Column of the Americas
Saving Haiti, Saving Humanity
Connecting MLK’s words, Sheriff Arpaio’s policies & the Crisis in Haiti
Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
Jan 21, 2010
Haiti is changing the way we look at life and the way we look at each
other as human beings. All but the insane and bigoted among us
understand that the people of Haiti are our fellow human beings. The
mere thought of borders is a seeming anachronism. Who among us is
questioning the collective responsibility of humanity for our
neighbors in need?
At this time, with 200,000 dead and up to 2 million homeless,
compassion abounds. What it means to be human and the meaning of
humanity is on full display as we all are struggling to do our part.
Yet people are beginning to ask the obvious questions: Why is it
taking so long to bring in the emergency supplies, the nurses the
doctors and the food and the water? Where are the ships? Where are the
airdrops? Unfortunately, other questions are creeping in: Why can the
military easily get in, but not those bringing in the medicines and
These questions are being asked as despair turns into chaos and the
human instinct for survival is also clearly on display on our nightly
news. The desperate search for sustenance is described as looting and
out-of-control rioting. And we are not supposed to ask questions but
As a society, we are trained by governments and the media not to see
the bigger picture. Yet it is becoming difficult not to see a bigger
picture emerge. These questions were swirling and bothersome,
especially during this past weekend as the world celebrated Martin
Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. They were also swirling as 20,000 people
descended upon Phoenix this weekend to protest the racial profiling
policies of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. All these events seemed unrelated, yet
they were clearly connected.
The crisis in Haiti is actually a crisis of humanity. It is becoming
obvious that assisting humanity and destroying humanity are two
radically different ideas. They are two ideas that seemingly have been
fused over the past decade. Since Sept. 11, 2001, we have been goaded
into believing that militaries are instruments of justice and that the
United States has the inherent and God-given right to go to war with
any nation it pleases, with or without just cause.
Former President George W. Bush championed the view that “You’re
either with us or against us.” To be able to maintain that clear
demarcation, bigger militaries were needed, as was the need to protect
Sadly, the current president, while more intelligent and articulate,
has one-upped his predecessor, championing the notion that war is also
an instrument of peace.
Wrong! War is the embodiment of evil. It destroys, it dehumanizes, it
takes innocent lives, it depletes the world’s resources, it
contaminates and it empties nations’ coffers. As King often noted,
whenever money is spent on war, it is money not being spent on
fighting poverty or remedying the ills of society. And as this
particular tragedy edges toward permanent crisis, where will the money
to rebuild Haiti come from?
Why can’t the world marshal its resources to faster assist Haiti?
Because the United States and its partners are still in the midst of
two senseless wars? Lest we kid ourselves, wars are hyper-expensive.
Our bloated military is virtually useless in times of humanitarian
emergencies because it is not an emergency humanitarian response team.
Even after Katrina, one would have thought that the nation or world
would be prepared for future crises.
The only thing we have learned post-Katrina is that leaders of both
parties are willing to fight a costly, permanent worldwide war. There
is no money for it but the frenzied military buildup continues, with
new enemies and theaters of war. Its justification also continues by
demonizing and dehumanizing new enemies.
This is the same justification that Sheriff Arpaio and his supporters
use. It permits the building of bigger walls. It permits the
militarization of “our borders” and also permits human
beings–struggling to survive – to be categorized as “illegal aliens.”
It permits racial profiling and police to act as hunter battalions.
After Haiti, how can we, without abandoning all humanity, continue to
view the instinct to survive as a crime? Illegal aliens, indeed!
Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, can be
reached at: XColumn
Column of the Americas
PO BOX 85476
Tucson, AZ 85754
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