Possibly the most offensive thing I’ve heard all week…

This arrived in my mailbox this morning, in response to my Open Letter. If you thought the voodoo comic was in poor taste, or offensive, try THIS on for size.

(No, it’s not going to be funny.)

(Name and email address withheld)

Well, I liked (the voodoo comic), but to be perfectly honest, I’ve not donated and I’m not likely to – not that I don’t doubt for a moment that people are suffering and even dying in New Orleans, but I really feel that one of the richest countries in the world, dealing with a disaster which was predicted in detail and which in theory has been rehearsed for should manage quite well without the pitiful amount I could spare.

If “they” (i.e. the US govt.) can’t manage to sort it expeditiously, then perhaps there’s been too much emphasis on “pacifying” Iraq and a bit too little on domestic matters. The figures for the amount of money spent by the US govt. and indeed our govt. over here on that are truly unbelievable, and it’s recently been alleged that the budget for maintinaing and repairing the mississippi levees has been cut…

I gather that a fair number of the National Guard are in Iraq at present, which presumably leaves a shortage for such things as rebuilding road and bridges, keeping order and generally solving disasters on home ground.

I feel mostly for the people from places like New Orleans who can’t afford a car and thus don’t have an easy escape when disaster looms – these people have been badly let down, IMHO.

I responded as follows:

It sounds like you’re saying that the GOVERNMENT of a “wealthy” nation should be the only entity reqired to help the unfortunate of that nation.

I personally find this thought offensive. Prosperity is ours only so long as we use it responsibly. If we as INDIVIDUALS are unwilling to help those in need, our prosperity will soon be gone, eroded in selfish squanderings that are the natural outgrowth of personal greed. It’s fair to argue that the government does not spend its money wisely, but withholding our help as individuals will put the blood of the innocent on OUR hands.

I’m not going to tell you how to spend your money. If you give not because you have not, you’re blameless. If you give not because you think the government is to blame and needs to be punished, you’re evil. It’s not your job to punish the government — especially not by allowing your fellow-citizens to die.

Sorry, I’m just calling ’em like I see ’em.


Note: I don’t disagree that the government has let these people down. I don’t necessarily agree with how the War on Terror has been prosecuted, and certainly not on all points. But that’s irrelevant. Withholding your surplus so that the deaths of your fellow-citizens can become political commentary about domestic policy is EVIL, and there are no two ways about it.

34 thoughts on “Possibly the most offensive thing I’ve heard all week…”

  1. That really sounds like someone who is making an excuse as to why she/he doesn’t care or is trying to give an excuse for being stingy and not helping their fellow citizens.

    I’d love to know if that person donated in any way, shape or form, when the tsunami hit or did they have “good reasons” not to do anything then, either?

    1. I’d really rather NOT know. In fact, I don’t want to hear from that person EVER AGAIN. The espoused position is so insipidly EVIL it makes me sick just thinking about it.

      1. Hm.

        I don’t know… I actually sort of kind of vaguely agree with some of the things he said. That your opinion is that his position is insipidly evil, and even merits all-caps on the word ‘evil’, seems to me like a bit of an overreaction, but I can sort of see where you’re coming from. But the reason I say you’re overreacting to that guy is sort of “If that’s his reaction to a guy who says that america’s resources are poorly distributed, what’ll be his reaction to me?”

        To wit:

        My general position is that I don’t give a screw about anybody who’s not me, and I wouldn’t expect (or heck, even want) them to give a screw about me if I were in that position. I’ve never been put into that sort of position (I’ve never put myself into that sort of position?), because I take active steps to prevent it.
        HOWEVER, if that sort of thing DID happen to me, if (because I live in western new york and it’s the only weather that ever happens up here) a huge-ass hurricane-with-snow style blizzard was coming, and I couldn’t or didn’t get out of the area in time, and my house got buried under 40 feet of snow, I would NOT, I repeat, I would NOT expect or want anybody else to help me out, least of all the federal government.
        If my own preparations weren’t sufficient to get me through that, if I ran out of canned food and ramen before the snow melted and thus starved to death, then that would be fine by me, because I wouldn’t help anybody else out in that situation, so I don’t want them to help me out.
        I don’t know, I’m having trouble verbalizing and/or explaining.
        But yeah, that’s the ‘other side’ of the ‘golden rule’.
        Does this make me a terrible person? Maybe. Does it make me considerably more evil than the guy who sent Howard an email? Certainly. Does it make me the antichrist? No, I looked into it, I’m quite definitely not the antichrist. Am I simply coming up with vague explanations as to why I refuse to donate to any charity ever just so I don’t have to say “I just hate people”? Maybe, hard to tell.
        I don’t know, maybe I’m just saying that I expect selfishness from everybody, and when people are unselfish it confuses the hell out of me.
        I mean, I could slip in a note about how people are only unselfish for selfish reasons, ie to make themselves feel better, but that’s irrelevant. When people ACT unselfish, it confuses the hell out of me.
        I don’t know.
        Never mind.

