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Wow! First. O.k. I believe in one human family. My God created us all. I do like to "think globally, act locally". I support local business, charity etc. However, when an opportunity arises to do something bigger....You bet I'm there. I love what Samaritan's Purse is doing. At Christmas we fill boxes with essential and non items for children around the world. They get a bible in their language and a tract about Jesus. Millions are sent out every year. After the tsunami hit, we did the same thing at Easter time. To me, it fulfills two purposes, to help others physical needs and to nurture their eternal souls as well.

I think charity begins at home. Now, having said that, I also think you are free to help whomever you choose to. In the US, we have welfare and countless private non-profit organizations that are there to help destitute/homeless/poor/etc. That's not necessarily the case in other countries.

As we've pointed out in other posts, the Internet is a small world, and the world is a small world, and we're all connected in one way or another. I don't think any country is obligated to help another country, or any person is obligated to help another person, but those of us who choose to because we recognize that the world/neighborhood would be better off if we did shouldn't feel guilty about our choice of where to help.

Frankly, I am embarassed to be a citizen of the US most of the time. I don't agree with the current administration's policies on anything. I find my country to be short-sighted, and unaware of the larger world. I think our vast resources should be used to help tsunami victims not wage war. We should be giving money to AIDS education around the globe, not debating whether or not that money should be spent on condoms or abstinence education.

On the issue of charity. I give my money to many charities in the US. I also give my money to some charities in other countries. Charity does begin at home, and I believe the world is everyone's home.

On the issue of the clothes... I want to send clothes to you because I like to give her clothes to someone who truly needs them. You, Rose and Beauty will make sure that happens.

Does America have any sense of responsibility to the rest of the world? Well, if we did, the genocide situation would seem to be the most heartwrenching and calling, wouldn't it?

We sure did our best to ignore Rwanda. Of course, that's after we removed our troops. So, as a led country, I'd say resoundingly, No.

As a collection of free individuals I hope that the remaining commenters will help to reflect that Americans have the time, disposable income and inclination to help those less fortunate.

Your questions assume that wealth and poverty as they exist today came into effect without interference, as a natural process. The truth (as I see it, obviously) is that "free trade" has - often - meant that the developing world opened up its borders to goods from the developed world, with the promise that during the Dosa round of trade talks the developed world would open up its borders to agricultural products. In many cases the only products that undeveloped countries have an edge with are food and cotton due to climate. However, the developed world is now balking at dropping its own subsidies for agricultural products (this is why talks collapsed in Cancun). So, if the developed world uses trade laws to improve their terms of trade in the billions - then turns around and hands out "aid" in the millions, not even the hundreds of millions - how does it make sense to ask, "are we responsible to help out others who are more poor?" Would we even need "charity" if the powerful did not use their power to exploit the powerless? There are many kind, good-hearted and generous people in the developed world (like you, Tertia) but they are not the ones who represent their countries in trade talks. Check out the attitudes of Zoellick (the American chief negotiator) and see how much "charity" figures into his line of thinking.

I agree in some sense with Bridget. I don't support many of the current US administrations policies. I believe in helping where I can- I do 2-3 charity walks to raise money for different US- based charities during the year, and help out here and there with my godsons, who's parents don't make that much.
I try and help where I can. I think countries who have more do have a moral obligation to help where they can- same as myself. The US can't solve all the world's problems or even probably help all the other countries in need without severly impacting our ability to take care of ourselves- but we can do something, and we should where we can.

like you Tertia, I am in a weird position: I am Canadian. We have the longest border in the world with the most powerful nation in the world, the USA, yet we are miles apart. When the US ignored Rwand, Canada's poor belaged peacekeepers did their best as part of the few UN troops on the ground. and now Darfur promises to leave another legacy of death and destruction, yet try to find it on any news cast inthe USA, good luck! Between the Micheal Jackson trial and Martha's request to remove her ankle bracelet, very few americans are even aware of what's going on in Darfur.
As a Canadian, I struggle everyday to stay informed through international channels and canadian TV, because we are bombarded with US-biased media here. Having traveled the world, I feel a deep sense of responsibility to others. Yes, charity shoudl beign at home, but you cannot ignore what's going on in the world. If you actually do pack up your clothes and donate them to a local charity, good for you! well done! But if you tend to procrastinate like me and have closets full of stuff to give away, then pack it up and send it to SA! it doesn't matter where it ends up, as long as you DO SOMETHING! And while you are at it, google Coalition for Darfur and read up a bit. (not you Tertia, I'm sure you know already.)

