The devastation that is now Haiti has revealed the character of both people and nations. In particular, it reveals the economic and cultural superiority of America.
The Haitian situation is special in that there is no single problem that when cured will allow the country to move forward. There is no country left to move forward. The government has collapsed both figuratively and physically – most of the government buildings lie in rubble. President Obama got it right when he sent in the United States military to establish enough order for the relief services to function. He should be praised for acting unilaterally, without concern for the sensitivities of the United Nations, or anyone else for that matter. The world is not doing it. We are doing it, and the world is helping.
For the most part, members of the European Union are cutting checks. Cutting checks is helpful, but somebody has to go in and get it done. America is doing that collectively with hospital ships, cargo planes, and soldiers. America is also doing that privately with retired soldiers, some medical supplies, and private donations – I’m talking about Team Rubicon (http://blog.teamrubiconhaiti.org/). Team Rubicon is a group of retired soldiers, doctors, nurses, and others who organized themselves, flew to the Domincan Republic, crossed the border into Haiti, and is providing emergency medical treatment to people. Private citizens, privately funded, getting it done. It’s an American thing. Who else does this?
While I have none of the qualifications for Team Rubicon, I wanted to at least make my own monetary donation. I saw that the White House set up a site for donations to the federal government effort. That struck me as extremely odd. How will our donations make a difference in the government’s operation? Anyway, I picked Food for the Poor (http://www.foodforthepoor.org/), a Catholic charity that has been feeding people in the Caribbean for decades, and has a special Haitian donation stream. I prefer religious charities since they rarely receive government support, and often see their work as a calling. The problem with government support is that it almost always come with strings that have little to do with the mission, and everything to do with control.
I know that anti-Christian bigotry is fashionable these days, so if you can’t bring yourself to donate to a religious group, and you understand the futility of giving to the government, I have a solution! Richard Dawkins, an atheists’ champion, has started an online charity called Non-Believers Giving Aid (http://givingaid.richarddawkins.net/). All the relief money will go to organizations with no religious affiliation.
While I believe government has a role in catastrophic emergency response, I think that ongoing charity should been in private hands. Locally, I apply the same guidelines as I did for Haiti. I picked the Gospel Rescue Mission (no government support) for helping the homeless, and I’m looking at the affiliated Crisis Pregnancy Center for pregnant women who need help. Don’t worry, if you are a secular humanist, there are a number of organizations that are not religious and receive city government money.
The problem with having the government handle our charitable giving for us is the same as having the government handle any of our adult responsibilities. It destroys our character, makes us weak, and removes meaning from our lives. If a government picks a charity to support on our behalf, the charity benefits from the money, but you do not benefit from an act of giving, you do not participated in life. If, on the other hand, you voluntarily take the money your were about to spend on those Green Day concert tickets and give it instead to a local charity, you would benefit from making that choice. It would be a demonstration of your character through your actions, and an indication of your evolving taste in music.
The fertility rate in European social democracies varies from 1.6 to 1.8. In America, it is 2.1, about replacement rate. What does that mean? It means that Europeans have given up on the future, given up on life. Raising children is one more of life’s burdens that they can avoid. Why work hard, take risks, and sacrifice when you can sit in an outdoor cafe on the Left bank, drink coffee, smoke Gauloise cigarettes, and complain about those greedy, unsophisticated Americans?
Am I suggesting that you cancel your iPad order and give the money to charity? Heck no! Work hard, buy stuff, and give money away! This is America!