I fully admit that people like Pat Robertson, Danny Glover, and Rachel Maddow need to shut up from time to time. Telling us why this disaster came upon Haiti reveals far more of their own issues than any real truth, and they could be doing a lot more good if they would just keep their mouth shut. Finding someone to blame will not make the disaster go away even if it makes us feel slightly better about ourselves. Pointing our finger a the people we hate and saying this is their fault does nothing to help the people of Haiti.
But blaming others and being responsible are not the same thing.
I was a bit unsettled recently when I read mega-pastor Erwin McManus’ tweet – “There are those certain they can tell us “why” this happened in Haiti when we should be asking “what” can we do to help the people of Haiti.” I agree, we must be asking what we can do to help others. And explaining away the whys by pointing fingers is just a futile exercise. But in order to know what really needs to be done, some of those why questions really needs to be asked. No, I’m not talking about those rhetorical “why did God allow this to happen?” questions, but more of the “why is Haiti in such dire straits because of this?” questions.
As a recent New York Times op-ed piece pointed out –
On Oct. 17, 1989, a major earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 struck the Bay Area in Northern California. Sixty-three people were killed. This week, a major earthquake, also measuring a magnitude of 7.0, struck near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Red Cross estimates that between 45,000 and 50,000 people have died. This is not a natural disaster story. This is a poverty story.
This didn’t have to be this bad. If Haiti wasn’t the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, if Haiti hadn’t been screwed over time after time, if we loved Haiti instead of oppressed it – this earthquake wouldn’t have destroyed the country. There are some hard why questions to be asked here. And if we shrink away from asking them, the what questions will fail to bring about real lasting healing.
Why have Haitian farmers been run out of business? Why is the Haitian soil stripped and the country plagued by mudslides? Why are Haitian girls sold into slavery? Why is 80% of the Haitian budget going to pay other countries? Why are the people there eating mud? Why is their government corrupt? Why are there hardly any jobs in Haiti? Why are there no supplies to build decent buildings? Why is it so hard for kids there to get education? Why are there no roads? And when we discover that the answers to many of those questions are unjust U.S. trade and military policies, it can be hard to swallow. We can brush it aside as just trying to pass blame and point fingers – and continue to give aid and remake the country in our image. Or we can own up to our collective sins and take responsibility for making amends.
If we don’t ask why, we allow ourselves to be ignorant. If we don’t know the history and culture of Haiti, we are doomed to just continue to make things worse. We have to ask why even when we don’t want to know the answer. We have to get over the blame game and just be responsible human beings. Ignorance is deadly. If we really want to know what we can do to help, we need to do more than emotionally donate a few bucks and start looking at what Haiti really needs (like debt relief, and better trade policies). But to do that we first have to face our fears and ask why.
from → Social Justice