Rodriguez: Saving Haiti, saving humanity


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 most bigoted amongst us understand that the people of Haiti are our family and that we all share in the collective responsibility of assisting our neighbors in need. The mere thought of borders is a glaring anachronism.

At this time, with an estimated 200,000 dead and 1.5 million homeless, compassion abounds; what it means to be human and the meaning of humanity is on full display as we are all struggling to do our part. Yet people are now asking the obvious questions: Why is it taking so long to bring in emergency supplies, the nurses, the doctors, the food and the water? Where are the ships and the airdrops? Why can the military easily get in, but not those bringing in the medicines?

As despair turns into chaos, 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; simply contribute.

As this particular tragedy edges toward permanent crisis, where will the money to rebuild Haiti come from?

As a society, we are trained by governments and 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 this past weekend as the world celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. They were also swirling as perhaps 20,000 people descended upon Phoenix to protest the racial profiling policies of Maricopa County, Arizona 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 – ideas that seemingly have been fused over the past decade. Since Sept. 11, 2001, as a society, 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 war upon any nation or with anyone it pleases – with or without just cause.

During this past decade, former president George W. Bush publicly championed this spiritually inspired bifurcated “You’re either with us or against us” society. To accomplish this, bigger militaries were needed as was the need to protect “our borders.” Sadly, the current president, while a clearer speaker, 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, dehumanizes, takes innocent lives, depletes the world’s resources, contaminates and it empties nations’ coffers. As Martin Luther King Jr. often noted, whenever money is spent on war, it is money not being spent on fighting poverty or on remedying the ills and injustices of society. And as this particular tragedy edges toward permanent crisis, where will the money to rebuild Haiti come from?

Assisting humanity and destroying humanity are two radically different ideas – ideas that seemingly have been fused over the past decade.

Why can’t the world marshal its resources to faster assist Haiti – because the United States and its coalition partners are still in the midst of two senseless and costly wars? Lest we kid ourselves, wars are hyper-expensive. Our bloated military is virtually useless in times of humanitarian emergencies for obvious reasons; they are overstretched, overseas and trained to kill and destroy, not to save and build. They are not an emergency humanitarian response team, though it would be great if they were.

Even after Katrina, one would have thought that the nation or world would be prepared for future crises; that ships were not fully equipped, staffed and fueled means we learned nothing from Katrina. The only thing we have learned is that leaders of both parties are willing to fight an extremely costly permanent worldwide war. There is no money for such an endeavor, yet the frenzied military buildup continues, constantly searching out new enemies and theaters of war. Its justification also continues; demonization and dehumanization; those we are fighting are not us, they are less than “us.”

It is the very same idea Europeans brought with them when they first arrived on this continent and it is the same justification Sheriff Arpaio and his supporters use. It permits the building of bigger walls, the militarization of “our” borders and it 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 as humanity continue to view the instinct to survive as a crime? Illegal aliens, indeed!

Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez is an assistant professor at the University of Arizona. He can be reached at