Turn on any news channel and images of the Haiti disaster flood the screen. Destroyed buildings and fires serve as the backdrop for the human misery of countless refugees and families mourning loved ones.
In the aftermath of the quake, the world turns to the United States almost immediately, expecting us to lead the relief efforts. That is always the case. Americans are called upon to help, whether it is starvation in Africa or a tsunami in Asia.
We are expected to forget how much the world complains about American military might, except when that military is swiftly on the scene of a crisis. We are expected to forget how many in the world hate us because we have so much, except when they need some of that plenty.
The natural reaction is to just say no. Sorry, America doesn’t have the resources. Our politicians in both parties have spent us into perpetual debt. Our nation is fighting two wars abroad and trying to secure our borders against the insidious threat of terror. Our 10 percent unemployed would be right in questioning the expense of such aid. The additional 7 percent of our population that has given up any hope of even finding a job would be right to wonder why we are helping abroad and not doing the same here at home.
All of those are wonderful points. And we should dwell on them just long enough to roll up our sleeves and lend a mighty hand.
Why? Because it is simply the right thing to do. Some things in life are clear. This is one of them. People need immediate help and we must be there for them.
Haiti seems far away. It rarely makes the news except in bad ways because it is a tiny nation often beset by violence. In truth, it is a close neighbor, nestled in a spot between the tip of Florida and Puerto Rico. While only 9 million people live in Haiti, another 500,000 people of Haitian descent live here in America. That’s not exactly equal to the Irish diaspora in America, but there are more ties than many people realize. And that, as a wise woman once said, is the "spoonful of sugar" to make the medicine go down. It’s a rationalization to make us feel better the next time the world complains about a meddling America.
But it’s only a rationalization. It’s not really needed. We’re Americans. When our neighbors are in trouble, we help them. We don’t fret over whether we have time, we give the time. We don’t check our wallets to see what’s in there, we give. We don't check and see if it's safe, we run toward those in danger.
It is the spirit that sent American soldiers to free Europe in World War II. It is the spirit that sent police officers and firefighters into burning buildings on 9-11. It is an essential piece of the American Dream.
Outsiders criticize our drive to succeed, to earn. But they forget that money is never an end in itself. It’s merely a means to an end. Our ancestors came here to build a nation, but many wanted to earn enough to leave something special behind for their children.
It is the same with our nation. Who knows how long America will grace the globe. But whether it’s another hundred years or another thousand, we should make sure that we leave something special behind. Not just our belief in democracy or our many freedoms. But that in a crisis – whether a war or a disaster – Americans were willing to forget their differences and help those in need.
This is especially important for conservatives. We know we can’t save everyone in the world. There are 6.7 billion mouths to feed and 6.4 billion of those live somewhere else. We don’t have the resources to feed and clothe and care for everyone.
That is true. But it’s an argument for another day. Today, our neighbors are hurt, homeless and desperate. And we will set aside those arguments and do our best to help.
Because that’s what Americans do.
Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. His column appears each week on The Fox Forum and he can be seen on Foxnews.com’s “Strategy Room.” He can also be contacted on FaceBook and Twitter as dangainor.