1.21.10 Editor’s Desk

By : Steve Blanchard
Comments: 0

SteveBlanchardHeadshotSeveral weeks ago while I was leaving a nearby Wal-Mart, several men in Army fatigues stopped me. The young men explained they were collecting donations to assist disabled veterans of foreign wars. The money, they said, would go to providing medical care and other assistance to the men and women wounded while defending our country.

Before I dropped a dollar or two in the bucket, I hate to admit that I hesitated a little bit. My first reaction was, “Why should I donate to an organization that still discriminates against gay and lesbian people serving openly in the Army? Until Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is revoked, I should keep my money in my pocket or donate it to a more worthy charity.”

But after assessing those gut instincts, I gave my heart a moment to consider the situation. Why should I punish a group of people who endangered their own lives to protect the rights that I do have in this country?

While it wasn’t much, the small amount of cash I was able to hand over will go to a worthy cause, and I’m happy I contributed.

I bring this up because of the relief efforts underway to assist in the aftermath of the massive Haitian earthquake. The huge quake killed more than 100,000 people and has motivated people from around the world to give to people we’ve never met.

It’s a heartwarming story of human generosity during disastrous times.

Unfortunately, as has happened with past calamities, talking heads are turning the disaster into religious and political propaganda.

While I realize not every reader of ours is a left-leaning Democrat, I would expect that anyone who uses a catastrophic natural disaster to stir the pot of politics would be viewed negatively.

Mouthpieces for the right-wing contingent of America have every right to share their thoughts on their respective programs. Rarely, I will agree with a statement or two from Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh. Other times, I simply ignore their asinine comments and move about my daily life.

But recent comments from both of them concerning the earthquake are disappointing. Robertson used his 700 Club to “inform” viewers that the small nation essentially asked for the destructive earthquake because of a “pact with the devil” it made in the 1700s. Robertson referred to an old folk tale about the Haitians’ desire to free themselves from the French by making the pact.

Limbaugh, on the other hand, didn’t blame the massive earthquake on some silly legend. Instead, he immediately capitalized on the disaster as a way to attack Barack Obama, telling listeners that donating to the Haitian relief effort through the White House web site would be a mistake because the money wouldn’t be used properly.

He says that Obama is going to use the calamity to “boost credibility with the light-skinned and dark-skinned black community.” He also criticized Obama for politicizing the disaster. If by politicizing he means rallying former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to offer relief, I guess he was right.

My point is this: People need assistance and regardless of our political affiliation, sexual orientation or religious upbringing, we have a natural calling to help.

I researched Haiti to see where the nation stood on LGBT rights. In the mid-1980s Haiti passed a law that decriminalized homosexuality and kept sexual relations as a “private matter” between consenting adults. However, gays cannot get married there and civil unions aren’t an option. But that doesn’t mean the people there don’t need our help. Several millions of dollars have been raised in the relief effort and local groups in Orlando, Tampa Bay, Daytona and South Florida are rallying communities to continue with assistance.

We as Americans—and as LGBTs—have a history of giving generously to causes in which we believe. This is such a cause. We may not see Haiti as a “gay getaway” or a nation with an incredible record on human rights, but it’s a country of people who need our help.

For more information on donation efforts, visit Watermark’s list of LGBT-specific ways to help.

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