Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Saving Haiti; Saving Humanity

Saving Haiti; Saving Humanity
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

Haiti is changing the way we look at life and the way we look at each
other as human beings. All but the insane and the bigoted amongst us
understand that the people of Haiti are our fellow human beings. The
mere thought of borders is a seeming anachronism. Who amongst us is
questioning the collective responsibility of humanity towards our
neighbors in need?

At this time, with 200,000 dead and 1.5 million homeless, compassion
abounds; what it means to be human and the meaning of humanity is on
full display as we all are struggling to do our part. Yet people are
beginning to ask the obvious questions: Why is it taking so long to
bring in the emergency supplies, the nurses the doctors and the food
and the water? Where are the ships? Where are the airdrops?
Unfortunately, other questions are creeping in: Why can the military
easily get in, but not those bringing in the medicines and the

These questions are being asked as despair turns into chaos and the
human instinct for survival is also clearly on display on our nightly
news. The desperate search for sustenance is described as
out-of-control rioting. And we are not supposed to ask questions;
simply contribute.

As a society, we are trained by governments and media not to see the
bigger picture, yet it is becoming difficult not to see a bigger
picture emerge. These questions were swirling and bothersome,
especially during this past weekend as the world celebrated Martin
Luther King’s birthday. They were also swirling as 20,000 people
descended upon Phoenix this weekend to protest the racial profiling
policies of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. All these events seemed unrelated, yet
they were clearly connected.

The crisis in Haiti is actually a crisis of humanity; it is becoming
obvious that assisting humanity and destroying humanity are two
radically different ideas. They are two ideas that seemingly have been
fused over the past decade. Since Sept. 11, 2001, as a society, we
have been goaded into believing that militaries are instruments of
justice and that the U.S. has the inherent and God-given right to go
to war with anyone it pleases.

During this past decade, former president George W. Bush, publicly
championed this bifurcated “You’re either with us or against us”
society. To be able to maintain that clear demarcation, bigger
militaries were needed as was the need to protect “our borders.”
Sadly, the current president, while more intelligent and a clearer
speaker, has one-upped his predecessor, championing the notion that
war is also an instrument of peace.

Wrong! War is the embodiment of evil. It destroys, it dehumanizes, it
takes innocent lives, it depletes the world’s resources, it
contaminates and it empties nations’ coffers. As Martin Luther King
often noted, whenever money is spent on war, it is money not being
spent on fighting poverty or on remedying the ills and injustices of
society. And as this particular tragedy edges toward permanent crisis,
where will the money to rebuild Haiti come from?

Why can’t the world marshal its resources to faster assist Haiti –
because the United States and its partners are still in the midst of
two senseless wars? Lest we kid ourselves, wars are hyper-expensive.
Our bloated military is virtually useless in times of humanitarian
emergencies for obvious reasons; they are overstretched and are
trained to kill and destroy, not to save and build. They are not an
emergency humanitarian response team, though it would be great if they
were. Even after Katrina, one would have thought that the nation or
world would be prepared for future crises. That ships were not fully
equipped, staffed and fueled means we in fact learned nothing from
Katrina. The only thing we have learned is that leaders of both
parties are willing to fight an extremely costly permanent worldwide
war. There is no money for such an endeavor, yet the frenzied military
buildup continues, constantly searching out new enemies and theaters
of war. Its justification also continues; demonization and
dehumanization; those we are fighting are less than “us.”

This is the same justification that Sheriff Arpaio and his supporters
use. It permits the building of bigger walls. It permits the
militarization of “our borders” and also permits human beings –
struggling to survive – to be categorized as “illegal aliens.” It
permits racial profiling and police to act as hunter battalions.

After Haiti, how can we as a humanity continue to view the instinct to
survive as a crime? Illegal aliens, indeed!

Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, can be
reached at:

Column of the Americas
PO BOX 85476
Tucson, AZ 85754


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