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Thursday, December 30, 2004

Stop the Stingy Debate Already

It is unfortunate that CNN, and other US news media, choose to drum up the "stingy" comments made by UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs Jan Eglund as a direct attack against the US.

The fact is that those comments were made as a criticism of "Western countries." Perhaps people read between the lines and saw it as a veiled attack on the US. But I don't get it. Why don't everyone just stop the political point scoring and get on with the work that is so urgently needed.

There was no need for the US to take the criticism personally. Perhaps the US should let its actions be louder than words. I see a chorus of voices in the media that is so unnecessary. Already, the UN's statement was not, in the first place, a direct attack against the US alone. It was an attack of someone who said, "we" and "western countries." So, the critic identified with those he criticized. He was merely trying to urge all of us wealthier nations to be more generous. Perhaps, he was too quick on the draw with the criticism as most nations were probably initially unaware of the magnitude of the disaster. But, he was quick to come out with an explanation (or excuse, if you like) that he was misquoted and misunderstood. So, why doesn't we give him grace and let's leave well enough alone?

Yet the media continue to drum up the controversy and continue to report that the US has been criticized for being stingy. They bring it up at every opportunity, each day! And they insinuate that the US is not seen by the world as generous! There is no justifications for such insinuations absolutely none. In the world arena, there is no such perception, I don't believe.

Around blogosphere as well, I hear a chorus of voices of various responses, including what I think is terribly shameful, the call for a boycott of help. Reasons brought up to justify this insane suggestion range from the people belonged to countries who perished were suspect in their support for America to the fact that they might have celebrated after 9/11(?!).

If we are to lead the world as a superpower, we must not lead only in military, or economic might. We must lead also in compassion and generosity, and perhaps, more important, in mercy, humility and grace (and I do not just mean the religious meaning of these words). The greatness of a people is not measured by the size of its guns or bank account, but by the size of its heart. It is no prize to be the largest donor, although we may have already lost that claim - although I must ask, does it really matter? Further, if we were to measure the amount donated on a per-capita basis, some other countries which are much smaller and less wealthy than the US, have donated proportionately much more. And, by the way, it is not about who gives more! So, let's just forget it! It is about getting help to those in need in the most effective, most efficient manner and as quickly as possible!

In case some people are vindictive about the events of the past few years in relation to the "War Against Terror," let me say that just because we were stranded by our "Allies" in that "War" we cannot use this opportunity for a "tit-for-tat." It will back fire on us! We are still going to have to live with the rest of the world community. Let us forget about any political point scoring, ideological wrangling and let's get the job done!

And, there is no need to rattle off how much we do give! "
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" (Matt. 6:33). I know some people might be wary of basing governmental decisions or policies on Biblical principles, but let me assure everyone that this is quite a sound and practical principle.

So a word to the media and my fellow bloggers: Stop the Stingy debate Already! Puh-lease!

UPDATE: Here for some ideas on how to be un-stingy!