This is a very hard question for me. I think certainly the haves of the world have a responsibility to the have-nots, but there are plenty of those here in the United States. What bothers me is when the haves pour their money into trivial things - I know this is risky to say - like the Terri Schiavo case. That was ONE woman whose life was being defended by thousands of people and millions of dollars and the whole legislature was up in arms. That reaction was totally out of proportion, in my opinion, to, say, this country's reaction to the atrocities in Rwanda. If there had been so many people upset about that, I imagine we as a country would have done something. Any more, all things charitable seem to be controlled by politics and public relations firms and people who don't care unless they stand to gain from their concern. It makes me very sad.

This is actually an issue I think about a lot. I am so frustrated and angry with the current US policies that are actually making it so much worse for lower-income Americans. Policy-wise, I wish our government wouldn't be so concerned with other countries (Iraq, Syria, &c) and use that time and money to help re-build our own infrastructure. I don't think we can truly be a benefit to third-world countries until we have ourselves sorted out.

But that's how I feel about official government stance. Regarding personal charity, I think charity is charity and whatever you personally feel will better things in your mind is what you should do. A few years ago I stopped giving money to big US organizations because I know corporations heavily fund those and there are tons of smaller charities and organizations that need more than just cash, such as books, clothes, time, whatever, and I try to focus on those. I don't see what's so wrong with an American sending clothes to SA. Heck, if it's such a huge guilt issue, send half to SA and then donate the other half locally. That way, you can serve both countries.

In the end, anything anyone does to help anyone in any coutry, we're all making the world a better place overall. If Americans give only to American charities and help draw our national attention to better serve Americans, then we can become a better country and truly be able to help other countries. If Americans give to other countries, then it helps draw attention to those countries and the perseverance of Americans. Either way, everyone benefits, I think.

Hear! Hear! I agree w/what so many of those above have said. I too, am American and I feel that our country does not do enough at home or abroad to help the needy. We are one of the richest countries in the world, yet we stand by and let poverty and AIDS run rampant (even here in the US). It is shameful behavior. If you study US history, you will find that having an isolationist attitude towards the rest of the world has always come back to bite us in the ass. Yes, I will be sending clothes to Tertia, but I also donate here at home. You see, I was once homeless myself as a child, so I can empathize with their plight. And, considering what's going on in Africa with the genocides, draughts, famine, and AIDS-does it seriously hinder those here in the US if I send clothes to South Africa? I could really go on, but I'll just stop for now, before I get carried away. Thanks for initiating this discussion, Tertia!

Wow. I hoped when I read Tertia's post that it wouldn't turn into a collection of essays on "Why I'm Ashamed to be an American." It kind of looks like it's heading that way and I'm pretty sure that's not where she wanted it to go.

Do all first world nations have a responsibility to those less fortunate nations? Absolutely. Is it our jobs to support them just because we can? Absolutely not. Give a man a fish and all that....

Hmmmm...this is a tough one. Overall, I really don't know.

On the one hand, as an individual, I feel an obligation to send my money and support wherever I feel it is needed - be that internatinal causes or causes at home.

As a country, I think we also need to send our support into particular areas - especially where large scale populations are suffering.

BUT...and I know some folks aren't going to like this...I do get irratated at times with the international expectation that the United States should do MORE than others and that we should "save everyone". Don't get me wrong - I realize our position as the "last remaining super power" and I know the responsibility that comes with that. It just seems that international opinion is never satisfied - the United States can never seem to do enough. And frankly, that bugs me.

But then again, show me the face of a starving child wherever that child might be and I melt. All politics go out the window and I just feel the need to help.

So see? I really waffle on this one.

Good god, please ignore the horrible spelling in my previous post. :)

If we forget about government policy for now and talk only about the individuals who apply the charity (purely as their motives are usually very different), the saying "charity begins at home" is actually based on the Proverb ..."help the household of faith first ... or you are worse then the unbelievers."

My take on this is that from a world view all charity is obviously good, but if your goal is to be in the "short queue" on the big day then you need to follow the above principle.

This means charity begins firstly with your immediate family, followed by your spiritual family, then your broader community etc. i.e. from intimate relationships outwards.

Where charity does not fulfil its rightful place is when you are giving $100 to the Tsunami Relief Fund, yet your friend/neighbour (their is a U in neighbour) has lost his/her job and does not know where the next meal is coming from.

If after all this you still feel the need to send clothes to Africa, please send Gucci, Prada, and Armani, as these goods are really expensive over here.

I really want to comment on this because I have so many thoughts on it but I'm going to sum it up to this: There should be a happy medium between helping oneself and helping others. If you help yourself too much then you are selfish, if you help others too much you could become like them. So there needs to be a happy medium.

I do agree with the "think globally, act locally", because I think that an idea like that encourages more people to get involved as they could feasibly see the results of their actions. That being said, there is so much poverty/hardship all over the world that I think any action, at home or abroad, makes a difference.