        Let the Malimar-flaming begin!

        1. Re: Hm.

          Okay, fine. Flame on:

          Assuming, for the moment, that you’ve communicated your innermost feelings accurately, you’ve obviously got social problems at a personal level. No offense, but the unwillingness to help stemming from an unwillingness to BE helped is a trait none of us want in our neighbors, and is decidedly unhealthy. It’s a sickness, likely emotional or mental or both in nature. You are diseased.

          Move to the moon. Bring your own air.

          That said, I stand by the following statement: if you seek to punish your government for mismanagement by withholding charity from those who are suffering, you are evil. The GOOD person will help those who suffer, and then seek to replace the government that let them down.

          Interestingly, terrorists use the same strategy to punish governments: they attack civilians in order to make a statement. The only difference between their behavior and that described in the paragraph above is the level of proactivity and the level of displeasure with the government in question. Everything else is just details.

          In fairness to the poor soul whose email I posted: he emailed me and backpedaled. Reading between the lines — He was posturing politically, and using that to make himself feel better about the fact that he really COULDN’T do anything to help. Well, okay then.


        2. Re: Hm.

          I try to help other people. It’s what being a hero is all about, and really, it’s selfish of me, my own vested self interest, because I get to help them and save the day.

          I’d rather people not help me. Sign of weakness if I need help. Hurts one’s pride so to speak.

          I have a feeling, deep down, that you’re probably more along the lines of me, rather than not REALLY caring. I bet you’d help if you could, especially if it didn’t hurt you any.

          My own two cents. Counter attack if I’m wrong, I’m wrong at least twice a day, and I don’t think I’ve filled my quota.

  2. Oh!

    And thank you for the information on where to donate books to – my 12 year old and I will be going through her library and I’ll be talking to my husband about going through ours, too. By tomorrow, we should have a nice shipment to send out.

    1. I’m not upset by the political opportunism, not really. But if you want moral high ground, you’d effing well better be sending money, supplies, toys, or SOMETHING into the hot zone. Otherwise you’re just another whiny [insert political label here] looking for a soundbite.

  3. That person lacks some essential humanity somewhere. Just rhetorically, because I know you’re going to withhold the name and any other details (rightly so) I’d like to know who that person is and who raised them.

  4. Sadly, I think that people like that are quite misguided. If you have that line of thought, you’re really punishing your fellow men on behalf of something that the government did that they (fellow men) may or may not have agreed upon. We may have our differences, but isn’t it more important to band together in a time of crisis?

  5. So the government’s screwing up – that’s nothing new. Heck, there’s a lot of fingerpointing going on at the moment – the people at FEMA say they’re doing a great job and that things are going well, and people there (New Orleans’ emergency team, hospitals, and so on) are disputing it – even as FEMA says the evacuation of hospitals is going well, the people in some of said hospitals have yet to see help. Of course, that’s not necessarily a reason to stop donating or stop helping – or trying to help – someone, just because you blame them or their neighbors for voting in that government. Save their asses, and THEN lambaste them for their choices.

    Personally, I’m thinking that, given all the conflicting information being issued by various agencies, that they’ve hired the Iraqi Information Minster to do their press releases. 😀

    1. Gotta love the conflicting statements too, as per the CNN Article on the issue:

      ‘”Fourteen hundred military police trained soldiers will be arriving every day — 1,400 today, 1,400 tomorrow and 1,400 the next day,” he said.

      “Frankly, what we’re doing is we are putting probably more than we need in order to send an unambiguous message that we will not tolerate lawlessness or violence or interference with the evacuation.”

      Yet, the first contingent of those promised military police were not scheduled to arrive until late Thursday night — and only 100 Guard members would be in that first wave, according to Pentagon officials. Pressed about the other 1,300 promised troops, officials would only say that they were on the way.

      Police were reduced to looting ammunition from stores themselves, to keep it off the streets.’

