In writing a column about the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, it was not my intent to suggest that I don’t care about the fate of Haiti, or that I am not sympathetic to the people who make up the huge numbers and heartbreaking images we see flashed across our television and computer screens.
Instead, my goal was to question the psychology of donating, the way we react to natural disasters and the nature of responsibility leading up to and immediately after those disasters. Regardless of the outcry that followed, I think I did those things.
When I wrote about the responsibility borne by the Haitian people for their circumstances prior to the earthquake, I did not make clear that I understand that outside influences have played a large part in determining those circumstances. However, I maintain that much of the responsibility (not all) for one’s fate – or for the fate of a group of people – lies with that person or with those people. I understand that dire circumstances can make taking the yoke of that responsibility very, very difficult. But to assume that the Haitians’ fate was not at least in part their own responsibility is to insult that group of people even more. It rationalizes much of the United States’ past meddling in the affairs of Haiti. But most of all, it shows even less respect to the Haitian people.
I’m disappointed that some outlets chose to extract segments of my column, framing my opinions in their own. Many readers were going to disagree with my opinions regardless of the context in which they were presented – that was, in some ways, the point of writing them. But when they were enticed into reading the piece by potentially inflammatory bits that were taken out of context, readers had little chance to look at my views with the proverbial clean slate.
While I will not apologize for writing my column, I do accept the repercussions associated with writing it and hope that some good may come out of those repercussions: that people will stop and think about their own motivations for giving and that someone else might be inspired to come up with a better way to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters like the one in Haiti.
Thanks for reading.