As for our (America) governments' involvement, I think it's pretty obvious that many issues are ignored but I really do hope that it's not true that, as someone said, very few are aware of situations like Darfar. I am, and I'm horrified, but getting the current administration to act, well...a lot of us try, we really do, but you can see what about how much attention that has produced from the government(read: none).

It's always interesting to hear how a select group's personal opinions vary so much from public policy. (All my friends voted for Kerry--I didn't know anyone who voted for Bush so it was easy to forget that he actually had supporters.)

I'm hoping to work for childrens' rights in a third world country in about four years. I've done a lot of research on the best way to make change happen, and what I understand is that it all comes down to attitude and intent. People who want recognition for saving someone (or some country) that they see as faulty will end up disappointed. There is an overwhelming sense in a first world country that what they are doing is clearly the right thing, and they bulldoze the traditions and values of the country/people they are trying to help. After all, they reason, it's the BEST WAY.

Then again, with all respect for another country's way of life, no change would happen at all.

Which brings me back full circle: work for the change that you know you want and that the people you're working for want. I doubt there's any individual in a 3rd world country who would support child prostitution or gangs, but as a culture, it's a powerful force and difficult to overcome.

Sorry--I think I rambled a bit off topic there!

Charity & kindness will (hopefully) breed charity & kindness - in other words, where-ever we start, hopefully it will eventually spread all over. That being said, I think each country has a responsibility to its own citizens first and then to the rest of the world - HOWEVER, any charity given anywhere is a GOOD thing. Better given somewhere than nowhere.

Personally, I give here at home AND to others in other countries, when I can. Until we start to see the whole world as one and not many, we're not going to care enough to come together.

Sure. I'll gladly give all my clothing to someone in need, right here in America.

The only problem is, I can't find an organization who will actually *GIVE* the clothes to the poor, only ones who will *SELL* the clothes I give them at a very cheap price to the poor.

No, I want to give. Not sell. I want my clothes to go from my house to a shelter, or into the arms of the person who needs them. Not into a humongous store with miles of secondhand clothing.

And a person in need is a person in need. Who cares where they are? actually if we really wanted to start getting into it I think we probably do have more resources here than in many other countries for the homeless - still sickeningly few resources- but nonetheless better than many other places.

I don't really consider myself the typical American, not that I have a real prejudice against my fellow citizens but um, I can find South Africa on a map whereas 70-80% of people my age (22) would be hard pressed to do so. Let alone Iraq, let alone Afghanistan, let alone Japan. I do blame the educational system for the disgusting ignorance portrayed by well, I guess right now it's the majority of the people in this country, it must be because I sure as hell didn't elect the guy running it.

anyways, we're not all "like that". and by like that I mean wanting to take over the world and crush the weaklings underfoot.

As soon as I get enough money for shipping I will send clothes to Africa, because honestly I have done internet searches in the past looking for any address in Africa to send clothes to. Anywhere they're not going to make a profit off the poor.

I think we are a global family - it is our responsibility to help all those in need both at home and in other countries. I am also very proud to be an American. As a country have we made mistakes - yes, under a variety of administrations. Do we also do good things - undeniably. To say we don't is to deny the selfless works of so many of our citizens. I agree with a previous comment that it is not enough just to provide aid - it is also important to make yourself aware of situations in the world. It is too easy to just blame it on presidential adminsitration. The fact that thousands were dying in Rwanda and so many did so little and that now similar things are happening in Darfur and it is not on our nightly news is dispicable.

To say though that all Americans are ignorant and no one is doing anything to help is just not the case. I drive by the Holocaust museum in D.C. every day and the lines are down the sidewalk. I went to see General Boulderlair speak and it was standing room only. The movie theater I went to see Hotel Rwanda in was sold out.

We are all members of the global community and it is our equal responsibility to point out injustices in the world and try to fix them ~ both at home and in other countries.

I think that many Americans have a sort of twisted sense of responsibility towards the world. A superior attitude, like we are the Big Brother, we are smarter and better then "those poor countries", and we must help them because they can't do it on their own. We also have a history of imperialist acts, most recently the Bush administrations unilateral action against Iraq and Saddam Hussein. This is highly destructive, not productive for American citizens or helpful to the rest of the world. The administration picks and chosses when and how to act, they ignore genocidal acts, but attack dictators that they helped come to power, mowing over innocents in their path. That sort of violence never comes to any good, and I wish the folks in power around the world would learn that.

We also have many large multinational corporations which attempt to sell junk and market themselves to third world countries in the guise of being helpful. I won't even get into the politics of the World bank and International Monitary fund, mainly because I don't understand all the issues there to articulate it very well. I do know, that the power structures involved with the current administration and their connections with big powerful corporations are highly disturbing and can't be good for me, for you, or for the disadvantaged folks around the world.

