If you watch the nightly news, you may have forgotten . . . Haiti was hit by an earthquake eight weeks ago. Our “it bleeds it leads” media has gone from pimping the images of poor black folk wandering the streets of Port au Prince ala Hurricane Katrina to not reporting about the continuing struggle to get aid to the people, to rebuild the structure and infrastructure of the government, to bury the dead with dignity.
The earthquake didn’t go away, the buildings didn’t spring back up when the American media decided it wasn’t sexy to watch people crying and dying anymore.
Oh, wait . . . there are always the looters in Vinha del Mar, Chile. Since my in-laws live in the north of Chile, and we found out in the wee hours of the morning that they were all accounted for and healthy, we’ve been keeping up with the news via Facebook and email. Eleven days after the 8.8 earthquake shook the earth off its axis, the nightly news has forgotten. We haven’t forgotten. My cousin who’s cousin is still missing hasn’t forgotten. But I can’t find out what is happening on the tv, or the radio around here.
In the United States, we are a provincial people to be sure. If it didn’t happen in my city, it’s not that important. If it isn’t happening in Washington, it’s not that important. If it doesn’t affect us directly, we just don’t care. That’s not the way it should be, but it seems like that’s the way it is.
I gave money when the quake hit Haiti. I bought the new We Are the World to give more money. Tomorrow, there will be Chilenos in my living room figuring out how to organize and get supplies to family, friends and loved ones who’ve been shaken.
Where is the world? No, that’s not my question. Where are we, the supposed “last, best hope of mankind”? Giving money seems to mean that we as Americans can forget about other nation’s problems. It’s this parochial mentality that has Liz Cheney calling the United States’ Department of Justice the “Department of Jihad”, and people in the United States arguing whether we should take steps to combat global warming.
There needs to be an American mission that forces us to travel and help other people who really don’t have healthcare. All the money donated doesn’t in fact help citizens of the United States appreciate the ideals embodied in the documents written by the founders or the blessings bestowed upon us by providence.
Instead, we have “missionaries” trying to steal children, and soundbites saying that people looking for food in the wake of unimaginable disasters are looters, showing their arrests as the lead in to the news but not talking about (or showing) what people are doing to recover.
Each of us needs to put boots on the ground. Maybe then our conversations will be substantive instead of verbal wrangling and games of acquisition and maintenance of privilege.