The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Compassion out of disaster

When a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the impoverished island nation of Haiti, people around the world reacted quickly.

The French, Israeli, Canadian, American people, as well as countless other nations, have devoted people, money and energy to help stabilize the country. More than 150,000 Haitians have lost their lives and while people like Pat Robertson may try to muddy the waters with outlandish statements, the response around the world is truly a testament to something greater.

The people of the world are responding to a crisis in a way that has not been seen in a long time. Sure, when tsunami’s crushed the Pacific, the world responded, but not to this degree.

The thought of 150,000 citizens of any nation dead is staggering. That is equivalent to Eugene, Ore. or Kansas City, Kans. being wiped off the map. A natural disaster can either bring to light the struggles of a nation or, at the very least, bring out the best in people around the world.

This is what thankfully has happened in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake.

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However, the most important lesson that has been taught in lieu of the Haitian earthquake is that life needs to be put in perspective. Conan O’Brien did an amazing job of this, as in his last troubled days on “The Tonight Show,” he utilized air time and guests to help raise funds for the Haiti earthquake relief efforts. O’Brien could have made light of the situation or only focused on his own sabotaged efforts on “The Tonight Show,” but instead he wanted to make sure people didn’t lose sight of the true troubles in the world.

We as Americans and citizens of the world have a unique opportunity to recognize and embrace our capacity for true compassion.

When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, truckloads of food, supplies and basic amenities were sent for support to those in need. To this day, rebuilding efforts continue by government entities and volunteers alike. And while national crisis’ are horrible, it is also an opportunity.

Thomas Hobbes wrote in his seminal work The Leviathon that humans were born into a state of nature where everyone is self-interested, and life is brutish and rough. However, with the institution of governments and a social contract with fellow people, we as humans are able to utilize our compassion. It is time to embrace that compassion and empathy at a time other than when national tragedies occur. Why not respect your fellow men and women and his or her personal beliefs?

In the coming months and years we will forget the tragedy in Haiti. We will forget the mangled human bodies piled outside of overrun morgues.

We will forget the image of children reaching out through the rubble for help. And we will forget the impoverished nation that has been forever altered. But we cannot forget what it has taught us; that our capacity for compassion is never ending. I am sure some of you are reading and thinking that I am too trusting of the good inside people, or at the very least too optimistic about the world.

But how can we not?

The outpouring of American support after natural disasters is amazing, but it can and must go further. It is time to realize that a disagreement between people is good, healthy and necessary for our country to continue to grow. We can no longer be split apart over partisanship or religious beliefs. Instead, those differences should bring us together, unifying us through respect and inquiry. Our compassion for our fellow person should allow us to look beyond miniscule differences and work together.

The United State has a wealth, education and health care gap. Our compassion can and must go beyond words, it must become actions. We can no longer sit on the sidelines as we have “others” do work for us.

Our wealth gap will not easily be solved but can be dealt with when those who have the most give the most to the community and those in need. Why not volunteer at a local school, soup kitchen or homeless shelter? It is within our capacity, dare I say our nature, to care for others. And why not use the tragic events in Haiti to begin a local, regional or national campaign for compassion?

This country, the United States of America, represents more than the military or economic might of the largest modern democracy in the world. It represents an idea; an idea that people really can come together in times of need and support one another.

Why not reach out today and show a little compassion? The people of Haiti and every other ravaged country in the world are looking for a symbol of hope. But instead of looking across the ocean, or looking to your pocket, look across the street from your house, the person next to you in class or out the window on the bus. There just might be something you can do.

Johnson is an off-campus Student Senator and a guest columnist for The Spectator.

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Compassion out of disaster