That said, most American citizens who are aware of what is going on past the fence in their own back yards see the real story and were completely against the actions taken by our current adminstration. We are disgusted with the war against Iraq and tired of the administrations attitude about things like the International criminal court and the UN. It all makes me tired. I live in DC, so I see the bullshit every day.

I think that charitable acts must begin at home, but can extend to the rest of the world. We can act locally in our own community and locally through individuals like you in the world community. I see no problem with sending things to you, Tertia, so that you can better act to help those in your community. I think we have a great deal of wealth, and should try to spread it around both to folks who live next door, and our neighbors abroad.

So - if I had stuff to send you I might send it. I also volunteer in my community, and give some money to educational organizations. We can all do good in various ways, for people all over the place. I gave money to Oxfam after the tsunami, to help orphans in Thailand, my friend went out there and we all sent medical supplies with her. My partner does breakfast shifts at a homeless shelter in DC occasionally - we all can do our parts in a variety of ways, that way everyone benefits.

(Dude, it's to early in the morning for me to be on my soapbox.... I'd better take a shower and clean the sugar off my upper lip.)

I am a human being and am obligated to help others. I am lucky to have been born in a rich nation, yet I do not define my charitable acts based on where the need is, or who needs it. I donate/work for causes wherever they may be. I've done work for causes in the US and abroad. I don't feel the need to work for 'my own' first or others. Wherever there is a need that I can help with, I will try to be there.

US Foreign Policy is an absolute nightmare that I won't even touch on. But some of the above posts address it really well.

I believe very strongly that first world nations have a responsibility to help people in poorer countries. There are lots of ways our governments could do this. Debt relief, for one. Setting up balanced trade agreements. Helping third world countries build their infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the current US government has no interest in helping anyone -- not the poor in the US, and not the poor anywhere else in the world.

aha, tertia - my favourite topic, politics ;)

As a New Zealander living in America, i have something of a unique perspective on this topic. I do believe that America (and Americans) have a significant responsibility to other Americans. But what I don't understand is why Americans have to give charity to each other when there is such overwhelming wealth in this country, more than enough to make sure every American (and most people in the world) has enough to eat, somewhere to live and a job that pays well. Little NZ has nowhere near the wealth that's here - but we manage to provide a free healthcare system (it has flaws, but it's free) and unemployment benefits to EVERYONE who's unemployed, no matter how long for... I could go on. And providing unemployment benefits doesn't lead to people staying on welfare indefinitely - our unemployment rate is around 3.5% INCLUDING long-term unemployed which the US doesn't count.

So I guess what I'm really saying is that charity would and should be utterly unnecessary in the US if Americans (including me right now) held their government accountable to provide appropriate care for all citizens (and most non-citizens too). I'm not only talking about the most destitute - I'm talking about those who work a full time job and are still homeless because housing is so expensive. Don't such people deserve a wage high enough, or housing cheap enough, to keep a roof over their heads?

As far as 'the rest of the world', i think America could and should do more, especially by acknowledging the role that 'First World' economic policy has had in supressing the economic growth of many 'third world' nations. But discussing that would make this comment even more disgustingly long than it is, so I'll just say that if the US would actually meet its aid commitments that would go a long way to helping. US gives the most money dollar for dollar, sure, but as a percentage of GDP America's giving rate is relatively low, less than 0.1%. We're not asking you to do more, just the same as everyone else!

Finally, please know that I love living here in America, with all its contradictions and idiosyncrasies, and that's why i spend so much time thinking about how it could change for the better. That's the highest form of love for a country, no?

Here, in the United States, we do have programs to help our poor. The money that goes for foreign aid is a separate part of the budget. Moreover, there are many private charities and philanthropists, each dealing with separate goals - helping the poor in the U.S., and aiding other countries. After the tsunami, many people donated privately, in addition to the government aid package. Thus, I don't see the issue as though it's necessary to prioritize - both have been done separately and simultaneously. The question is whether that help is sufficient or not, but that depends on individual outlook.

My feeling is "can't we do both?" It seems there is such a lack of balance between the have's and have not's. There is such waste and gluttony and decadence in America and around the world. You don't have to look much further than Hollywood to see that. Also, top corporations. Have you seen what they pay their CEO's? And royalty. Need I go on? It's freaking INSANE!

I often think if everyone gave just a little then we could all kind of bring each other up. I'm not rich by any means, but I do what I can. We give to charity on a regular basis. And have for the past 11 years. If everyone did the same, wouldn't we ALL be better off?

I look at all of the excess and think there just has to be enough to go around.

Sadly, I have no idea how to fix it. I'm just one little insignificant person. It's so frustrating!

I live in Canada. I am also of First Nations heritage. My people have been colonized for hundreds of years. My people live in two of the world's wealthiest countries yet lack access to nutritious foods, clean water, safe housing, appropriate healthcare, etc.