    2. All this Disputing is strange. I heard yesterday Michael Savage of all people saying that the national guard and military are not there, a fact disputed by the one bastion of actual internet connectivity in New Orleans right now, http://interdictor.livejournal.com/

      I guess he can’t see the Marine trucks from San Francisco though.

      1. CNN already picked up on that as well – note the reply I made to my own post, and I linked to Interdictor about a day or two before CNN actually mentioned the looters. As I said, it’s like the Iraqi Information Minister’s running the press releases for FEMA and various agencies now – Michael Brown went on to blame the hurricane victims for their predicament, and when confronted with comments indicating most of these people either didn’t have cars or gas to flee with (remember – buses and trains were shut down before the mandatory evac was ordered) stated he wasn’t blaming anyone. That and the CNN link about the Army Corps of Engineers was interesting, as were the comments about how they were trying to avoid killing rescuers by moving them in too soon due to hurricane conditions, even though the hurricane winds and similar have been clear of the disaster area for over two days now… and they’re evacuating people by bus, though apparently they can’t drive trucks full of supplies or guards into the area.

        As I said, the responses are sad but not unexpected. In the meantime, the Non-Government Organizations are stepping in, somewhat, to fill in where the other agencies are having problems moving.

        1. I think I commented on the people who lack cars, etc before (and how that whole claim was mildly overblown.)

          Interdictor has some more information today of the things you’re talking about. Some areas he’s seen have lots of people, but no buses stopping for them yet. The other problem is the National Guard is just utterly spooked about the whole thing and are panicking whenever someone starts to come near them. This is causing problems with dropping the supplies with some of them getting damaged. I guess that happens when you get violent looters shooting at guard helicopters and police.

  6. You know what pisses me off about the letter?

    The rationalization. Look, you want to not care, fine. You want to be stingy, okay. You want to criticize the government for screwing things up, sure. You want to show disdain to people who need help, hey, who am I to stop you?

    But to just think up of reasons to why your point of your view obviously so much better than anyone else, and then imply that people who feel otherwise and who are helping are boobies or suckers or tools or whatever, well….

    God, what a piece of work.

  7. People have a lot of different reactions to tragedy; at a basic, gut level, I don’t think any of these reactions are ‘evil.’ This person’s response is ‘getting upset’ – along the lines of ‘this should have been a solved problem, damn it!’ That’s a perfectly natural and ethical response.

    What’s problematic is that those basic responses get shaped into actions and considered beliefs based on what we already know and believe, and all of us can find ourselves in situations where they all combine so that, without a lot of care, we find ourselves thinking and doing pretty terrible things.

    I’m not sure that this fellow is ‘evil’ in a way more diabolical than most people, just in a way that is pretty uncommon right this second.

  8. He does say he could only spare a pitiful amount. Without getting into the rightness of not giving his two coppers, he is right that at every stage the government has mishandled this hurricane.

    Civil Engineers said the levees should have been stronger. The maintenence budget for those same levees has been cut, repeatedly, while we spend billions on bush’s revenge.

    Most importantly, the national guard and the red cross and all the other aid organizations should have been activated and on site BEFORE the hurricane. I don’t know how you can see a disaster like this coming and NOT get the guard to organize and assist in evacuation. Did some politician say to themselves “well, lets see how bad it is before we do anything expensive like move units from across the country.”

    It’s that kind of playing politics with lives that hurts us more than an individual who believes that paying his taxes is enough support for disaster victims. If the government of a wealthy or poor nation cannot care for it’s citizens in a disaster or in everyday poverty, change the government. Government should not be a seperate entity, it’s meant to be an extenstion of the people. Vote hard, vote smart, and punish the shortsighted with unemployment. [/screed]

    1. I’ve heard this line repeated over and over again. The line from the other side is that New Orleans has been receiving federal funds for years to work on these levees, The city has been rerouting the funds to a slushfund mostly used to fund populist and welfare causes to get them re-elected.

      The most enlightening thing about strengthening the levees, is that the ones that collapsed were the ones most recently rebuilt and strengthened. This leads me to believe that the city choose shoddy contractors when they decided to do maintenance on these things.

    2. Most importantly, the national guard and the red cross and all the other aid organizations should have been activated and on site BEFORE the hurricane.

      Before the hurricane hit the area?

      I’m sorry, but that sounds oddly… unwise.

      Did you also know that commands along the Gulf Coast have been busy moving vehicles and equipment further inland and only started moving them back as the storm dissipated? Care to guess why? Hint: something about them knowing what they’re doing and not wanting to lose said vehicles and equipment.

