Haiti

Whenever December comes, my mind tends to go into a phase of reflection on the past year for myself, as well as for others around me and beyond.  This contemplation takes many forms and reaches different depths.  Sometimes it creates a level of depression but more often than not, it is a demand for solitude and self-examination.

Early in January, as I was lining up targets, both for myself and for Hear I Rant… Haiti, happened.

The earthquake in Haiti changed much for me.  One was the realization of the massive human fatality and the repewrcussions for some time to come.  Another was that this major quake was just miles from Jamaica and it could easily happen there… and thus the grief would be infinitely more personal.

As it is, Haiti was a bit personal, as two of my close neighbours were severely impacted… one losing his mother, the other having severely wounded relatives… but even more taxing for her, is that there has been no account for other relatives, and she feels extremely helpless.  That’s a feeling many of us have in situations of great loss.

The personal lesson to me is that these things happen and that death of ourselves or friends cannot always be planned for. That there should be a certain resignation to these matters… karma as the Indians and Japanese relate to it.

Try as we may, many things are beyond us and we should accept life as it is given to us and always do the right thing daily.  The right thing to me is not from some holy book or preacher’s mouth, but the so-called Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you wish them do unto you”.

If you live by this, then there is very little regret or remorse at one’s own demise or the demise of close relatives and friends.  Anyone who thinks to make last minute amends through 11th hour prayers for forgiveness and salvation while living an unhealthy life, is indeed a fool.

Firstly, one never really knows when death comes… karma.  Then, I believe that its much like physical health… you can’t treat your body like crap all your life and then think that a bottle of vitamins will make it whole overnight.  It just doesn’t work that way.

***

Days after the disaster struck, I found myself in an unlikely position… one that many detractors wrong me on.  Many people think I’m anti-American on everything and refuse to believe anything else.  Yet, I was defending and pleading for understanding and patience in regards to the US relief effort.  I was shot down, with reason.

Many Haitians here who have been getting up-to-date assessments from friends on the ground, have been scathing in regards to America’s early efforts.  My defense further crumbled when I found out that there was much truth to the criticism.  And it’s not about racism, as racist as the Pat Robertsons and Rush Limbaughs are.  They truthfully are not representative of Americans.  Many Americans do care and have rushed to give something, anything to alleviate the disaster in Haiti.

Part of America’s problem is its mindset… that they are the best at everything.  Haiti won’t prove a wake-up call, but almost everybody else was in Haiti before America was.  Jamaica was there early as was Cuba (despite the facts that most American media reports pay no respect to the jobs the Cuban medical teams had been doing within hours of the quake).

European teams were digging within 48 hours.  The Israelis had set up a fully equipped medical tent including a surgery room.  Doctors Without Borders were there early.  The Chinese had sniffer-dog teams there in 48 hours. Iceland had teams in the air immediately, while president Obama was promising teams in days.

The USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft carrier reached 3 days later, with guns, missiles and helicopters but no relief supplies.  There were bottlenecks, the main one being at the American-controlled airport, where supplies were not moving out quickly enough.  Help teams had to be sitting on their hands without equipment or supplies.  The major reason, the Americans refused to send out convoys without ‘security’.  This while the Cubans were out there tending to the injured without an armed security in sight.

Some are criticizing the Americans, the American media and the UN for sensationalising the so-called security situation saying that such sensational outbursts hampers aid efforts.  Many journalists and others present say that the reports of riots and killings are overblown and that Haitians are getting angry because they see security vehicles but are not getting any food.

That is understandable.  When a vehicle can pass by 4, 5 times with armed personnel, one must wonder where are the vehicles with food… how come they can’t make it through?

When my neighbours started organizing food and money, I counseled them not to send money to American charities.  On tv, George Bush said we should send money and he would make sure it was safe.  Riiiight!  At no point in his 8 years did he make our money safe and now we should trust him?

One of my first shocks arriving in the United States, was to find out that the blood  donations were actually sold for profit, and in many cases ended up being destroyed just like the uneaten food at restaurants, or unsold clothes at Wal-mart and H&M stores.

Another shock was the report earlier this decade that charged that over 80% of the money donated to America’s major charities like the Red Cross, never made it to the sick, the injured, the homeless, the needy, the intended.  It was instead spent in-house.  80 cents of every dollar of your contribution were spent on ‘administration’.

It is grotesque how many people’s first response to a disaster is “How can we profit?”…. like how credit card companies and some phone companies are making a bundle on the transfer of funds to Haiti.  Like how some people make sure that they are on camera to catch the Kodak moment for the news shows back home.  Some fail to understand that the dying people or Haiti are not a resume item.

It is more than a little disturbing to see that what is being sold to the American public and to countries that unfortunately live off America’s cable feed, is that the effort is primarily and almost solely an American one.  With little or no fanfare, the Cubans, South Americans, Chinese, Europeans, Caribbean accomplishments are swept under the carpet.

While help is help and any is valuable, one cannot help but realize that there is something just on the low side of bitter, when some are patting themselves on the back and posing for pictures while nearby another child is crying, another Haitian is dying… and while others are just doing their jobs just for the reward of doing their jobs, nothing else.   Can’t we all leave this pr drive til the end of the story?

I was a little perturbed by statements coming out of Lynn University that the needs of Americans must apparently take priority.  According to Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, Lynn University’s president is urging the country’s (US) top brass to put more resources into finding all the Americans trapped in the rubble… he called on the federal government to do whatever it takes to make sure all Americans missing in Haiti are returned home, dead or alive.

I’m not sure that he is not being taken out of context but its appears that he is prioritizing Americans “whatever it takes’… even if it means bypassing some poor Haitian trapped elsewhere or in need of food or medical assistance.  ‘Whatever it takes’ means that arrangements must be made to preserve American bodies even if others are being dumped en masse. 

But in a situation where rotting bodies create the environment for the spread of disease, asking people to stop, check the bodies’ nationality and separate them, seems a little offensive to me.

I would think that help should be given to all and not targeted to any special group. But that is not the impression many are getting.

The hope is that everyone injured in Haiti get the necessary aid and comfort and that no discrimination of resources takes place.  The world doesn’t need that, Americans shouldn’t be demanding that.

 

hearirant

Writer, photographer, artist. Have been doing all three for some time. More about myself and my art can be found at http://www.louisdavisart.com, and http://www.broward.org/arts/publications/cq/2008/winter08/cq_winter08.htm

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