Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Haiti: Have It Your Way.

There are three types of people.

Don't believe anything you've read before. Ever. This is how it breaks down.

First, there are people who don't give a rat's ass. Or any other part of the rat, for that matter. They're especially selfish with rat spleens, which, to be fair, are delicious with a little barbecue sauce.

Self-absorbed, self-sufficient. This group tells Haiti that building their capital city on a faultline was arguably the dumbest decision in history (with the possible exception of giving Flavor Flav his own reality show). They also say things like "God hates French" and have bumper stickers that read "Obama: Not MY president." Reality check: if you live in America, Obama IS your president. Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, whether you think he's a god or the Antichrist, whether you think beef stroganoff is a food or a herd of masturbating cattle, we don't get to pick who our president is after they've been elected.

Your only options are to deal with it or to pull a Peter Griffin and secede. Or go hunting with Dick Cheney and hope for the worst.

Second, there's a large group of people that sends a check to the Red Cross. Members of this group have three books of "First Class Forever" stamps in their gloveboxes. Their hearts are bigger than their work boots. Actually, they probably don't own a pair. Sorry, ladies, but Gucci Pratos don't count. This group might look for the easiest way to help, but who says easy can't be effective? (Just ask a hooker.) Case in point: U.S. cellphone users have already donated almost $10 million to the American Red Cross via text message in the Haiti earthquake aftermath.

Kids, if you're ever caught texting in class, you now have a killer excuse.

Third, there is a small group of people who are the hands and feet of relief efforts. It's crazy to me to think of being 'on call' for the Red Cross or a similar organization, ready to drop everything at a moment's notice to place oneself in harm's way. Why? Because somebody, somewhere, is suffering.

In case you're wondering, I belong to Grupo Numero Dos.

Yes, I studied Spanish in college. Want to learn a cool phrase? Try this: "Jon Davidson es asombroso. Compre su nuevo álbum." Teach it to all your friends!

Growing up, I thought 'manual labor' was the work involved in changing gears in a stick shift. Since the Haiti earthquake, I, along with Russell Stafford (who I play most of my acoustic shows with), have donated all the proceeds from ticket, album, and merch sales at my shows to the American Red Cross. I'm happy to say we've raised several thousand dollars, but that's just a drop in a Carnie Wilson-sized bucket.

What is an injured, starving Haitian going to do with a dollar bill? Stores are closed, damaged, looted. Dollar bills are low in nutrients, and you can't live off of the blow they invariably contain for all that long.

I would love to be in group 3.

Maybe someday, I keep telling myself. Maybe when the next uber-disaster rolls around. Right now, I have too much on my proverbial plate, and bigger, more accomodating proverbial plates are hard to come by.

I think of the fact that I don't have any formal training in medicine or disaster response, and that my tetanus shot is as out of date as Beyonce's dress at this year's Grammys. I tell myself that I would just be 'in the way'.

I weigh 170 man-pounds. Who or what exactly would I be getting in the way of?

In the case of Haiti, all the money in Halliburton's Cayman Islands account wouldn't make a difference if there was nobody available to administer supplies, to pass out food, to keep order, to give medical care.

Membership in group 3 is coveted, revered. It's more NBA All-Star, less Pro Bowl. It seems to be the most tangible, hands-on way to bring help to the helpless. However, just as there can be no group 2 without a group 3, there can be no group 3 without a group 2. You group 2-timers know who you are. Have you texted "HAITI" to your cellphone provider? Have you rounded off to the nearest dollar at the supermarket? If so, I commend you. If I were wearing a hat, I would tip it. If I were wearing a dress, there's a small chance I'd even curtsey if you asked nicely.

When you're giving, the way that you give becomes almost irrelevant. Don't feel like you're doing less with a cellphone than someone else is doing with a stethoscope and a bag of blood. We may have taken the easy road, but our job is important, too.

The media uproar that arose about cruise ships docking just miles from the Port-au-Prince devastation was completely unwarranted. First of all, the island clearly needs money, and not in the hands of its corrupt government. Tourism provides this. Second, I'd bet my appendix on the fact that most, if not all, of the members of the media that blew this story out of proportion aren't spending their entire day doing something for Haiti.

Really? You boxed up your leftover Triple Bypass..I mean, Triple Big Mac..and airmailed it? You wiped with Red Cross toilet paper? You're skipping the Super Bowl to donate blood? You flew down, snatched up ten Haitian kids, and tried to bring them back?

OK, not funny. And also illegal.

WWJK? Who would Jesus kidnap?

According to a Jan. 27 news report, the Haitian earthquake caused an estimated 250,000 fatalities, and disease, starvation and a lack of medical care will push the death toll even higher.

This means that over 84 times as many people died in Haiti than did in 9/11. Imagine 84 9/11 attacks merged into one cataclysm and you'll get a picture of the suffering and loss that has taken place.


250,000. Most in mass graves.

9/11 was a terrible tragedy, to be sure, and I don't make this comparison to turn it into some inopportune yet minor contretemps. Obviously it wasn't a natural disaster but rather an event caused by humanity, which places it in a different category altogether. However, I'm just trying to enumerate what's taken place in Haiti in a tangible way.

Just because this tragedy is slowly fading from our collective consciousness doesn't mean that all the problems have been solved, needs have been met, or even that all the bodies have been found.

It's been heartwarming to see the generosity of fans at our Red Cross benefit shows who have given and given to help people they've never met. America as a nation has definitely made mistakes, from foreign policy to internal affairs. But let's not overlook the incredible magnanimity of its citizens.

I encourage you to get involved in the way that is best for you. Go to Haiti and help if you can. Or, go donate blood. Or money. Or clothes and goods. Text "HAITI".

The important thing is that you do something. People are counting on you.