God, Haiti, and the Americans. Observations.
What has become a grim fascination for us, is the terrible catastrophe in Haiti, seen through American eyes. I wanted to do a small stand alone piece to address this in the midst of our travelogue. CNN’s coverage is extremely timely, in-depth, if not a little repetitive. The American networks also have a curious habit of cutting to ads not only relentlessly often, but also just prior to returning to the Larry King show for him to peer over his spectacles and simply say, “Good night.” Can’t the ads wait until he’s said good night? Or is it so they can cut to yet another load of ads? Other fascinations include the amount of ads offering drugs, whilst calmly saying WARNING! Side effects may include DEATH! To be fair, there is also a swathe of ads for lawyers, urging us to call 1-800 BAD DRUG, so I suppose it’s equal opportunity. In fact, on American TV, there seem to be cures for diseases I’ve never heard of. There are also many ads for Churches, which just borderline on the offensive to me, springboarding off the Haiti tragedy to aid recruitment, but perhaps that’s a cultural thing. As a Brit, I am stunned at the sheer number of clearly wealthy churches here in the Bible Belt, all with full car parks. Lil’ old English vicars would (dare I say it?) sell their soul for these buildings and congregations!
This brings me to the thorny issue of God. No-one in the Haiti television coverage has a bad word to say about the guy. A woman saved after being trapped in a void in a collapsed market thinks she’s alive because of God. No, missus, you’re alive because of an Icelandic rescue team. You wanna talk to God about dropping the building on yo’ ass. This is the same God who saw fit to destroy the prison and spare all but 4 of the 4,500 inmates, who are now amongst the homeless and innocent. Nice one, God – suffer the little children and all that. I suppose it was too much to ask that you direct the epicentre over the terrorist camp in the Yemen? …what? Have faith? Yeah.
Don’t get me wrong, I am full of admiration for people who use their faith to give them strength to go down there and help those people, not just after the quake, but the tireless work they do in the orphanages, etc for many years before. I truly admire and applaud them. But I would seriously want to have a strong word with a God that has heaped such misery time after time on this battered nation of Haiti. They crawl out, over the dead bodies of their Mothers and children, and they thank him. I will never, ever understand this.
I also want to address the use of emotive music on CNN. This seems to be a very American thing to do. They come dangerously close to turning international catastrophe into The Bold and the Beautiful. News is information. It is not entertainment. If it was meant to be entertainment, the BBC News would have put “Drive” by The Cars as the musical backdrop to Michael Buerk’s stunning report on the Ethiopian famine, instead of waiting for the Live Aid concert to do so. I just feel that in their desire to ‘wring the emotion” out of this story, they cross the line, and leave me feeling a little uncomfortable, but once again, I guess it’s a cultural thing.
Watching the news tonight, I was shocked to see a number of Haitians complaining that the biscuits being handed out were ‘out of date’, unhelpfully shouting this at the crowd, causing them to drop the biscuits and the UN truck to leave. I had a series of conflicting emotions. Firstly, if I’d been stuck in rubble for 72 hours with no food and water, I’d eat a scabby dog, and secondly, how about a little bit of gratitude for the people who brought the biscuits to you? But perhaps, on reflection it just shows just what an uneducated underclass form a large part of the population, and just how much work will be needed there to really rebuild and re-educate that poor country from the ground up. If it’s not a majority, then the loudmouthed bullying minority need to be silenced by the UN forces so that the poor and the weak get the food they need.
I want to say a word about President Obama also. When he came out to address the people following the Earthquake. Miki and I were stunned at his eloquence, passion and determination. Seemingly speaking with no notes, he was strong, decisive and clear. What a great leader you have.
Now, on a daily basis, we have found (something I already knew but wanted Miki to experience) that Americans are friendly, outgoing and genuine. It is a pleasure to walk into a restaurant, or an IHOP and interact with people who have a smile on their face. This skill in the service industry is sadly lacking in Spain, and to a lesser extent in the UK. I also have two burning questions:
Can you, or can you not, turn right on a red light in the U.S.A?????
And who the hell would christen anybody Wolf Blitzer???