A teachable moment
We also learn a lot about ourselves. "Americans" in general are a compassionate people, and donated generously to various aid organizations. A cousin told me about a group called Shelterbox, so I sent some money. Volunteers to help with the rescue have arrived in Haiti by the planeload.
And, as usual, "right wing" attention addicts can be depended upon to come through with hateful, arrogant statements. Television evangelist Pat Robertson declared that the earthquake was "God's" revenge for a pact he said "Haitians" made with the "devil." Radio propagandist Rush Limbaugh added his two cents worth, saying that "We've already donated to Haiti. It's called the U.S. income tax."
I don't get too worked up about such people. They are annoying, but are mentally deranged, and are in essence entertainers, a modern-day version of circus sideshow performers. Like Jo Jo the dogfaced boy, and various sword swallowers, jugglers and fire eaters.
A better thing to learn is some of the background of the tragedy, such as how the "American" political elite has behaved towards "Haiti" throughout its history. Not "we" but "they" - our political class - has supported dictators over democracy, military incursions, subversion, and interference since the 1800s. Randall Robinson, founder of TransAfrica, interviewed on Democracy Now, says that George W. Bush "was responsible for destroying Haitian democracy...(Bill) Clinton has largely sponsored a program of economic development that supports the idea of sweatshops."
Also in Democracy Now, Bill Quigley, legal counsel for the Center for Constitutional Rights argues that "U.S." policy in Haiti Over Decades "Lays the Foundation for Why Impact of Natural Disaster Is So Severe."
One thing we don't hear in the mainstream media is that both "China" and "Cuba" had boatloads and planeloads of relief supplies and volunteers in "Haiti" well before the "U.S." did, and without the emphasis on military presence. Here's a story from the "Cuban" website Granma. This story covers the "China" effort. It took the obnoxiously overloaded Huffington Post to inform us that the French Cooperation Minister (???) is criticizing the "U.S." for turning the rescue into an occupation. Greg Palast provides a good comparison of "American" aid efforts to those of other countries in this analysis. Ted Rall adds more perspective here. (Here's a mini-update about "Cuban" health workers in "Haiti.")
What stands out in my memory about "Haiti" is that it is where major "U.S." sporting goods companies located manufacturing facilities there (factories) to make baseballs, in "sweatshop" factories. Low wages, hovering arount $3.10/day in the 1980s, have been the attraction for these companies. The next time you go to the ballpark, or enjoy watching the "World Series" on TV, you might want to keep in mind the people who make the baseballs, many of whom were crushed to death last week.
Of course, another thing that stands out is the personal involvement of then "U.S" Secretary of State Colin Powell in the removal of democratically elected president of "Haiti" Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 2004. Another of the many crimes of the Bush criminal regime. No polishing of the record or rewriting of history will "reset" the reputation of Colin Powell. An organization man for life, he was involved in the attempted coverup of the My Lai massacre during the "Vietnam" "war." And, as it turns out, he was also involved the the successful coverup of the "Iran-Contra" conspiracy during the Reagan criminal regime. He is nothing if not consistent.
None of this changes the fact that "Haiti" sits atop one of the planet's largest seismic fault lines. Even if the country had an advanced social and physical infrastructure, the devastation and suffering would have been enormous. It just would not have been as enormous, and the rescue would likely have been much easier.
What we, the rest of the world, can learn best from this tragedy is that "Haiti" is not somewhere else. We have our own earthquake faults, and some of them are ready to cause major quake at any moment. I used to live near the New Madrid fault, and have been aware of its potential for harm for a few decades. If it shifts, it has the capability of toppling buildings as far away as Chicago. That would likely include the Sears Tower, as well as many other skyscrapers in the Windy City. (Click here to find out the earthqauke history of your own state.)
We also can expect our military to exercise its muscle in similar fashion to its tendency in the rest of the world. It can be said with a fair degree of certainty that the armed forces would behave towards "Americans" no differently than they have in "Iraq," "Afghanistan," "Grenada," "Panama," "Vietnam," the "Dominican Republic," "Nicaragua," the "Philippines," "Hawaii," "Cuba," and even "Mexico" in various phases of its history. Of course, no better example exists than the genocide of the indigenous tribes that lived on this continent before the arrival of the "Europeans."
Some may believe it is an exaggeration to say that the U.S. military would use repressive methods on "American" citizens, but the very fact that the School of the Americas ever existed is proof for me. It still exists, and if "we" actually have a school for dictators, it naturally follows that "we" have an interest in the establishment of dictatorship. If "we" have that interest for others, then "we" have the same interest for ourselves. The "we" that has this interest is our ruling elite.