Developed countries are rich simply because they exploit undeveloped and developing countries. We are rich because our corporations bought land in Brazil to raise cows, bought land in Colombia for coffee, etc. At the same time, the people in these lands cannot afford money for food. They cannot grow food because they a) are forced to grow certain crops for the developed world or b) were kicked off of their lands by large international corporations.

I propose that the only way we can help the poor people of the world is by leaving them and their countries alone. Give them back their lands so that they can grow food to sustain themselves. Offer FAIR trade, not free trade.

In essense, stop the colonial practices.

My wealthy aunt just passed away and I took about 80 of her hundreds of dresses to the local Salvation Army. I was turned away--These are winter clothes. We don't want them.

I can sum up pretty easily:

- yes, it is often embarrassing to be an American

- we should give both locally and more widely

- the idea that the boundaries of a nation should determine to whom we give is pretty absurd, IMO

- giving should be proportionate to wealth - so wealthy countries like the US (and others) have a greater responsibility for giving. Basically, "give what you can" - which, in our case, should really be a lot. And in SA's case it may not be a lot, but still something.

I think the toughest thing for people (and nations) today to recognize is that their self interest is intimately bound up in the betterment of lives half-way around the world. If we were to truly understand that, say, improved working conditions in sweatshops in Indonesia are absolutely connected to improved conditions in the U.S. (which they are), it would be radical.

i agree that we (wealthy countries) should be doing more than we are. why we don't seems to be purely a matter of money. genocide in cambodia, tibet, rwanda-all countries with little financial or political incentive for a wealthy country. same goes for sudan. you would think we would learn lessons but we have not and sadly probably will not. just look at the UN's failure to condemn Sudan's government today. I live in the states (san francisco-no question of where i stand politically!) and at times i feel that the U.S. can't win. we invade iraq (i did not and do not support this) and we are criticized, we don't invade rwanda and sudan and we are criticized. we are either a bully or a selfish child. in regards to rwanda-other countries (belgium, france, and also the UN) also failed to give support. the u.s. can't do everything for everyone. we can't go and help every country that is in trouble. personally i wish our country would take a more european approach to ourselves-more social policy, less military. we pay almost as much in taxes (35% of my salary!) as many european countries and what do we get? good schools? no. universal health care? no. free university education? no. huge military? yes. i'm not sure what my point is...i guess technically we are a wealthy country but there is amazing poverty two blocks from my house. i wish we could do more right here at home.

I think it's about time some of us did something other than have a rummage or take the old clothes to the Salvation Army. Most of us go through our closets and dressers at least once a year and get rid of everything we don't want. Why not give them to the needy... whether they be here or there? As long as the clothes are going to someone who needs them, who cares where they go?

I could expand for pages and pages on these topics, as I did my master’s degree in international and rural community development. For years I had the belief that US had a strong obligation to help out 3rd world countries. Then I realized that the reasons for providing programs, etc., was not necessarily to help out the poor man in a shanty village in the jungle, but rather to promote the well-being and safety of the world, and on a smaller scale the US. However, the methods of delivery (The UN, USAID, IMF, World Bank) are horrible at best, and really do nothing to help out their target population. I did work in the international arena for a while, and am now back in the US. This is the first time I have ever commented on your site, and felt compelled because these are topics I feel very strongly about.

The US does have an obligation of sorts to the rest of world, even though the reasons are really quite selfish in nature. The US takes care of many impoverished nations (which they do, look at the budget of USAID, among many aid organizations supported by the US Government), with the old adage: if you teach a person to fish, they eat for life; if you give a person a fish they starve tomorrow. This is very true on a global perspective, as the US has a moral obligation to teach nations to fish, rather than doling out free aid at every turn. Then if these nations can be become self-sustaining, the US has not only helped a nation of peoples, but relieved a burden of aid from themselves.

America should definitely care about war torn countries in Africa and elsewhere, as it is in these hotbeds of civil strife that global terrorism breeds. While this may sound like a sound bite from George Bush, it is true. How easy is it to really ship in and out military weapons, illegal immigrants, and set up rogue military camps then in a country where the least of the government’s concerns are about a small group of people when thousands are dying from civil war, famine, genocide, and disease. Bill Clinton should be ashamed for ignoring Rwanda, but gallantly stepping up (too late I might add) to help the Bosnia-Serbia-Croatia mess.
Africa today is a continent of disaster: disease (how horrible about the Marburg outbreak in Angola!, though I suspect the US’s CDC has already been dispatched to work alongside the WHO….), civil war, rampant poverty and famine. The Africans need to find a way to meld their culture with technology; advances in society will never go away, and while the US can help in small ways, the Africans need to: 1) realize they need to reconcile culture and modern technologies & 2) ask for help to do these things. The US will help, but there is a notion that if the US steps in to help the Africans economically, socially, or with infrastructure, then the Americans are out to replace the African’s culture. This is simple not true.

