What can you say?

Saturday, January 16, 2010
I've wanted to write a post about the Haitian earthquake catastrophe, but really, what can you say?

There are a lot of things I want to say, most of them involving epithets that would get this blog kicked over to the Blogger adult rating, about some of the asshats (I can say that, right?) who are claiming bullpucky from "God struck them down" to "why didn't the US government react this strongly to the Christmas Day bombing attempt."

I'd also want to curse out the filthy buggers who use disasters like this to try to scam well-meaning people out of money and goods meant for those in the disaster area.

Haiti has a long history of civil strife and crappy governments that make some of George W.'s antics look almost brilliant by comparison (tough work, that). But the bottom line is, they are people. Why do you think so many of them risk their lives trying to make it here to our country? Illegally, yes, but still, if your chances were to risk dying over stupid things that are easily preventable and not an issue here in this country, or coming to a country where you had a chance to survive and make a living, wouldn't you?

The earthquake is not Katrina. Yes, there are similarities, but the two are not the same. The aftermaths are not the same.

People rip their hair out that aid isn't getting into Haiti fast enough. True. But the issue is, unlike Katrina where once aid did start flowing, it could get in there, we can't just go in and take over. There are international laws that must be followed. Haiti is, as much of a shithole as it was before the earthquake, an independent nation. The US can't just drop twenty thousand well-armed national guardsmen in there willy-nilly to take over and get things running again. Not unless we offered to annex it as the fifty-first state, which I seriously doubt anyone wants for a myriad of reasons. There are protocols that have to be followed. Not to mention getting anyone or anything into the country is problematic at this point. The airport is barely functioning and out of fuel, the major port was destroyed, and there is apparently one main road between the Dominican Republic and Haiti that can support a massive relief influx, and it's crowded with people trying to get out of Haiti.

On the other hand, I thought this and was relieved to also hear it reflected by others on news programs, looking ahead ten or fifteen years into the future, despite the horrors of the situation now, maybe this is one of the best things that could have happened to Haiti (when looking BACK in retrospect). This is NOT saying the massive human suffering is a good thing, because obviously, it's not. Duh. But looking ahead, past the grief and horror, there is hope to be seen.

After Hurricane Andrew, Homestead and other south Florida communities in that region that were little more than backwater migrant farm housing hovels before the storm have, in the wake of that disaster, rebuilt and flourished, better than they ever were before, better than they ever could have hoped to be.

After Hurricane Charley, Punta Gorda, Pt. Charlotte, and Arcadia and other regions devastated by the landfall of that monster (which hit literally miles from where I live) have also rebuilt, better than ever before.

The massive scope of Katrina means recovery is slower, but those communities are rebuilding, slowly but surely, and in a few more years no doubt they will be better than ever.

There is a potential here, if America and other countries don't drop the ball NOW, for Haiti to emerge on the other side of this hell as a far stronger country than it ever was before, open to outside assistance and willing to partner with others for the betterment of the Haitian people. There is a chance for the international community to help Haiti's government rebuild Haiti so that there is a reliable infrastructure, safer housing, better government services, than they ever could have had before this disaster. This is an opportunity not to assimilate Haiti into something we want it to be, but to help them achieve what they want to be and help them set up a flourishing, healthy country.

Generations of Haitians have grown up in poverty and with a less than effective (or worse, a downright corrupt and harmful) government. Many of them were too busy trying to survive even before this event to try to change things on a grander scale. Now the focus of the world is on Haiti. There is an international spotlight fixed on this problem that many were barely aware of before all this happened.

There are people who will say, "Hell, we can't take care of Americans, why should we get involved?"

That's true in some ways. But let's face it, part of our current financial state here in this country stems from several years of an inept administration who willingly turned a blind eye to financial problems here, leading to the mess we have now. But Haiti is an international effort. If we as a country turn our back on Haiti, what does that say about us as a nation?

We cannot afford to be isolationist when it comes to something like this. The stakes are too great. If we don't participate in the international effort to help rebuild Haiti, we will be forced to deal with them on a more close-up and personal level when the people start arriving here illegally, seeking to escape the horrors at home. And don't forget in the post 9/11 world we live in, there is another distinct possibility.

If we don't get in there now and help, we risk less desirable factions like Al Queda and other groups infiltrating their population, getting a foothold, and trying to capitalize on their suffering with promises of better things. Haiti is way too close to home to allow it to fall into chaos even worse than it was before. We don't need them becoming the next wide-open hunting ground for terrorist organizations with deep pockets looking for willing victims to recruit to their way of life right in our own backyard.

So whether you want to believe we should help Haiti because it's the right thing to do, or to save us more grief as a country later, regardless, there is no doubt we need to help. We can't sit by and not be involved in this effort.

The costs to us as a country in the future will be too great if we don't help.

If you want to help on a personal level, Google has set up an information page with links to reputable aid organizations and a people finder: http://www.google.com/relief/haitiearthquake/

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