Saturday, January 16, 2010
I feel a need to say something about the Haitian earthquake, if only to bear witness to the suffering of untold hundreds of thousands. But I really don’t have much to say, or add, to what has already been said to this latest chapter in Haiti’s long, proud, sad history. Let’s not to be quick to condemn people who trying to survive as looters. Let’s not be too quick, following Rebecca Solnit’s excellent recent book on the subject, to assume that in the absence of government, that people will revert to their supposed animalism, rather than help one another to the best of their abilities. And let’s not try to blame Haitians, or like David Brooks in the Times yesterday, their culture, for their basic problems. (Neither I wouldn’t lay the blame for Haiti’s poverty on America’s sorry history of imperialist involvement in Haiti, though the Aristide years, but that is at least as compelling a narrative.) Let’s not to be quick to praise our own generosity, though I must confess that in using the US military to aid the Haitians, we have finally found a use for our oversized military that I can approve of. Fighting natural disasters is the true moral equivalent of war. Great natural disasters should be a reminder that we are all, in some fundamental sense, equal in our fragility, and equal in our mortality, but once the earth stops shaking, we find out once again, alas, that our equality was only temporary. In any event, God have mercy on Haiti and Haitians, and let us see if the oldest republic in the western hemisphere can use this horrible occasion to find, after two centuries, a constructive way of relating to the second oldest republic.