I realize that my post is a little disjointed, but there are so many avenues of discussion, and I wanted to throw it all out there. Thanks for the great dialogue and topics.

I have to say that I don't see helping people from other countries and helping people domestically as being mutually exclusive. I don't think that helping disadvantaged countries means that you cannot help those in your own country. Of course there are limited means to go around, even in America, but those resources are able to go to a multitude of places.

I would LIKE to see America give more aid to other countries. However, whenever we get involved abroad, it always seems to get messed up. We have never left a country that we have intervened in. Korea, Bosnia, Germany. And our money doesn't always seem to go to support purely humanitarian causes or the humanitarian causes are intertwined with political ones. I think of the leaders that we have given money and munitions support to and the damage those governments have caused. So how should we help? Where should the money and volunteer and political efforts go?

In the end, though, I think that America has a personal interest in easing the burden of poverty worldwide. I see poverty breeding violence, hate, and ignorance as people struggle for survival in these countries. Americans are effected by the violence in other countries, even though we may not see it directly. Think of how we were effected by the violence and ignorance that came out of a small country in the middle east. Who would have cared about Afghanistan before 9/11? But their struggles did affect us. It's easy, an ocean away, to think that these problems will never touch us, but they are our problems, too, or they soon will be. But how do we intervene and still let other countries determine their own future?

I guess I'll go against the grain and say that I'm happy to be an American- and I'm happy to help out who ever I can, whether they be here in America or in another country. What I don't like is countries who will take our money- then trash on us. If you don't like us- why do you take\seek our assistance? I will gladly send clothes to SA to help out people there, and I will gladly donate clothes to local charities (that will most likely "sell" the clothes), but regardless of where I send things, it always makes me feel good about myself. I don't understand it- we save up billions of dollars for tsunami relief, and we get trashed. If we didn't save up that money- we'd still get trashed.

Honestly, sometimes I think America jumps to help those abroad and sometimes forgets about those at home. That said...I think that while charity should begin at home, we do have a responsibility to send help where it is needed.

Take careof home first and then go elsewhere.

Charity is a lot like love--it's not as if you can't give it to more than one person. Instead of giving all my money/clothes/food to one place, I try to spread it out. And sending clothes to Tertia is just one thing I'll do this year, in terms of donating clothing.

I think we're obligated to do as much as we can, and how that gets distributed--well, that's up to you.

To be honest, I think it’s good if you give, period. There are enough needy people in the world that if you help one (or one hundred) does it really matter where they live? Americans, if you choose to help poor Americans – great. If your heart says you should help poor people from another country – great. The big thing is to give. I don’t think we should be asking “why not help fellow Americans? (Africans, etc).”…instead we should be asking “why not help?”
Great post, and thank you for bringing up the question.

I heard something very disturbing on the news this morning. It was George W. Bush explaining that we need to encourage outside countries to export more oil because there isn't currently enough to support out "growing economy". That is one of the reasons to drill in the arctic refuge. By growing economy he means wealthy americans that use more than they NEED just because they CAN. I don't understand why we can't just encourage conservation to decrease demand rather than increase supply! This says a lot about the current views of the American government.
It is yet another reason why so many other countries resent the US. As a country I think we are very selfish. I DO think it is important to take care of our own country but our current gov't interprets this to mean "take care of the haves because they contribute to election campaigns".
Aside from the many issues I have with American politics ...I think I, personally, should help wherever I can. Poverty doesn't have a nationality and neither does suffering. People are people and I really don't care if my clothes are used by Americans, Canadiens, Indians etc. If one family is able to have clothing when they previously had none then I've done a good deed, regardess of location. I agree with everyone else that said that we are a global family and we shouldn't draw lines in the sand.

When comparing US aid, you can't ignore the value of FOOD and DEFENSE aid. While we might not match up dollar for dollar as a percentage of GDP, the US is one of the leading "givers" in most causes.

Also - why isn't anyone bashing France, Germany, Japan, England, or other "first world" countries for ALSO IGNORING the genocide?

If you can't tell, I'm proud to be an American. I'm happy to help out at home and abroad. And for once, I would like to hear a Thank You - instead of a trashing for not giving "enough".

America does have a responsibility to the rest of the world. I think we fail sometimes, but most times succeed. I'm an optimist that we can overcome our differences.

Interesting topic.

I will say up front that I am proud to be American and I am proud of the contributions we make globally and I don't think the onus should always be on the US to take care of global issues. Were we wrong to refuse to intervene in Rwanda? Perhaps and probably so, but why didn't the UN allow its troops to actually do something? Where were the European forces? Where is the criticism of France, Germany and Britain for their lapses?

