Americans are famously, almost ludicrously, unstingy. We not only empty our cupboards to help out other people, we go into debt to be helpful. It was a dead bang certainty that we would be unstingy this time also.In subsequent days, the administration ratcheted up it's pledges of support like an auctioneer. But it didn't stop there, by any means:
But the charge of stinginess (compounded by a Washington Post story that President Bush had been negligent in not rushing to a television camera to emote for the world on the loss) drove the president and his staff to acts of extreme contrition not seen since Henry II of England submitted himself barefoot and shirtless to the lashes of the monks of Canterbury Cathedral for ordering the murder of Thomas a Becket.
Then the president sent his brother, Governor Jeb Bush, and his secretary of state, Colin Powell, to pay their respects. Then he upped the ante and called on two former presidents, his father and Bill Clinton, to rally the country -- despite the fact that the country seemed to be rallying itself rather magnificently. Private American giving looks to surpass the collective offerings of the European Union and the Arab Gulf states.The American public comes through because we are a generous people. We know that we're blessed, and want to lessen the suffering of others. But to expect some sort of payback in the form of goodwill is misguided, to say the least.
Yesterday, Colin Powell, on the scene in Indonesia, touted American involvement in that almost entirely Muslim nation by saying:
We are doing it regardless of religion, but I think it does give the Muslim world -- and the rest of the world -- an opportunity to see American generosity, American values in action, where we care about the dignity of every individual and the worth of every individual.Fat chance that the world will suddenly recant of their incessant America-bashing.
Tsunami aid is certainly a worthy cause, but it is the height of naivete to think that this will somehow buy us goodwill anywhere in the world, let alone the Muslim world. It won't.
The president should get off this deranged merry-go-round. Money will not buy him -- or us -- love. He and America should give according to the voice of our conscience -- not in order to try to win a compassion competition.There's no need to tapdance for the approval of the world. It won't come and we don't need it. We'll help the Muslims who've been affected with little significant help from the rest of the world, and then they'll go back to hating us same as before.
It was inevitable that we would do all in our power to save lives, bring in emergency food, water, medicine and shelter. No other country is able to do it, and few other countries would be motivated to do so. But virtue is its own reward. Those around the world (and here at home) who hate, fear or envy the United States will never love us for our good deeds. So be it.
And we'll know we did the right thing simply because it was the right thing.