Sunday, January 17, 2010


I realize that any news story has to go through some editing before it gets on the air and that means significant details are left out, important background might be missing that could help fill in and flesh out a narrative. That said, this piece I heard this morning on NPR has stuck with me all day, like a poorly swallowed pill that feels like it's still lodged in your throat.

My understanding of the situation in Haiti is limited to basically knowing the earthquake turned a struggling country into one of more desperate despair. Whenever something devastating happens - anywhere: New Orleans, Malaysia, one of my students' homes - I want to drop everything and be available to those who can use me. I want to, but I have not yet done anything particularly meaningful. I've started to think I should join an organization that is called into action when a disaster occurs; I'm much better at moving when ordered to rather than relying on my own pathetic intentions.

So I was struck this morning by the story about a group of missionaries in Haiti, apparently called by an entity one might consider quite compelling, who spent Saturday waiting to be airlifted back to Iowa. Again, my understanding is limited and maybe in order to better help the people there, others have to get out; maybe these women have been on the island for a very long time already and are no longer needed. Fine. But here is where things rankled my brain: the radio report emphasized the plight of these missionaries sweltering for 6 hours in the Haitian sun, who were finally relieved to get "ice-cold sodas" and a seat in a military cargo plane. Who were looking forward to taking a shower when finally home.

It strikes me as insensitive at best to focus on these supposed hardships - heat, waiting, no shower - when an inconceivable number of people are dead from this disaster. Thousands more are injured, homeless, grieving lost family members. The women NPR quoted praise God and the military? For a Coke and a trip home to bathe? Not that God and the military are not worthy of praise, but I am hoping somewhere on the tape are remarks about praying for the Haitians left behind in their pain, suffering, and grief. And maybe an explanation of why the missionaries are leaving now, when people might be more inclined to want some information about grace. Or better yet, an example of it.


brandy101 said...

Honestly, what no one is brave enough to say is that foreign women (and I hate to say, especially white women)there now are in EXTREME danger. It is utter lawlessness (remember - many UN peacekeepers stationed there were killed) mixed with disease and desperation; the best idea IS to get them out so its one less body bag we have risk military lives over to haul out later when things degenerate further. Sounds awful but...that is life. Sometimes "life" on this earth is not particularly kindhearted. I was reminded today by my pastor that we do need to think and donate what we can..and then PRAY for the victims, both living and dead.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I listened to it and I have to say that I agree it struck rather an off note.

I can totally see why they would need and want to get out, but you would think the focus would be on them realizing how lucky they are.

Fantastic Forrest said...

You're right; it was discordant. But before we go judging Hess and the other Iowa missionaries, let's remember that we only caught a tiny slice of what's going on. The reporter chose to use that angle, quote those quotes, frame the story that way.

We don't know how long they'd been down there, what work they'd done, when they were originally due to leave, or what responsibilities awaited them at home. Maybe after her shower, she had two small children to pick up from her mother's house, where they'd been looked after for the past several weeks.

You know I'm usually first in line to bash religious folks for hypocrisy. But I'm just very cognizant that anyone who is quoted in a news story has little control about the emphasis that's given and what's truly important to the speaker is often cast aside because it doesn't fit what the reporter wants to say.

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

One of the hardest things I've picked up on this week was the sense of helplessness - here - and for those on the ground. Watching reporters help when they can, leaving water and food and then having to walk away because there is simply little else they can do.

It feels so hopeless. Things were so bad there to begin with...

(Some groups arriving with supplies had to wait for security forces simply because if they set up camp and started handing out supplies, they predicted people would be trampled. How awful, to be holding water, and not be able to distribute it in fear of more disaster.)

I tend to believe those missionaries will be back, when there's more law & order. I hope that's the case.

Fantastic Forrest said...

Hey! I'm stupid. My comments were written after I read the NPR piece and the many comments posted over there. As a result, I completely forgot about the excellent post you wrote, Stephanie. My excuse? I am old and feeble and my short term memory is gone.

Maybe I'm becoming like Ronald Reagan - he simply acted on the advice of the final person to speak to him after listening to several. A sad thought.

This is a truly well crafted blog post worded both artfully (poorly swallowed pill) and carefully (Again, my understanding is limited...etc.). I promise to be a more careful reader next time, and if I check out a link, not to confuse the points made there with those here at bad mom.

stephanie said...

Footnote: I had never thought of Brandy101's perspective - partly ignorance & partly sunny optimism (who'd have thought that of ME?). I appreciate it.

Maybe I didn't put enough blame on NPR (I meant to...) for strange editing that left me thinking those missionaries awfully shallow.

And Holly, my good new *old* friend :D No worries. Come for tea soon.

psychomom said...

well put.


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