By Helping Haiti, the Rest of the World Will Help Itself

As images of devastation and unimaginable human misery emanated from the ruins of Port au Prince and rescuers struggled frantically to dig thousands of victims from the rubble, aid began arriving from around the world.

Immediately after Tuesday’s massive earthquake, the Cuban government and a private group, Doctors Without Borders, dispatched representatives already in Haiti to treat victims. Search and rescue squads from Virginia and Iceland arrived Wednesday. Canada dispatched a large military transport aircraft this morning. And planes from China, France, Spain and the United States landed today at Port-au-Prince’s airport with searchers, water, food, medicine and other relief supplies.

U.S. President Barack Obama said “one of the largest relief efforts in our recent history” is moving toward Haiti, with thousands of troops and a broad array of civilian rescue workers deployed to aid the stricken country – backed by more than $100 million in relief funds.

To the Haitians, Obama promised: “You will not be forsaken.”

In the U.S., some conservative critics apparently were not pleased by the president’s support for the ravaged nation.

boukmanRadio demagogue Rush Limbaugh blasted the American president for responding to the Haitian earthquake sooner than he did to the attempted Christmas Day bombing of an American airliner. Limbaugh – absurdly – suggested the president is especially sympathetic to the Haitians because they’re black.

And  televangelist Pat Robertson implied the Haitians had it coming because (he said) more than two centuries ago slave leaders made a pact with the Devil, promising to worship the Evil One forever if they succeeded in their uprising against the French. (He was referring to a ceremony supposedly conducted in 1791 by voodoo priest and revolutionary Dutty Boukman. Many scholars doubt the pact with the Devil actually occurred but it lives in legend – as depicted in the painting above.)

Remarks like these don’t just expose the despicable lack of humanity that drives the conservative movement’s hostility toward socially progressive programs, they also illustrate the poverty of intellect afflicting the movement.

Of course, the U.S. and the rest of the developed world are obligated to help Haiti in its time of travail. We could not call ourselves civilized otherwise.But that’s not the only reason. It is in the wider world’s economic interest to get that impoverished and devastated nation on its feet.

As Robert Creamer points out in a Huffington Post article today:

The world economy is not a zero-sum game. For us to be richer, someone else doesn’t have to be poorer. In fact, just the opposite is true.

If you think of the earth as a huge space vehicle – or a ship at sea – it just doesn’t make sense that a big proportion of the crew isn’t able to pull its weight because they are undereducated, unproductive and constantly in need of handouts from the rest of us….

The more skilled, the more educated, the more productive, and the more efficient every one of us is, the more successful we will all be in our common mission of forging a better life for future generations.

Every kid in Haiti who grows up to be a surgeon or an engineer instead of a stoop laborer contributes to the common store of our wealth. If a girl is sentenced, by accident of her birth, to spend hours each day washing clothes in a Haitian stream instead of going to school, all of us miss out on the possibility that she might contribute to finding a cure for cancer. Millions of minds are indeed a terrible thing to waste.

Read Creamer’s pice here:

I cannot fathom why conservatives find it so difficult to grasp this simple truth: We help ourselves by helping others. The world would be wise not only to give Haiti the immediate aid it so desperately needs in the aftermath of disaster but also to ensure the infrastructure is rebuilt and a sustainable economy is put in place. For the world will remain poor – and troubled – as long as the least among us remains impoverished.