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Rush to help Haiti reveals ugly juxtaposition

When it comes down to the angels versus Rush Limbaugh, you always wantto be on the side of the angels. But you also have to wonder about theangels.

Rush Limbaugh is an appalling person.


In the wake of the Haiti earthquake, he responded to U.S. President Barack Obama’s plea for donations by advising his radio audience not to respond: “We’ve already donated. It’s called the U.S. income tax.”


When it comes down to the angels versus Rush Limbaugh, you always want to be on the side of the angels. But you also have to wonder about the angels.


With the best of intentions, the angels (including all the minor deities: Celebrities, the media, well-meaning politicos and, above all, Bono) are contributing to disaster fatigue.


Case in point: Did you watch the Golden Globes Sunday? A parade of (literally) overexposed starlets took to the stage, each wearing a ribbon to express solidarity with the people of Haiti, along with hundreds of thousands of dollars in gowns, jewels and boob jobs, each solemnly encouraging me to give, apparently unaware of the unattractive juxtaposition.


Point Two. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, various celebrity journalists wandered around the devastation that was once Port-Au-Prince, poking cameras into the faces of dazed survivors, lamenting the devastation. Not one hair out of place. I kept waiting for one of them to put the damn mike down, roll up designer sleeves, and get to work. Or at least give someone a drink of water.


I’m not done yet: This Friday, various superstars will get together and stage a good old-fashioned telethon, thanks to the noble efforts of George Clooney. More jewels and gowns for disaster. Right after the show, you’ll be able to download the tunes, with all the proceeds going to Haiti. Please ignore the subtle undercurrent of exploitation.


Meanwhile, rescue forces haven’t even tallied up all the dead, while they have to cope with aftershocks, looters, disease and unimaginable deprivation.


I’m not sure how much of this is helping and how much of it is marketing. Haven’t we learned anything about nature’s capacity to kick the poor of the world in the teeth, and can’t we get there with food, water and rescue faster? Why does it always seem that the governments of the world have been taken by surprise, and it’s up to you and me to bail them out? Isn’t it time to change the script?


I realize Haiti needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, but I wonder if we could do with fewer gowns and jewels and more forethought and effective response.


And if that makes me more like Rush Limbaugh and less like Bono, I guess I’ll have to live with it.