It’s the holiday season, so I’m going to write about the politics of generosity. First, I want to mention how the U.S. rushed in to help in the aftermath of the killer typhoon that struck the Philippines last month.
Despite what the Blame America First crowd says, the U.S. is a kind and generous nation when disaster strikes anywhere in the world. Our humanitarian actions following Super Typhoon Halyan serve as the latest example of how we — our government and private organizations — respond to natural disasters.
Respected Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum issued a warning to our critics: “U.S. strength may be waning, U.S. status may be fading ... but when America is no longer a superpower, you’ll be sorry it’s gone,” she wrote. Who else has the power and resources the U.S. can provide in an emergency?
When Halyan struck the Philippines last month, killing at least 10,000 people and injuring many more, the U.S. government and military mobilized to provide relief. The U.S. sent several warships, including an aircraft carrier and hospital ships, to the hardest-hit areas and pledged $20 million in emergency aid. Millions more are being raised by private charities in the U.S. The British sent a warship and pledged $16 million, and the Vatican promised $4 million to the largely Catholic country.
But what about China, a country with a booming economy that aspires to a leadership role in Southeast Asia? China pledged $100,000 to its neighbor. “There are politics behind China’s stinginess,” Ms. Applebaum wrote. “China recently made claims on Philippine territory ... (and) the Philippine government responded by inviting the U.S. Navy to reopen some bases it closed in the 1990s.”
“These differing responses to the typhoon also signify a different set of attitudes toward power,” Ms. Applebaum added. “Americans and Europeans have long believed that strength and wealth entail responsibility, and that’s why two former U.S. presidents (Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) voluntarily coordinated the international response to the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia.” And that’s why the U.S. has pledged $1.16 billion in humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees, while China is offering $3 million, less than Luxembourg.
I’d like to hear from those who blame the U.S. for everything bad that happens anywhere in the world. How do they explain our generosity in times of crisis?
And because I’m writing about holiday season generosity, I want to recognize local organizations that help the less fortunate without spending our tax dollars — non-governmental organizations such as Friends in Service Helping and the Salvation Army. I attended a Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Salvation Army last Tuesday and learned how the “Army” is helping those in need.
“The need from individuals in our community has tripled over the last three years,” said Lt. Mark Cyr, the co-pastor. The Army has provided services to 5,601 households representing more than 17,000 individuals in 2013, he reported.
Meanwhile, F.I.S.H. continues to offer a wide variety of social services in the Carson area, ranging from food and lodging assistance to free medical care by Dr. Rex Baggett and a team of dedicated volunteers at the organization’s Ross Medical Clinic. F.I.S.H. served more than 200,000 meals last year and provided medical services to nearly 1,000 people. Kudos to them and others who devote their time and talents to the less fortunate in our community, and around the world.
Guy W. Farmer is a 51-year resident of Carson City.