1/18/10

Hating Haiti

Kids receiving UN aid
The reaction to the earthquake in Haiti has been largely helpful, with a few notable exceptions. "[T]he international community's response has been generous and robust, and we are gearing up rapidly and effectively despite the challenging circumstances," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday. "This afternoon the UN will launch an emergency flash appeal for around $550 million. Most of this money will go to urgent needs: food and water are in critically short supply." According to Secretary Ban, 50% of the buildings in the Port-au-Prince area have been "damaged or destroyed" and a "high proportion of the 3 million people in the capital area are without access to food, water, shelter and electricity." A spokesman for the Pan American Health Organization, the hemispheric wing of the World Health Organization, says that the death toll remains unknown, but that a "variety of sources are estimating the numbers [at] between 50,000 and 100,000."

As I've said, there have been a few exceptions to the global outpouring of goodwill and aid. The first who comes to mind is right wing icon, Pat Robertson. For Pat, the earthquake was Haitian's fault -- because they'd sold their souls to the devil. Robertson's reaction was a simpleminded Christian rationalization; instead of asking why his god allows bad things to happen to good people, Pat makes things easier for himself and his followers by saying that the Haitians aren't good people. You see this sort of shallow idiocy after every major disaster -- following Hurricane Katrina, the destruction of a large section of New Orleans was blamed on abortion. God hadn't allowed an incomprehensible tragedy to strike good people, New Orleanians were terrible people who tolerated something that brought down God's wrath. That the city was way too accepting of gays and lesbians probably didn't help any.

Others didn't have their superstitions to blame for their clueless insensitivity. Talk radio blowhard Rush Limbaugh took it as an opening to attack President Obama, saying that he was politicizing the event to generate support from the black community -- as if Barack Obama needed help in that department. The fact that Limbaugh was himself politicizing the disaster to attack Obama was probably lost on the vast majority of his fans who, it must be said, are stupid beyond the ability of the English language to adequately express.

And, of course, there was Rep. Steve King, who took the tragedy as an opportunity to call for the expulsion of undocumented Haitians. Not because he's a xenophobic fool who takes every opportunity to hate illegal immigrants, mind you. It was because -- according to King -- "Haiti is in great need of relief workers and many of them could be a big help to their fellow Haitians." The Obama administration did not take King's advice. In fact, if there's an opposite to King's idea, it's the administration's action.

If the disaster in Haiti has been bad so far, it's going to get worse.


[New York Times:]

Along the capital’s main commercial strip Saturday afternoon, dozens of armed men — some wielding machetes, others with sharpened pieces of wood — dodged from storefront to storefront, battering down doors and hauling away whatever they could carry: shoes, luggage, rolls of carpet.

Jean-Mario Mond├ęsur, 41, a bookkeeper, wandered by the street, Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines, to join the crowd of onlookers. Minutes later, he had seen enough. “There are bad men here, we must run!” he shouted.

While most of this city of 3 million people focused on clearing the streets of debris and pulling bodies out of the rubble left by Tuesday’s earthquake, there were pockets of violence and anarchy, reports of looting and ransacking, and at least one lynching of an accused looter as police officers stood aside.



"The Haitian police, due to their own significant losses, are degraded," US Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten said. "[T]hings are going reasonably well. This is not a perfect law and order situation here even in the best of times. We're concerned about it and we're monitoring it closely, but I don't think it's anything that's unmanageable." This may be the case or this may be Ambassador Merten downplaying the situation. As people become desperate, people are more likely to become violent. And, as people become more violent, the idiots on the right are more likely to see their earlier idiotic statements as being verified. If fullscale rioting and looting breaks out, expect people like Limbaugh and Robertson and King to amp up the stupid.

More criticism of the Haitian people is coming, I can practically guarantee it. And it will have some effect on charitable giving. But the haters won't care. They either can't or won't see Haitians as human and couldn't care less what happens to them. For people like Limbaugh and King, the time has come to grind axes. For people like Robertson, what more proof do you need that this is God's punishment of wicked people? Riots in the streets, "bad men" stealing food and medicine from children -- bad things happening to bad people. Never mind that, in a similar situation, these same things would happen in any city in the world.

So, if you're wondering if the right will stop the hate and lunacy after being slapped down for it, you can stop now. They won't. They'll point to unrest in Haiti and say they were right.

-Wisco


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