      Get a grip, or at least try to look a few things up before pounding your fist and demanding why things aren’t fixed instantly. “Move them onsite before the hurricane” indeed.

      1. You are aware, of course, that it’s so many days later and some guard units are only now (or yesterday) arriving to help, right? Yes, ON on site, in NO, would have been a bad place to be. But why weren’t they ready to go in as soon as the storm dissipated?

        All I’m saying is that hurricanes are emphatically NOT surprises. Most of our resources should have been geared up and waiting for the winds to drop. Not, say, on vacation until two days later.

  9. OK, before starting, let me throw out a bit of a disclaimer by mentioning that I am in China on a business trip and have only seen some of what CNN has felt is worth showing (not saying anything against CNN, only that I only have one source of information that I am using)

    1. I don’t think that I agree that the letter writer is EVIL, wrong definitly, a few other adjitives I could probably come up with surely, but as I would define evil (a person who intentionally inflicts harm or pain on others for his own enjoyment) I don’t think he fits. I would put him more in the catagory of those who watch crimes from their window and feel that they don’t need/want to do anything because it’s too much trouble. (not the ones who are afraid, just the ones who don’t really care).

    2. Much of the miscommunications, conflicting reports, etc… are to be expected… any operation of this size will have lots of conflicting information and many of these will be reported. (think fog of war). Not excusing any of the reports, just saying I expect them.

    3. I agree with some of the reporters and local mayors (don’t remember who) that said, stop the news conferences until the help actually arrives. saying that things are great because they have started sending help is just plain political BS, nothing will be great for a long time there. OTOH, politicians should not be expected to behaive like human beings… so these comments should be expected, they don’t hurt anything other than their own reputation and we should just keep these in mind when re-ellection time comes up, whichever side you are on. (which we as citizens don’t seem to be able to do anyway, but that’s a different rant).

    4. Getting the National Guard going takes a declaration of emergency, and some idea as to what will be needed. I agree that we should have done more prepreation for this, however to be fair, most citizens don’t even do anything to prepare themselves against emergencies. How many people that you know have food stocked for more than a day or two (LDS members excepted). I think that they did call them in as soon as they figgured that they were needed, just not when they figgured they “might” be needed. As for who missed the call, we will have to wait. Was this suggested and turned down, or just forgotten.

    5. The BIGGEST problem that I have heard here was the local authorities holding back help when people started shooting at them. Personally I think that if they ever find the person (people) who was shooting they should just release them with a sign on their chest (“Hurricane Sniper”) down burbon street and remove all of the police. but sureley there was a swat team, or just a bunch of hunters that could be sent in to guard the evacuation? did we really have to stop SAR activities just because of one person with a rifle? Ok, no one should be forced to go into that situation other than police and military personall, but I would gaurentee that few if any of the rescue workers would have willingly stopped. I believe that this was a case of people trying to protect other people too much, our job as humans should be less protection of others, and more assistance when needed, no matter what the cost.

    I believe that had they continued loading the busses/helicopters even against one or two snipers (and I really doubt there was more than one derranged person there, this was not a robbery attempt, just a really mad or crady person) the rest of the public would have taken care of the sniper on their own.

    I heard a story about a group of slavation army people who were going in to rescue 200-400 people trapped in a salvation army building. appearently they had all the right equipment, boats, etc… but were turned back by the local authorities saying it was too dangerous. IMHO it is the resuers that should be making that decision, if they wanted to go downtown, either let them go after informing them of the situation, or better, find a few people to go with them. But don’t stand in their way! We don’t have to have national guard people to be guards, there are one or two other people with guns in the south east US. OK, troops are better, just not the only option. (Not suggesting vigilanti-ism, just providing deterrent against crazy people)

  10. I have only one comment about your reply, and that’s specifically about the following phrase: It’s not your job to punish the government…

    Not entirely accurate. But the way to “punish” the government (or its current incarnation) is by voting the deserving parties out – and that’s the duty of any citizen who sees the current office-holders doing something the individual voter disagrees with.

    Withholding disaster relief donations is not necessarily evil (though it can be), but it’s also not going to affect those in office one way or another. It’s certainly misguided, if punishing the responsible officials is his honest motivation – equivalent to swatting the family cat for the pile the dog left in the middle of the living-room floor.

    If it’s just an excuse not to donate, however, the fellow seriously needs to either devote more time to coming up with cover stories not so obviously flawed, or just go ahead and come out with his real reasons. Or maybe just not bring the issue up at all.

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