Helping Haiti when our heartstrings are all tugged out

Last night during a monthly meetup with a few Howard County friends, I brought up the topic of awareness camapaigns and the values of charity. I’ve always believed in fostering prosperity at home—the USA—instead of throwing money at third world countries “to help develop” them. I have made the distinction between “donation” and “investment” in the past, as well. Sometimes, though, there are moments where true charity is necessary, and the earthquake relief efforts in Haiti is one of them.

We are inundated with awareness campaigns. I don’t think there is one popular color out there that has not been co-opted for a cause, such as the dismal Product (RED) launched by the biggest number two in the world, Bono. We are so aware of every pet issue there is to be had that we don’t know where to send our money. Our money, time and effort are non-renewable resources that must be budgeted. When we donate a dollar to one cause, it’s one less dollar for another cause we like.

Unlike throwing money at the great kelptocracies of Africa or Asia, the situation in Haiti is critical, and if one has been desensitized to the emotional appeals to prosperity guilt we experience everyday, there is a utilitarian and rational reason to helping the victims of the Haiti quake. Matt Stinson tweeted: “Amazed that any Americans would thinking helping Haiti is a bad idea. We help now or we pay later in instability and refugee crises.”

Understand that Haiti shares the island with the Dominican Republic. Discouraging American assistance in Haiti proves a lack of understanding as to what an exodus would wreak upon the neighboring nations. An attempt at pilgrimage into the Dominican Republic will force the Dominicans to face scrutiny while they protect their land and resources, or strain those same resources in assiting refugees. A diaspora into the sea would lead to massive casualties and have them knocking on our doors. At that point, what are we to do?

We have the capacity to help. We also have the capacity to rebuild a nation into something better. There is a rationale, not just a rationalization, to help Haiti, and even from the cold calculus of long-term gain, we avoid a large long-term loss. There is nothing immoral to approaching this issue in a utilitarian fashion, and there’s plenty of deontological immorality associated with not doing anything. It’s up to us to help however we can.

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