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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Government And Tsunami Relief

On December 26, 2004, more than 150,000 people lost their lives victims of a tsunami that devastated the shores of Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, and other countries with waves of up to forty-five feet tall. Since then, governments, businesses, and citizens of the world have been urged to do something to alleviate such devastation. As of last Monday, the U.S. government’s contribution to help the victims of the tsunami stood at more than $350 million. However, is the U.S. government doing the right thing by dedicating this money to such a cause? What are the pros and cons that this initiative will have in the government itself and society? This paper will try to answer those concerns.
Government Pros
By pledging an assistance of $350 million to aid the tsunami victims, the U.S. government consolidates its role as one the most powerful entities on earth. Moreover, the mere act of helping people who live outside the boundaries of the United States washes out the preconceived image of a country only concerned with expanding its borders by military power. In a recent interview on ABC television, President Bush said: “the U.S. relief efforts will fix the U.S. image abroad.” Taking into account that a majority of Americans and most citizens of the world are getting tired of the war on terror, the money America is sending to help the tsunami victims may become the best ambassador of a government needing drastic reconstructive surgery. Hopefully, words like “bombing” and terms like “collateral damage” may be substituted by more useful ones like “charity” and “service.”

Government Cons
Although the government is acting in good faith, the decision to send money to the victims of the tsunami may have some drawbacks. There are those who think that the government is simply making a mistake by aiding the tsunami victims. Why? Because the money is not the government’s to give. Every penny the government is sending to countries like Sri Lanka and India comes from the pockets of faithful American taxpayers. Many Americans are asking themselves; by what right does the government take our hard-earned money and give it away? Even though the money is for a good cause, many believe the government should ask the taxpayers before taking any action. A large number of Americans are concerned with the fact that by ignoring their voice, the government shows a clear disregard for its own citizens. They believe that American citizens should have the right to decide whether they want to send their money to aid the tsunami victims or not.
Society Pros
More than two million tsunami victims in need of food and shelter depend on the donations of foreign governments, private businesses, and individual citizens to survive. The world has donated so far more than $4 billion to help the tsunami survivors in an unprecedented act of charity that speaks volumes. By sending money to help those in need, the U.S. government, along with other governments, is encouraging the citizens of the world to become more aware of the need to help those who suffer. The world lost more than 150,000 souls to the furious waves of the sea; nevertheless, each one of us may have gained something of extreme value. We have gained the notion of fully understanding our duty as part of a big family where government and society’s finest attributes are needed to survive.
Society Cons
Sadly, sometimes we need a part of society to suffer before any action is taken. A big disaster, like the tsunami, must occur for governments in particular, and society in general, to take action. A couple being literally swallowed by the sea on national TV is an image powerful enough to trigger the alarm. It is only then that we decide to help. Sadly enough, the image of children dying of starvation in the villages of Africa has become part of our daily life routine. These children also deserve the attention of powerful governments. They also deserve the money of large corporations. Currently, these children are not getting the help they need to stop their suffering. We let them die just because their cries were not silenced by a massive tidal wave, but by our negligence to accept their suffering as a major social and governmental problem. This is the biggest sin of society and the shame of all governments.
In summary, the government of the United States is making a mistake by not asking its citizens in a referendum whether their hard-earned money should be used to aid the tsunami victims. By doing so, the government would not only be gaining the respect of its citizens, but also it would awake a sense of self-involvement in each American household. Being part of society means more than just titles or nationalities; we are all part of a big family that has forgotten its roots. Our self-centered daily lives prevent us from becoming parts of a natural environment that connect us, in an intrinsic way, to every other human being on this planet. When people, whose lives could have been prevented from being lost, die, part of us, our governments, and our society dies with them. Governments should become more sensitive to the needs of society by overcoming the tidal waves of injustice.

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