And while I think Bush reacted badly to the news of the tsunami devastation, our troops and other Americans did not. You can read this guy's blog for a first-hand account of what US and Australian troops and others were doing while the UN was dithering:


Admittedly, he is a huge Bush supporter, but I found his accounts credible.

Could the US do more? Yes. Do we try? Yes. I am not ashamed of our efforts and have to agree with the above poster that I get a bit tired of the notion that the US bears sole responsibility for issues like AIDS, Rwanda, etc. There are a host of realities that make sending troops and sending dollars to the developing world very difficult. Two of the more prominent that come to mind are cultural/ethnic issues and corruption. It's not as easy as writing a check.

I think the more fortunate have a duty to help and I think governments have a duty to try and ensure that aid is truly going to those who need it so as to be accountable to the tax-paying citizens of the more fortunate nations.

Call me naive, but how can we call ourselves the richest nation if we have over 7 trillion dollars in national debt. Precisely, $7,796,919,426,382.28 and growing. The administration that was voted for by 51% of Americans is doing nothing, if not insuring that that number grows. Yes, I understand that we are powerful and with that comes responsibility. But the US cannot effect positive change in our country and the world if people continue to vote against their best interests just because the candidate belongs to the political affiliation that your church would have you vote for. This administration is deaf to the cries of the needy here and abroad. The only time they begin to listen is when a)Americans are killed in a warring nation, b)their personal financial interests are at stake, or c)when public opinion for them begins to plummet. It's absolutely sickening and embarrassing. I, too, am ashamed to be an American...whatever that means. Bush is a wanker (and now the SS is going to be knocking on my door, because God forbid someone say something bad about Our Great Leader!).
As far as Average Joe American goes, he's too busy trying to figure out how to keep his head above water to pay much attention to charity. It is a wonderful concept, but most people feel that what they have to give is a drop in the bucket. I'm sorry to say that we are an egocintric nation of individuals that look out for number 1 and only feel for the needy at Christmas time when the Salvation Army rings their bells. I know people will disagree with me on this, maybe they don't see it the way I do, but I'm calling it as I see it and have experienced it.
Here we see pictures of starving children on TV and say,"Oh, that's terrible." Then we change the channel to something else and forget about it before we lay down to sleep. If these attrocities were happening in our neighborhoods you can bet things would be different. So our perspective is scued because we dont live through it every day, like you do T. It's going to take an enormous fire being lit under our asses before the US sees the world through 2nd and 3rd world eyes.

I don't think one can compare the poverty in the US to the poverty in 3rd world nations, it's simply not the same thing. In the US, if you have nothing, there are countless organization and government programs that will help you. Not to mention the fact that fair employment is much easier to come by here.
I give to local and international groups. The Red Cross has been a favorite of mine because they simply help everyone. I can't take that step in saying that one human life is more deserving than another simply because they reside in the US. All human life is equally deserving, and everyone deserves help.

I definitely think that the haves have an obligation to the have-nots. Both within America and internationally, I believe the US has an obligation to do what they can to bring others up. Like Jamie said, poverty in America cannot compare to poverty in the Third World - when 1 billion people are living on $1/day or less, I don't see how they are comparable.
That said, I think the US Administration should do what they can to help the have-nots both domestically and internationally. Or, AT THE VERY LEAST, stop pursuing policies that KEEP the have-nots not having. Yes, we provide defense aid for some countries, and I think that's a great contribution, but we also spend an inordinate, insane amount of money on wars that we chose to start. I firmly believe that money could be better spent helping the poor in our country. As for helping Third World countries, the easiest thing in the world we can do is forgive their debt. With the interest rates on IMF and World Bank loans, it is impossible for these countries to repay the debt anyway. Forgiving the debt will allow the governments in those countries to spend money on aiding their poor, where right now they have to use it to pay the interest on the loans.

My point is that there are easy things that the US government (and other First World governments) can do to help the have-nots, and they choose not to. So I do what I can, and hope others do the same. <-- I hope, I don't order or admonish.

I hope this isn't too long. Tertia, you hit on a topic that has been in the front of my mind a lot lately, and I appreciate the opportunity to comment. Thank you.

I think that "humanity" is more important than "nationality". I think we should take care of *humans* not "Americans" or "Africans" or whatever. So if you feel comfortable donating to another country, go for it! If you feel your money would be better spent within the US, do that! *But don't condemn other people for their choice!*

Also there are a lot of programs in the US already to help people. (Some people don't want to be helped.) There are not (I'm assuming) so many such programs in SA.

I think that "humanity" is more important than "nationality". I think we should take care of *humans* not "Americans" or "Africans" or whatever. So if you feel comfortable donating to another country, go for it! If you feel your money would be better spent within the US, do that! *But don't condemn other people for their choice!*

Also there are a lot of programs in the US already to help people. (Some people don't want to be helped.) There are not (I'm assuming) so many such programs in SA.

