Something Salinas This Way Comes...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

On a Serious Note

I've been hearing a lot of buzz lately; people concerned, and in some cases incensed, by the fact that as American citizens, we are donating more money to Haiti than we distribute to our domestic impoverished population; people who, in some cases, have gone so far as to point to "world cleansing" as a possible divine- intervention type of explanation for the devastation in Haiti.  It seems that the uproar over the large distribution of voluntary donations to Haiti has even reached a point where someone founded a chain-style Facebook status:

Shame on you America: the only country where we have homeless without shelter, children going to bed without eating, elderly going without needed meds, and mentally ill without treatment - yet we have a benefit for the people of Haiti on 12 TV stations. 99% of people won't have the guts to copy and repost this.. CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME

I am so inclined to retort, because I am a little taken aback, a little peeved at the sight of this update and this attitude being repeatedly displayed umong American citizens, and I really suck at keeping my mouth shut:

(a) I sincerely hope that none of the people who are concerned with the amount of money donated by Americans to Haiti are not anti-welfare--the type of people who believe in the "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" mantra. It would seem hypocritical to loathe the passing of your own tax dollars to the "perpetuation of American poverty" and then, in the case of Haiti, adopt a disgruntled attitude. In this scenario, it would almost seem as if welfare of any kind meets oppostion; whether it be charitable contributions to our own country, or to a foreign country. If this is indeed the case with some people, I would suggest a good, long look at American history and our tendancy to borrow money from foreign nations.

(b) Didn't our mothers teach us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us?

(c) Haiti's government is not perfect; it is corrupted and polluted with selfish people, indeed. Should there be a concern that our generous donations will be squandered, pillaged, wasted? Absolutely. However, I would advise anyone who uses this as an argument against donations to Haiti, to examine our own democracy's recent choices in government spending: We are the proud owners of a car manufacturing company and several large banking firms, and we find it of utmost priority to keep the amount of money allotted for social security benefits a well-guarded secret.

(d) In the vein of democracy, we can say that it has made us one of the richest and most powerful countries on the planet. Our impoverished are given benefits, our poor are provided paths of opportunity. Haiti is a land of poverty; unlimited and endless, deep-rooted and perpetuated poverty. Most of its citizens began with nothing; now, their few solid comforts--shelter, food, family--have vanished, left their hands like their hard-earned money, never to return to them. In our democracy, we view feminism as freedom; we see poverty as living without amenities. In other countries, feminism means safety from ravage and exploitation. And poverty?  Poverty is a way of life. 

The people in Haiti have gone from nothing to apocalypse. We in America simply do not grasp the true definition of what it means to be impoverished. I am beginning to wonder, however, if we are not more impoverished in our souls than those millions of people who've never imagined a three-meal day; people whose reality includes the death of at least one child as more a probable reality than an unimaginable occurence.

Whether or not you think the amount of dollars being donated to Haiti is an abomination or not, the fact remains: If you can afford a Whopper Jr., you probably make more money in a week than a Haitian does in a year. And if you can find it in your heart to complain about volunteer donations being so little in our country when we have a government that gives it freely to our impoverished, then you are in dire need of a reality check.  Finally, if you can buy a latte, you can afford to aid a country where generations of people are gone--unidentified and buried in shallow graves, and dying in the streets of broken limbs and open wounds.  If your mother taught you that you should treat others the way you want to be treated; if your faith teaches you that no matter how imperfect a being or an entity is, it deserves salvation, then you can afford to aid in the efforts to bring life back to Haiti.

The poor give us much more than we give them. They're such strong people, living day to day with no food. and they never curse, never complain. We don't have to give them pity or sympathy. We have so much to learn from them.
Mother Teresa

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