Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Natural Response

Terror struck in South Asia with devastating force.

A “tsunami” (Japanese for “harbor wave”) literally wiped out entire generations of people groups in moments. Grasping such a reality is more than I can personally take in.

Nations may wage war against other nations with amazingly destructive power, but the power and force of natural elements makes man’s efforts seem puny. The force of a Mount Saint Helen’s eruption is supposedly a hundred times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945. I have no idea how they measure such things, but it seems reasonable that the force of nature trumps man’s feeble efforts every time.

The United States again has stepped up to assist the world in a disastrous situation. You may wrangle all you like about our president not responding sooner; or not offering more money initially; or how our Gross National Product in giving is so much lower than other nations. All of these are easily explained, though that is not the reason for this article. But for the sake of argument, allow me to address these three challenges before moving on.

1. President Bush took too long to respond – This is not true. What the president was doing was conferring with his cabinet and others who could help him assess the situation accurately, not emotionally. The wheels of American aid were in motion from the moment we heard of the disaster. But who then knew how bad things were?

2. Too little money was offered initially – Based upon what? Probably this criticism came about after it was discovered how much worse the carnage actually was. The first numbers I remember hearing announced were at least ten thousand people dead, and probably many times that. By the hour this number increased exponentially. And two weeks later we still have no idea just how many people were lost, and I suspect we never will. But the U.S. responded, as it always does, by upping the dollar amount to three hundred and fifty million. It will certainly go higher.

3. We give far less per capita than other nations – This is true. But why is it true? Because other nations provide money that comes from the taxes levied on their people. Our government ponies up with significant amounts ($350M+) that are taken from our taxes. But the amount of money that is raised from within the private sector dwarfs what our government offers. Through various agencies and organizations, both secular and sacred, huge amounts of money are received to assist in such crises.

So, are we stingy, as some have suggested? No. What we need to remember is that we always answer the cry for help, even while being roundly criticized. You may be sure that the amount of money and goods we provide in relief will be staggering. And it will be offered with no strings attached.

We would also do well to remember that it is the United States Navy with its battle groups strategically positioned around the globe that ensures open waterways and free transport of trade and commerce. You may not know much about world tensions between nations, but I can assure you that were it not for our muscular Navy, the Persian Gulf would be off limits to free trade. And what do you think would happen between Communist China and Taiwan without our war ships patrolling the seas separating these two enemies? How much do you suppose it costs us as taxpayers to keep those ships deployed so you and I can buy inexpensive items that say, “Made in China”? We’re all glad to see the price of gasoline drop at the pump, but what do you think would happen if we didn’t protect the waters of the Persian Gulf? How much would oil cost from OPEC then? Who pays for all this protection that is enjoyed by the world? As American taxpayers, you and I do.

Stingy? America? That’s laughable. And any person who suggests that we are, specifically the deputy secretary general of the United Nations, is grossly delusional.

A word of caution is needed here. We as a nation are in danger of feeling that we extend the helping hand too much without receiving credit or thanks. Labeled as being stingy, or accused of being responsible for causing the earthquake on the oceans floor that triggered the tsunami, is hurtful. But do not lose heart, my friends!

We would do well to remember what the Bible says about always doing good for others. Paul writes to the church in Galatia, “Let us not become weary in doing good.” Later he adds, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good.”

Americans are not perfect. But Americans are good. Forget the “nay sayers.”

Let’s determine to always do what is good. The world is counting on it.

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