earthquake by saying “If they (illegal Haitians in America) are deported, Haiti is in great need of relief workers, and many of them could be a big help to their fellow Haitians” he demonstrates his selfishness and lack of sensitivity to the main issue, relief for people without water, food or housing. That is the immediate need. Illegal immigration is an issue, but to wipe one’s hands of the pressing need in Haiti by this remark really shows the Congressman to be woefully myopic. This is not what we do congressman.

Unfortunately sentiments like this as well as others shake the very foundation of what it means to help our brothers and sisters. We give out of our want, not out of our need. No doubt we are hurting as a nation economically and the jobs picture is bleak. But that does not stop us from giving to those who were not only poor before the earthquake, but are now devastatingly poor afterwards. They moved from one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere to one of the poorest countries in the world in a matter of seconds.

It pains me to recount the lack of compassion expressed by the right-wing-it’s-all-about me folks, but I will list a few responses not covered in a previous piece I did on Saturday last:

  • Limbaugh continues to make Haiti about Obama: “How many Haitians will we decide to give a pill? A legitimate question”
  • Beck adopts Limbaugh’s criticism, says Obama is “dividing the country” by reacting “so rapidly on Haiti”
  • Limbaugh: “The U.S. military is now Meals on Wheels. It always is with Democrat presidents”
  • Beck on foreign aid to Haiti: “Have you been to Detroit lately, Mr. President?”
  • Quinn calls Haiti “North Korea in the Caribbean,” suggests Obama ignores “white guy America”
  • Beck discusses foreign aid to Haiti, complains the U.S. is becoming a socialist banana republic, like Haiti

I wonder what their responses would have been if the Haitians were white?

Below are Places to donate to the relief fund because that’s what we do:
World Vision
Save the Children
Catholic Reflief Services