Hating over Haiti
In a moment that could warm all but the coldest of hearts last Saturday, in the midst of all the despair that is now Haiti, Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton set aside their political differences for a joint appeal to raise money for that earthquake-ravaged country.
This is what our country is all about and it should make all of us proud.
The stories and pictures that have illuminated the disaster are heartbreaking. Hold your breath when you view the photo gallery posted yesterday by The Boston Globe’s “The Big Picture – news stories in photographs,” which may found here: http://tinyurl.com/yclmayb.
The earthquake which struck 16 miles west of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, measured 7.0 on the “moment magnitude scale,” and was followed by at least 33 aftershocks.
A CBS/AP news article reported that the “International Federation of the Red Cross estimates that up to three million people” were affected by the powerful earthquake.”
“While earthquakes are not uncommon in the Caribbean island country, the recent Haiti earthquake's intensity surprised experts,” observed the National Geographic Daily News web publication.
“‘It's quite strange’ from a historical perspective, said Julie Detton, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey… The last major earthquake to strike Haiti's side of the island was in 1860.”
Red Cross spokesman “Paul Conneally says the fact that the quake occurred very close to Port-au-Prince was ‘not a good indicator.’ He says Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the northern hemisphere and is ill-prepared to handle a major disaster.”
What should not be strange about the response to the disaster, which has befallen our Caribbean neighbors to the south, is the outpouring of solidarity in relief efforts from all over the world.
One reaffirming news report on television showed Mexican and Israeli search and rescue teams working side-by-side, hand-in-glove, while Jordanians provided security.
“In addition,” observed National Geographic, “the Haiti earthquake was very shallow, being centered just 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) below Earth's surface…”
What was also a surprise and just as heartbreaking, strange and shallow, was the intensity of hate just beneath the surface of the American response from people who have chosen to utilize the horrific disaster to promote an enigmatic ideological agenda.
Fortunately, even Presidents Clinton and Bush set aside their stark political differences to come to the aid of hundreds of thousands of victims in a foreign land.
The Washington Post carried an Associated Press account that “Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton say the earthquake in Haiti offers a chance to put aside politics and help people in despair.
“Bush and Clinton appeared on five Sunday talk shows as part of their effort to lead private fundraising efforts for Haitian relief, including immediate needs and the long-term rebuilding effort.”
The Post also noted that “Bush said that he doesn't know what critics are talking about when they claim Obama is trying to score political points with a broad response to Haiti's woes…
“The most vocal critic has been radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who urged people not to donate and said he wouldn't trust that money donated to Haiti through the White House Web site would go to the relief efforts. He said people contribute enough by paying income taxes.”
That’s pretty cold.
President Clinton noted that “in a disaster of this magnitude there's no way that the government, which has other responsibilities as well, national security and other responsibilities – you just can't deal with this just with government money.”
In a neck-and-neck horse race of unfortunate responses, one may count on people such as Christian Broadcasting Network televangelist Pat Robertson, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, and Hollywood actor Danny Glover, to show – or place – in a hating contest.
Greg Gutfeld, writing for Fox News amused many at a difficult moment by saying: “The fact that Danny Glover is nuttier than elephant poop should surprise no one. But now, he's even topped himself, as the washed-up actor blames the Haiti earthquake on the response to the climate change conference.”
Moving-on quickly here, Ms. Maddox even managed to draw the ire of The Daily Show host, comedian Jon Stewart. He mocked the lost-in-the-weeds MSNBC host for taking time-out in the middle of a ignoramus tragedy to bash President Bush, and say, in part, “All of that central to what the Obama administration says it wants to do differently than what Bush and Cheney did.”
Mr. Stewart rose to the occasion to say, “Not the right time. Congratulations MSNBC viewers – you're on the right side of this terrible, terrible tragedy.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Robertson – you remember him. He’s the one who explained in 2005 that Hurricane Katrina was God’s wrath on America for legalized abortion – or something to that affect.
Mr. Robertson chose the occasion of the tragedy in Haiti to give us all a history lesson about the famous 1791 slavery rebellion against the French.
Although he did not, in fact, say the earthquake was the result of God’s wrath as has been popularly reported; that is a lost distinction in what was an unfortunately unique and obtuse history lesson at the an unfortunate time.
Especially since it overshadows the work of Mr. Robertson’s humanitarian organization Operation Blessing “which had already shipped millions of dollars worth of medicines to Haiti and was deploying disaster workers to ease the suffering,” according to several accounts.
President Bush spoke for all of us when he said, “You've got... children who've lost parents. People wondering where they are going to be able to drink water… There is a great sense of desperation. And so my attention is on trying to help people deal with the desperation.”
Indeed, that should be all we focus on at a time like this.
Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.