My blog is suffering a similar fate to Haiti; it was destroyed by a force outside itself and nobody seems to want to help me get it fixed. Yes, that’s a petty comparison and it’s probably silly for me to be making it, but it is something that just occurred to me right now that blog is mirroring life. But that’s not what I’m here to write about today.
What I want to write about is a follow-up on a conversation that many of us have been having, on and off the Internet. It’s been just short of nine months since the earthquake destroyed Port-au-Prince. Yes, destroyed. Have you seen the pictures? Have you heard the stories? This is not just a small inconvenience with a couple of houses down the block that got their windows broken out. This is a major catastrophe with literally millions of people displaced, thousands dead, and a majority of the landscape pulverized into rubble. NINE MONTHS LATER people are still living in tents (and mind you when I say “tents” I am not saying the latest and greatest pop-up camper from Erewhon, I’m talking about a sheet or a tarp tied with some strings to the next sheet or tarp, like the “tents” you might’ve made in the kitchen when you were a kid with some chairs and a blanket.
The people of Haiti are expected to go through hurricane season like this. Yet people all over the world poured their hearts out in January and gave money, and many governments promised lots of money to help. The government of the country I currently live in was no exception; Hillary Clinton promised more than a billion dollars for rebuilding the city of Port-au-Prince alone, back in March.
But where’s the money?
Word’s out today that ALL this US$1.15 billion is still sitting on someone’s desk waiting to be freed. Heads should roll, you say. Someone should make this stop, you say. One person should not hold millions of lives hostage, you say. I agree. Who is this person? Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Because he disagrees with one provision of the massive bill, he’s been holding out on this bill, and thus stopping any U.S. aid from getting to Haiti, for NINE MONTHS.
I’m not sure what’s worse, that one person would do this for the sake of procedure when we blow more money on PR for the Senate…or that the REST of the Senate hasn’t made a big deal about this. I didn’t even know about this until today, and I’ve been paying more attention than most people. I was ranting the other day about how Canada held up its own money earlier in the year and how only 18% of all total pledged monies have actually arrived in Haiti so far, but I suppose I should not be surprised that the biggest country in the world is also the biggest hypocrite when it comes to delivering what it promised – all thanks to one Senator’s grandstanding. The infantile behavior of our partisan government here in the U.S. is a totally different subject for another blogger – but here is a place where it is affecting real lives in a way every single person who reads this blog should be able to appreciate, and be furious about.
According to his website today, Senator Coburn is “seek this afternoon to pass a number of bills that have been blocked by the Majority that would address many of the real concerns of the nation.” Among the bills that are listed on the website as the ones he thinks are important to pass, the bill for Haiti’s aid (S3317 – you can learn more about it by clicking here) is not even listed.
Isn’t keeping promises for basic humanitarian aid part of a real concern? If it was England, or Japan, or any of our other staunch allies and economic partners who were promised this aid, would this kind of political stunt even be tolerated? I’m pleased to see that my own Senator, Dick Durbin, not only has worked to get this legislation passed but has gone to Haiti and seen it with his own eyes and cosponsors S3317 – but I’m furious that this is still going on. Senator Coburn is supposedly a medical doctor. His Senate oaths are more important than the one he swore to “do no harm”?
It’s been nine months. How do you sleep at night, Senator Coburn? Or is your new Senate re-election campaign too important to think about people in hurricanes in tents unless they’re in your own state? Oklahoma already has a lousy record of how it treats its indigenous people. What if it was native Americans in tents during tornado season? Is that something you can understand is a serious problem that isn’t worth playing procedure games in the earthquake and hurricane-safe luxury of your Senate hall? Shame on you, and shame on the other ninety-nine for not talking about this loudly enough. Or should I say ninety-eight? Further examination of the Coburn website indicates that the “holding” bill tactic and Coburn’s rationale for using it on things including S3317 is cosigned on a letter to the Senate by none other than Senator John McCain (see the PDF at the bottom!), someone who once spent a significant part of his life in a living condition at least as bad as a tent in a rubble-filled city.
Where’s the media on this one?