January 12, 2010, at around 4:50 PM EST, citizens of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti, were more than 2/3 through their day. Ten minutes later, a 7.0 earthquake struck near the capital, Port-au-Prince. Because of poor infrastructure and design, many of the buildings collapsed. The capital city and the Haitian Parliament building were completely demolished. Thousands have been reported dead, and the number is expected to reach 6 digits.
Yesterday, President Obama offered Haiti $100 million in earthquake aid and promised that the US would do everything in its power to give assistance and relief. For those who don’t know or choose to be ignorant, Obama did not make this decision on his own. I assure you that he sat down with members of the United States Agency for International Development, people responsible for distributing foreign aid. I digress. To be honest, $100 million is nowhere near enough, when it comes to the total destruction that has occurred in Haiti. Schools, hospitals, houses, buildings, and offices have been destroyed. This is still a start. Again, this is a country that is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. That was a fact before the earthquake. Haiti has needed help long before this natural disaster. It’s sad that it took a tragedy like this for the small country to garner so much global attention, but it’s good to that they’re at least getting support during this time.
I’m happy to see that people have put aside their political and religious differences for a while, to do whatever they can to aid Haiti. I’m also glad to know that a few of my friends, without being prodded, donated money, food, or clothes. I know Republicans that are disgusted with Rush Limbaugh’s comments, and devout Christians that feel the same with Pat Robertson’s comments. However, there are still a few that ask, “Where did Obama get the $100 million from?” “Why isn’t that money going towards our national debt?” “Why does the US always have to help some poor, starving country?”
There are Republicans that think that Obama is giving out money as if he believes there’s economic windfall aplenty, and not a $12 billion national debt. Remember, President Bush pledged $350 million to tsunami victims in 2004, when the national debt was $6 billion. I guess people on the right don’t see a problem with Bush giving 350% more than Obama because the national debt was 50% less 6 years ago. Understand that this is what the US has done in the past, and will continue to do in the future. When countries are in need, we, “the most powerful country in the world” are expected to help. In a big way. Through November 2008 (over a span of 58 years), the US had contributed $114 billion to Israel: http://wrmea.org/component/content/article/245-2008-november/3845-congress-watch-a-conservative-estimate-of-total-direct-us-aid-to-israel-almost-114-billion.html Note the six countries that received the most aid from the US in 2008: http://www.parade.com/news/intelligence-report/archive/who-gets-us-foreign-aid.html This country doesn’t just hand impoverished and embattled countries blank checks. As President Obama said, the $100 million was an “investment”, and anyone who makes an investment wants to see a return. The US has ambassadors all over the world, some serving as nothing more than overseers. Weapons (many of which are made in the US), education, health care, human rights, and HIV/AIDS prevention are just a few of the ways that this country backs others in distress.
The US is supposed to be the role model for other nations to follow. Yet we’ve ignored forward progress in Asia, underestimated South America (ahem, Chicago, and Mayor Daley) and a good number of us still obnoxiously proclaim that this is the best country in the world, without hesitation. For the first time in recent memory, we have been the laughingstock. Whether it’s our infatuation with celebrities, Bush, Obama, the housing and automobile market or Wall Street…we haven’t exactly been in a position of power. We are still at war in Iraq and have committed to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, with a pullout date of July 2011. The war in Iraq has cost $700 billion, and the war in Afghanistan’s ticket so far is almost $250 billion (for a more up-to-date total: http://www.nationalpriorities.org/costofwar_home). Democrats are clashing with Democrats, Republicans are clashing with Republicans, and of course, Democrats and Republicans are clashing with each other. Even with such an enormous debt, a $1 trillion health care bill was passed, much to the chagrin of many Republicans and some Democrats who have suddenly become very skeptical of the current administration. The national unemployment level is over 10%, gays are fighting for equal rights, marijuana has not been legalized, racism and segregation are still alive and kicking, and Tyler Perry is STILL making movies and television shows. I said to Granny B a few days ago, ‘This country is screwed.’ And still…
I (a guy that was a PoliSci major in college), know that when the people of Iraq are fighting for democracy, we will be there. The same happened when Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand were flattened by a tsunami in 2004. We even intervene when we feel that a nation or its leader is up to good. See, North Korea, Kim Jong-il, Bush, Obama. No matter what shape this country is in, we will always be there to extend a helping hand when a country is in need. This is not a trend that has just started. USAID does not exist to enhance this country’s global appeal. Neither do Red Cross, CARE, or Salvation Army. It is obvious that American citizens need more than their fair share of help. However, when it comes to global affairs, our reputation precedes us. It might not be fair, but a full committal to relieve countries in dire need of reinforcement is what’s expected of us.
P.S. I miss Karen!!!
P.P.S. #shoutout to EVERYONE that helped with Haiti relief efforts in whatever way that they could, and “l’amour aux Haïtiens”…