Haiti or bust

Molly Cahill

We are a nation that loves disasters. We flock to them like nothing else except maybe the Super Bowl and a Black Friday sale at Best Buy. Some of the first tragedies that come to mind are of course 9/11, New Orleans and now Haiti. It’s not that I think people don’t care or are incapable of feeling genuine empathy, but it does seem that the greater majority only get involved because it’s either “in” or “hip.”

We all feel terrible when bad things happen — those of us who aren’t sociopaths anyway — and sometimes the conscience-plagued will donate their time and money to aid those in need. But how much of that comes from our being “told” to care and how much is born of a real desire to make the world a better place?

The most ironic story to come out of the Haiti disaster I’ve heard of lately was about a U.S. Baptist group. They were arrested for trying to take Haitian children over the border to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. As it turns out none of them were orphans at all; their parents had handed the children over themselves. So who knows what will happen to them now.

Were these people wrong for trying to help? No. But they were certainly shortsighted, because they should have expected trouble when they got to the border without proper documentation certifying their right to the children. I doubt we’ll know the whole story for a while yet, but it just seems that taking a risk like that only impaired their ability to help in the future.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t care about other people’s misfortunes or take no action to ease it when we can, because I believe it to be a great thing when people can set aside their innate self-centeredness to help others. Just throwing help at a problem isn’t enough; it needs to be effective help.

Donating money is all well and good, but what use are you going to be if you end up leaving yourself broke or wind up in jail like the people from that Baptist group? The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Not so much because people were stupid to butt in, but because they don’t always think things through or use what they have effectively.

The well-known phrase about everyone getting their 15 minutes of fame can be held true for more than just humans. Just as it occurred with its predecessors, the fervor we experienced over Haiti is diminishing and the potential stories are drying up. No doubt we will still be hearing about it for some time as people find what new angles are left, but eventually there will be another earthquake, flood or devastating disease. And people will turn their attention to that instead.

Then the world will rush in carrying blankets, medical supplies and hemorrhaging money in their wake, at least until the next disaster comes along. So, if you’re a bit cynical like me and prefer to stick to donating your spare change to people begging outside of a 7-Eleven, don’t let yourself be guilt-tripped into feeling bad. Do what you want whether that’s texting the Red Cross, buying a CD to benefit Haiti down at the Exchange or even nothing at all.

Molly Cahill is a senior pre-journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].