Weather Forecast


The haves and the have-nots

I woke up this morning, rolled out of the same bed that I sleep in every night, drank the same two cups of coffee out of the same "World's Best Grandpa" mug that I use every morning, and regarded the day with the same unerring optimism that accompanies the start of every day.

I went to school, came home and watched TV for a few minutes on my way to do homework ... the networks were flashing headlines about an earthquake that had just happened in Haiti. The bodies were already piling -- tens of thousands already counted dead.

"Oh, isn't that terrible?" I told my dad, who was sitting down, and went and did my homework.

As Americans, we tend to look at foreign tragedies with an abstract, indirect sense of tragedy and compassion. After all, they don't tend to affect our lives directly, unless they involve a major oil supplier of course.

We all recognize that what happened in Haiti was a terrible thing. We designate our church offerings to the "World Relief Fund" and include all those poor Haitians in our nighttime prayers, so we can say we did our part.

But we can't let the goings on in some third world nation get us down too much, no use beating ourselves up over something that wasn't our fault, right? Our lives are busy and full and preoccupied with enough domestic chaos. The show must go on.

It's taken me about a week, but the Haiti disaster has taught me some distressing things about general society, which I probably should have known long ago. Although I feel guilty saying that: 200,000 people dead seem like a hefty price to pay for some insight for a teenage boy in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.

First, I am beginning to recognize how nationalistic America is. We're proud to be Americans, as we've been taught all our lives. But the whole concept of dividing the earth into sections, calling them "countries," and then categorizing people based on which "country," which plot of they live on, has always struck me as being more than a little ridiculous.

It's a game of a chess played on a world-wide scale -- and we're the pawns. God made the world united, without borders or boundaries, and it seems presumptuous of people to believe that hundreds of thousands of people dead in a different country -- even an economically insignificant, third world country -- is any less important than if the same thing were to happen on American turf.

There should be no difference between "foreign" and "domestic" policy. Yet, a year from now, the 3,000 or so who died on 9/11 10 years ago will still be remembered by us with more clarity, and with a greater sense of tragedy, than the 200,000 people who will die from the earthquake in Haiti.

Maybe more importantly, I've come to realize through all this that there are only two types of people in this world: the haves and the have-nots.

Haiti is inhabited almost entirely by have-nots. That's why California -- with its expensive earthquake-proof infrastructure -- can survive earthquakes of more than 7.0 on the Richter Scale (what Haiti just had), while the ground need only tremble to take down the shanties and huts and makeshift lean-tos of Haiti.

For the past 300 years, Haiti has been wracked with oppression, suppression, corruption, and every other problem a country can have, coming from the inside as well as out.

Hell is visiting earth on that tiny island in the Atlantic, and if we don't do something to help the situation, it just may stay. The people in Haiti love life have children and families, hopes and dreams -- just like us.

It's up to us to decide if we're willing to change ourselves in response to this Haitian tragedy, as well as the tragedy that has essentially been Haiti for hundreds of years.

Nathan Kitzmann is a junior at Detroit Lakes High School.