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How to feel January 25, 2010

Posted by markgeil in The words of others far more wise than I.
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Not unexpectedly, Haiti is still on the mind today. I’m listening to my iTunes download of the Hope for Haiti Now telethon and wondering again how to feel.

We had a discussion over dinner the other night about the dilemma facing the Royal Caribbean cruise line, which includes Haiti among its ports-of-call. Should opulent cruise ships continue to dock in Haiti? I think the pros and cons faced by the cruise line – strikes too great a contrast against the suffering, but does pump money into the economy – are less subtle than those faced by the passengers on the boats themselves. We struggled to decide if we would want our cruise to stop in Haiti now. Does that seem terribly petty? Essentially, that’s saying, “While I’m on vacation I don’t want to think about non-vacation stuff, whether it’s my to-do list at work or massive natural disasters.” I’ll never quite comprehend when we should pause from thinking about poverty and suffering. I know we have to. I just don’t know when.

I think we finally decided we would want to stop in Haiti, and we’d want to buy every cheesy little local souvenir we could find. Stimulate the local economic engine in even a small way, as it were.

My conflicted emotions resurfaced during the telethon, with its stories of despair alongside stories of miracles and its brilliant music. Alicia Keys opened and set the tone quite well. The next act was Coldplay. I saw them, then got a little excited because I like the band, then chastised myself for getting excited during an event like that one. Eventually, I gave in to the music and quit doubting my reaction. I swayed with Stevie Wonder and Madonna and wondered why I never knew that Justin Timberlake could play piano and just knew that Jennifer Hudson would flat out wail at the end of Let it Be.

The next day I read an excerpt in Time from a book by Amy Wilentz, a journalist at UC Irvine, and I finally saw eloquent words expressing my exercise in discontent.

While it has had its precious rewards, following Haiti over the past quarter-century has also been an exercise in impotence, like watching a car speeding toward detritus on a highway while you’re at the window of a skyscraper 20 floors above. The car skids over the obstacle and crashes into the median and begins to burn, and you’re up there sipping Perrier in your yoga clothes and thinking you should call 911.

Regardless of our station, we do “call 911”, and it is that small step of action that builds redemption from suffering.

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1. markgeil - January 26, 2010

Here’s a relevant statement from Royal Caribbean:

“There has been debate over our decision to continue our calls on Labadee®. This was not an easy decision to make. Government officials, representatives of the United Nations and even taxi drivers asked us to seriously consider maintaining our visits to Labadee® to ensure the economic stability of this unaffected area of the island. In the end, we focused on the fact that we have been doing business on the island for more than 30 years and we were not going to abandon her in her darkest hour. So we have decided to continue to call on Labadee® as scheduled.

All of our ships calling into Labadee® are transporting much needed supplies to Haiti, amounting to over 120 pallets in the first week alone and more is on the way. Our lounge chairs have even become useful as makeshift hospital beds to help treat the injured. Royal Caribbean® has pledged at least $2 million in humanitarian relief including 100% of the net revenue generated during calls to Labadee®. Additionally, guests onboard our ships will have the ability to donate to Food for the Poor’s Haiti Relief Fund through their onboard accounts if they elect to do so. In response to numerous suggestions regarding guest participation in the recovery efforts, volunteers on some ships calling into Labadee® can join us in assembling backpacks for kids which we will be donating to the local community.”


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