Addendum 1/01/2006: We did contribute the sum promised. I'd admit to being amazed except that we are so disliked as a country these days, it would be political madness to have reneged. Political madness is a disorder the current administration avoids when possible. Of course, with the present captain at the helm, we're always listing to the side, always scrambling, always bailing out.
George W. Bush initially pledged fifteen million dollars to aid the victims of the December 26th earthquake induced tsunami that swallowed South East Asia, and regurgitated hell.
Fifteen million.... Whoa! Say what?
That embarrassing sum was buried under the more respectable thirty-five million soon after. Thirty-five is impressive. After all, it's more than double the original.
The horrified recoil of those who were appalled by such penury, was heard like, "the shot that was heard around the world". The term stingy was applied, thinly veiled as being aimed at the generic rich countries of the world, but we all know to whom it referred.
George W. Bush then pledged 350 million dollars. So there. Top that!
Now then, let's look at two little points here. The first being, where is all this money coming from? We are a nation sinking under the burden of debt.
The second point is simple enough. A pledge for any sum of money for any cause has all the validity of, "don't worry, I'll pull out..."
If this were not such a political plum for the Bush administration, I might have more tolerance for it all. I might even believe in it.
I might feel better believing that the survivors of the flood will fare reasonably, if not well, in great part due to our government's generosity. I might feel better believing they will be fed, sheltered, healed of physical damage, and spoken softly to in the attempt to ease the vision of walls of water swallowing their loved ones, their homes, their lives as they knew them. I would feel better believing in all this saving grace, thanks to us.
But it is a political plum, and I am a cynical pragmatist. Bush suddenly and miraculously has a potential handle on damage control where his mass slaughter of Arabic peoples is concerned. This is his chance to prove to the Muslim world that he doesn't hate them. What a lucky boy George is. Landed on his feet again!
Unlike some though, I have a nasty asset. It's called a memory. And I remember the pledges to Afghanistan that were almost laughed off eventually. I remember Karzai coming to the land of plenty to plead with the Congressional hogs to PLEASE honor their pledge. Afghanistan had received a fraction of what was promised. Afghanistan is dying of a disease only immense sums of money will cure. Unthinkably immense sums of money.
But, George had a country to invade, places to go, people to kill, and those ventures require cash. Lots of it. Mr. Karzai got a few crumbs and another pledge. That and a ticket will get him a ride on a merry-go-round.
We are not the only ones to renege on our promises to Afghanistan. But we were the ones who dropped bombs and depleted uranium over the land, in the name of revenge. We owe those people. Unfortunately, their place in line is not the best, because Afghanistan isn't sexy anymore. Just like homelessness in America isn't sexy anymore. It's old hat. No big celebs raising funds, no benefits for the impoverished and depleted uranium semi-dead.
Don't count the chickens before they hatch now. Don't stop digging into your pocket and giving money to help those battered, wounded, desperate people who haven't even had the time to mourn adequately, make it through another day. And another and another. It takes a lotta money.
Much more depends on the kindness of strangers now, than may be evident. I am not a pleasant person a lot of the time because I am a realist, and reality is a bad tasting pill unless you really did win the Lottery.
One reality is that the American people have donated huge sums for this cause. I am so touched, and so proud of them. Another reality is that we are not finished.
There is more to deal with which remains out of the view of the public.
The ecosystem in that part of the world has suffered damage it will take many decades to recover from. I read recently that it could be up to a century before the coral beds have grown back. They are highly essential to fishing communities. They are the haven for thousands of fishes that live within their structures, safe from predators.
The environmental impact will be immense. It is immense now, but the immediate needs that are so great, force these other equally important things into the shadows.
The tsunami and it's aftermath will cease to be sexy. We should recognize that as truth and promise ourselves that we will not forget. Promise ourselves we will keep the lamp of kind private generosity burning here, and promise ourselves we will make a special effort to give what we can, when we can, long after the sound and bustle has died down.
Let us not depend on the Bush administration to come through in a year or two.
I have a possibly naïve suggestion. It has to do with adoption. I have adopted Sri Lanka. I place myself in the position of giving to my "child", as it is feasible for me. I promise this to myself.
There's more to rebuilding than putting up a house. I want to help tomorrow, after the house is built, when the secret of nature discloses herself entirely. I'll sleep better knowing I didn't turn my back.
They say goodness is it's own reward. I believe that. I believe life is a circle, and very often in our worst moments the hand of a stranger catches us and sets us down on steady ground, and there's never a word about repayment.
That's what casting your bread upon the water means. But don't wait for it to come back. Sometimes you don't even know it did.