The "U.S." came close to dictatorship during the rule of George W. Bush. It wasn't for lack of trying that Bush failed to wreck what is left of our "democracy." The country wasn't sufficiently primed for totalitarian rule, so "we" managed to have a reasonable facsimile of an election when his criminal eight years came to an end. Before he even took office he gave a strong hint of what was to come: "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just as long as I'm the dictator."
If you are inclined to think of Barack Obama as being a cut above the norm of political "leaders," I recommend a read of his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. He essentially gave a "War is Peace" speech, declaring the "U.S." would wage war anyplace on the planet if he saw "American" "interests" "threatened." As a member in good standing of the political elite, Obama embraces "our" "interest" in war to protect our "interests," which I presume includes dictatorship. That is, as long as it is "our" dictator(s).
Another thing we can learn from the disaster in "Haiti" is that Mother Nature, or "Gaia," or just the natural flux of the planet is much more powerful than, and indifferent to, the presence of man. It's a tsunami in the "Indian" Ocean one day, a forest fire in "California" another day. A Hurricane in "Guatemala" on one day, a flood in "Georgia" another.
A recent article in a Madison weekly newspaper, the Isthmus, provides a bit of guidance of how we might prepare for future changes in our climate. It's titled "Global Warming hits Madison," and the author talks about what changes have already taken place, along with plans for adapting to them. We have to change our entire way of being on this planet, and that involves how we use water, how we use energy, how we get to work and travel, how we stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer, how we work, how we grow food, how we entertain ourselves, and how we design our communities.
It can't happen a moment too soon. I have written before in this blog that Obama's economic recovery plan is doomed to failure, for reasons beyond the fact that it is focused on protecting the rich. Even if our economy were transformed to an egalitarian, full-employment system that leaves no one out, it would still be doomed. It is doomed because it is based on infinite growth of output for its very survival.
It could be argued that the infinite growth aspect of our economic system goes hand-in-hand with its upward skew in reward, but it is not a 100% intersect. An equitable distribution of income, wealth, and economic power is a precondition to a steady state economy, but not a guarantee.
It is something of a moot point. If we are to avoid a disastrous collapse of our economic system, and its unimaginable suffering, we have to transform it to a steady-state approach. The planet is not infinite, and seems to be getting tired of us. While we still have time, to coin a phrase, we might want to do what we can to reverse that tiredness.
If you are interested in donating to "Haiti" relief and rebuilding efforts, a couple of reputable organizations are Partners in Health and Hands Together. Oxfam is also a quality organization. A newer group I just found out about is the International Association for Human Values, which does community building worldwide.
Some "Americans" have seen fit to enjoy a nice interlude on their luxury cruise in "Haiti."
The similarity of the disaster in "Haiti" to Hurricane Katrina is explored in this blog in Huffington Post.
For a little revulsion, here's Bush speaking prophetically. It kind of makes you wonder about "911," doesn't it? For more revulsion than you can stand, click here.
To view Colin Powell lying at the "U.N.," click here.
Here's a song for the times, from a few decades ago.
This John Prine song applies to many things lost on our planet.
For a little more prophecy, here's Bob Dylan.
This Grateful Dead song fits.
For a little hope, the Beatles.
Update: This interview with Danny Glover covers "American" history in "Haiti."
This segment covers the militarization of the relief effort.
Here's some more background on the slowness of the relief effort.
And, if you're tired of hearing about "Ted Kennedy's seat," you might find this screed by Alexander Cockburn edifying.
Here's an update on Madison's efforts to conserve energy. If this is how challenging it is at the local level, we can only imagine how hard it is at the state, national, and planetary level.
"Haiti" isn't the only place feeling the wrath of Mother Nature. Here's some weather news from the "U.S."
Here's an example of how rich countries, the "U.S.," for instance, treat a poor country like "Haiti."
For an insightful commentary about "American" journalists in "Haiti," click here. It also has some good historical analysis.
Here's an update on the problems caused by militarization of relief efforts in "Haiti."
I should have thought of this song sooner, but I should have thought of a lot of things sooner in this life. They limit the number of times you can listen; you can get a few more free listens by clicking here. Unfortunately, there isn't an appropriate version of it on YouTube. This video at least gives a pretty good rendition, minus the part about "Haiti."