Wednesday, December 29


The tragic results of the tsunami that hit Asia just keep mounting.

What is there to say about such a horrendous loss of life and imminent health crisis as a result of a natural disaster? You can harp about poor or cynically delayed warning systems and lack of preparedness, but for the immediate future what is needed is help, and that costs money and a firm commitment to long-range assistance. This is precisely the kind of situation to which the United States used to respond with horrified compassion and an outpouring of aid so great as to make the recipient peoples, indeed the world, love and appreciate American leadership and American values. Now we're being called "stingy," a sad reflection of the way the Unca Scrooge/Bush-Cheney administration has lowered the honor of the United States in the world. It would have been so simple for our president to arrange for a press crew that already surrounds his newly-acquired ranch in Crawford, Texas, to tape him delivering a message from the American people to the afflicted nations that we will deliver whatever aid is necessary to Sri Lanka, Thailand, et al to help their peoples recover from this disaster. He didn't have to supply a dollar figure -- he just had to demonstrate our total commitment.

But Bush has no real feelings about anyone outside the boundaries of his electoral base. He doesn't even care about other Americans. If his response to this natural disaster isn't evidence of his lack of Christian charity, I don't know what is.

About 10 years ago I coordinated the Metropolitan Dallas United Way campaign for the Real Estate and Construction category of businesses. A speaker at one of our major rallies hit a chord of pride and patriotism that resulted in an unprecedented amount of giving. She was a native Filipino who had become one of my company's mortgage operation's top-producing loan officers, and she spoke of how Americans have a grand tradition of reaching out to the world's neediest through our charities and our foreign aid. But she said that was only a reflection of a culture of caring and good Samaritanism. As evidence, she cited a story from her youth, when her small town in the Phillipines suffered a devastating fire and her neighbors and indeed her own family were in danger of losing not only many lives but their homes and the few possessions that enabled them to live and work. American GI's, she recounted, showed up and worked tirelessly and at their own peril to save the villagers and their homes. I remember, she said, two GI's carrying out mattresses from our house with several children atop, pretending to play a game with the children so they wouldn't be frightened.

That's the US I love and honor, that's the people I've always known. That's the spirit and heart that the world has loved and honored for decades, that REALLY brought down the Iron Curtain. For so long we were the beacon of freedom, economic opportunity (not just for the already rich and well-connected) and compassion. Lady Liberty was the antithesis of the Berlin Wall, and the world knew it and chose our way.

Would they do it again? Would they see the Peace Corps and American Red Cross as the exemplar of America? Or would they see George Bush, the political tsunami who is continuing his own disastrous purge not only of able administrators and advisers but of our core American values and the policies of peacemaking and justice-seeking that have made us respected and loved abroad and programs that have encouraged prosperity, economic safety and equality of opportunity at home?

UPDATE: Susan Sontag called "rugged individualism" -- the neo-Reagan Bush mantra -- "just selfishness."


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