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And this helps whom?

I donated tonight to the tsunami victims, and will try to do more as I am able.

Now that I have, I feel more comfortable expressing the following.

There's something that's been bugging me in the news coverage: the recrimination over U.S. reaction time, over the amount given by our government, etc. It seems oddly narcissistic and wholly inappropriate to be examining our role already, when we should be thinking of Indonesia, Thailand, India, and the many other regions affected by this horrible disaster.

I don't disagree that we should have mobilized faster. I agree that the amount should have been greater right from the outset. These people urgently need help and compassion. There's no need for me to detail the hunger, the grief, the desperation, and the damage to lives and property -- if you haven't read about it by now, this post is hardly the place to begin.

However, precisely why are people ranting about it now? Surely there's plenty of time down the road for criticism, analysis, and coulda-shoulda reviews. Plenty of time for what we could've done better and for second-guessing. I'm not saying there's not room for improvement - I'm just gently suggesting that perhaps now is not the best time.

In these immediate moments, finger-pointing and blame are not particularly helpful to the victims of this tragedy. They should be our focus, our number one priority. Hours, minutes, and seconds are crucial to saving lives, and the clock is ticking on the survivors.

Yes, we could've done better a few days ago. However, the wisest lesson my mother ever taught me was that you cannot go back, you can only go forward. My vote is that we begin to do better right now, because it's all we can do, and it is the right thing to do.

Indulging in rancor over what might have been really aids no one at this point; in fact, it's counterproductive. Instead of fussing and Monday-night quarterbacking, I'd sooner see that energy dedicated to organizing humanitarian efforts to aid the survivors and relief workers. That is what will matter, today and tomorrow: helping people try to get their lives back together. That is what will make the difference.

Tick. Tick. Tick.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 31st, 2004 06:01 am (UTC)
For what it's worth, US AID nearly immediately contributed it's whole budget to the crisis. For any more money, they have to get clearance from Congress. It's normal that US government agencies have to clear a budget through Congress. (Would you want them to be able to cut billion-dollar checks without asking your elected representatives?) What isn't normal is the size and immediacy of the crisis. Usually with wars or famines, you have a few weeks at least to see them coming and get organized.

Also, FWIW, the day after Christmas on a weekend is going to be a day that many, many nations don't really have it together. I'm sad to say that I think part of this was just unlucky timing.

And, on the first day, no one really understood how bad this was going to be... usually reports of fatalities are overly high, then they come down. In this case the initial reports (of about 10 K dead) underestimated by more than a factor of 10. And one last thing: Colin Powell wasn't just trying to bullshit his way out of an embarrassing situation when he said that the initial amount seemed small because it was only for surveys of the disaster. That really is how disaster aid works, within the US and outside of it. First you have to figure out what's wrong where, what people need, how much, etc. Then you can start delivering aid. I honestly don't think we've done that bad a job.
Dec. 31st, 2004 03:19 pm (UTC)
Agreed. Complaining about US action is ludicrous. But I also disagree, strenuously, that we could have or should have done more. America will once again lead the world in sorting this out, and it will do it amidst carping that it simultaneously isn't doing enough and is doing too much, or isn't doing it right (as the UN has already stated). Charity is a gift - it's not required and there are no rules. People who die in spite of US charity are not the fault of the US, although many will claim otherwise.
Dec. 31st, 2004 03:28 pm (UTC)
From what I've read, the amount of actual aid support has been pretty overwhelming and it's not a question of how much has been given, but how those supplies are being managed and transported. Most of the hardest hit areas are remote, require air transport and/or are under the control of various military forces (either government, paramilitary, or rebel). So there have been very real issues revolving around negotiating access rights to stricken areas, allocating lift resources to the towns and provinces that really need them, and overall coordination of the efforts of a dozen UN agencies, hundreds of NGOs and half a dozen foreign troops and government workers.

And, in general, I agree with you that the holier-than-thou pissing contests are not helpful. However, one side benefit of the arguments is that it is bringing a spotlight on the discussion of how aid should be managed and coordinated. For a while, it's always seemed that aid coverage has revolved around "Crisis happened in region X, Western nations have written checks for Y dollars in aid. Conscience assuaged, on to sports."

I am glad that people are forced to consider if their contributions and the contributions of their citizenry are "good enough", and I also hope that if they're encouraged to give more, that they will also have a stake in ensuring that what they've given is being used appropriately. It's a two way street in need of some serious paving.
Dec. 31st, 2004 03:42 pm (UTC)
This isn't some exercise in logic or etiquette, every delay in aid or ineffective use of aid costs lives, period. It isn't as if the flood gates of aid have opened up from our government after only a few days and things are fine now. The time to speak up is exactly now before more lives are lost, not to just donate a few bucks and stay silent because it makes us feel better. It isn't that hard of a concept that people want more done right now and aren't satisfied with apathetically shrugging a few months from now and discussing how we probably could have done more in retrospect.
Jan. 1st, 2005 04:54 am (UTC)
I think it further emphasizes our already narcisstic and egomaniacal stereotype to the world. The front page of the local newpaper had both the latest tsunami coverage and then a critique, commentary, and full report of the Bush administration, faults, lack of donation, whatever. Sure, some people are going to get upset at the damning with faint praise/donation, but in a time crunch with people still dying, missing, corpses rotting - it would be nice to think we could get the hell over ourselves. Although to be honest, one of my first responses at the $35 million pledge was "What the hell?? Didn't Bush just appoint $20 billion to send more kids to Iraq to fight non existant terror??" I think I was just shocked with the pitance dubya came up with.
America carries a stigma with the rest of the world (at least the rest of the world that I have seen first hand), and unfortunately we tend to live up to it.

I think that was awesome of you to donate, and help out... rather than just sit there and complain (like I am, ironically). I deeply respect that you're a woman of action.
Where did you donate to?
Jan. 1st, 2005 02:48 pm (UTC)
*hugs* Happy new year, my dear! Thank you very much for your response.

After some thought, I ended up donating to the American Red Cross. I decided on that because I felt it was a way that I could demonstrate caring as a citizen here, to show that whatever our government may or may not do, we the people can still take action on our own. I don't mean for that to sound pompous at all, but just that I wanted to do my part to help.

By the way, I particularly liked your part about "it would be nice to think we could get the hell over ourselves." As we say in the sunny South, Amen, and pass the plate, sister. :)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


Twin Peaks: Snoqualmie

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