c. David Grim (taken 2/22/09)
I'm not going to claim to be among the more charitable members of society. I do get around to donating art for various fundraisers and benefits, but I rarely (if ever) write a check for a cause. I recognize that I am selfish in certain respects, and that this is one of the best proofs of this claim. Still I try to shy away from coming up with justifications for this attitude. I could make a case for not having the extra funds to contribute, but I realize that sacrifice is an inherent component of true charity. My excuses would not be compelling if I heard them come out of the mouth of someone else.
That's why I find some reactions to the vast scale of tragedy in Haiti so troubling. Check out this thread of comments on a hockey fan board- it's a site that I've been visiting (somewhat self-consciously) for years. This particular thread had its start as a commentary on the fact that the NHL only gave 10% of what the other major sports leagues donated for relief in the beleaguered island country. The initial poster seems motivated mostly by appearances.
As other folks chime in, it becomes apparent that quite a few resent the idea of contributing any money to help the homeless victims of Haiti. At the same time people mention the need in the United States, and the seeming disregard our government has toward the poor in our own nation. I would submit that this point of contention would only arise from these sources in the context of trying to explain why they thought the government should keep its coffers closed in this instance. I doubt if you would find the same people arguing that universal health care should be considered a right in the United States.
I find the depth of ignorance conveyed here startling. You can read the thoughts of some bemoaning the (mistaken) belief that no foreign countries offered assistance after Hurricane Katrina, as if that would be a valid reason to turn our backs in Haiti if it were true. Anyway, I don't understand how anyone can sincerely liken the two situations. When it comes right down to it, I think this demonstrates that ignorance is not only a right in the US, but also a luxury... and even a privilege.