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Saving Haiti, Saving Humanity

New America Media, Commentary, Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez Posted: Jan 21, 2010

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 bigoted among us understand that the people of Haiti are our fellow human beings. The mere thought of borders is a seeming anachronism. Who among us is questioning the collective responsibility of humanity for our neighbors in need?

At this time, with 200,000 dead and up to 2 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 antibiotics?

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 looting and out-of-control rioting. And we are not supposed to ask questions but simply contribute.

As a society, we are trained by governments and the 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, Jr.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, we have been goaded into believing that militaries are instruments of justice and that the United States has the inherent and God-given right to go to war with any nation it pleases, with or without just cause.

Former President George W. Bush championed the view that Youre either with us or against us. 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 articulate, 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 worlds resources, it contaminates and it empties nations coffers. As King often noted, whenever money is spent on war, it is money not being spent on fighting poverty or remedying the ills of society. And as this particular tragedy edges toward permanent crisis, where will the money to rebuild Haiti come from?

Why cant 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 because it is not an emergency humanitarian response team. Even after Katrina, one would have thought that the nation or world would be prepared for future crises.

The only thing we have learned post-Katrina is that leaders of both parties are willing to fight a costly, permanent worldwide war. There is no money for it but the frenzied military buildup continues, with new enemies and theaters of war. Its justification also continues by demonizing and dehumanizing new enemies.

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 beingsstruggling to survive to be categorized as illegal aliens. It permits racial profiling and police to act as hunter battalions.

After Haiti, how can we, without abandoning all 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: XColumn@gmail.com

Related Articles:

Temporary Protection for Haitians: A first step

Haitians Now Join Environmental Refugees

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