I'm sick of the relentless denigration of America, George Bush, and our foreign and domestic policies. I'm particularly disgusted when so many Americans are willing to rag on their own country, but turn a blind eye, I mean, a REALLY BLIND eye to the shortcomings of other nations. I'm sick to death of nations (um, like Egypt) who take tons of money from the U.S. and then perpetuate hatred and anti-US propaganda among their people. The US gives a lot of help to a lot of countries, more than any other nation in the world. Enough already.

I used to be a liberal, yep, for 25 years. I remember how disturbed I was when Serbia set up rape camps in Bosnia and tens of thousands of little girls and women were being raped repeatedly by hundreds of Serbian monster soldiers, for months or even years. Their ticket "out" was to get pregnant; that is what the Serbians wanted, so that the women would be humiliated and a walking, pregnant advertisement for Serbian victory by rape. My ex was a flaming liberal as were all of his friends, and I remember how they blasted me for even SUGGESTING that America should get involved militarily in order to protect these Muslim women and citizens from Serbian atrocities. At that time, it was trendy to denigrate the US because it "always thinks it can be the world's policeman." And then, what happens when the US decides NOT to play policeman in other countries, as in Rwanda? Denigration again!!! Well yer damned if ya do and yer damned if ya don't! I went to numerous protests in the town square during the Bosnian crisis, and it was always me, maybe a half dozen other people, and a couple of hundred Muslims. My friend, who was married to a Muslim, asked me "why doesn't anyone come? Don't they care?" The leftists (including my ex and buddies) were quiet as little church mouse during that whole period, at least in my part of the world, which is a blue state, by the way. Where was all their concern for human rights violations then? Where was their concern for Muslims then? Could it be that they just didn't want to rag on Clinton? Hmmm. I don't hear too much in the way of criticism from the liberal camp that he stood idly by and let Muslim women get raped or thousands of Bosnian civilians mutilated, tortured and murdered.

Really, people should try to be consistent and form opinions based on fact, rather than relying on party politics as a guide for whom to hate. I'm on the verge of leaving my party for good, and one important reason is because of this penchant for "America Bad--Other Countries Good" kind of non-critical thinking.

To the question at hand: I don't think that helping locally and helping globally are mutually exclusive either. It's a question of balance.

Well, I proud to be a "selfish" American who "is totally ignorant" and who "cannot find SA on a map", and who probably also "votes only because of what my church says and not in my best interest" and who fogets about atrocity seen on TV "before I lay down to sleep". (By the way, it's lie down to sleep, which I shouldn't know because I'm not supposed to be educated).

I'm glad Americans have learned to generalize so well! I suppose this is why we all assumed Tertia could afford to stay home--generalizing. Let's not assume all people who voted for Bush are a certain way, shall we?

To answer Tertia's question, yes of course we have a responsibility to help others. All people do. Even poor people have a responsibility to help others in whatever way they can; that's what binds us together as people.

There are many issues here, which other posters have touched on. For example, it can be very difficult to figure out just what kind of aid is best, and how to best give it. We should continually try to improve our methods of giving aid. It is also true that our government isn't the perfect philanthopic organization that many seem to think it should be. But, nothing is perfect. France, Germany, and other nations aren't perfect giving machines either. Frankly, I think giving our lives to give people freedom (as the US has done time and time again in history and now) is a pretty darn big gift that most people seem to not remember or care about at all.

All in all, I think America's government could improve it's giving procedures, but I think it has some other things going for it that I shall not get into here. My real point is that each American has a responsibility to quit crabbing about what the government should or should not do, and to look at their budgets and to really give a chunk away that they can feel. My husband and I (because you see we're those uneducated Christian conservative types who can't find Iraq on a map) give ten percent of our GROSS (before tax) income away each year to charitable causes, including educational grants for the poor, homeless shelters, foodbanks, women's shelter's, crisis pregnancy centers, etc. We volunteer, and we give our clothes away to actual homeless shelters, right to the people they are intended to help.

I'm not saying this to get any pats on the back, because I don't deserve pats. We all have a RESPONSIBILITY to really give away something that we can feel in our daily lives and budgets. It's not a "nice" thing, or a "warm fuzzy" thing, it's the reality of being human.

So let's not generalize, and criticize. Instead of bitching, stand up and start with yourself. Everyone has something to give: time, or talent, or money.

I think each person can decide how to make the home/abroad split, and I don't think one must come before the other. It may be a matter of practicality. That is, if someone has a talent to share (teaching reading or such), they can't really do that in SA, but they can here. If someone has clothes or money to give, then they can choose.

Hey Lily! Totally can understand what you're saying above....however, there are solutions. All my winter maternity clothes went to a place in the next town over called Arbor House. This is a place where women who are pregnant without partners (whether they be unmarried or fleeing domestic violence etc.) can go to live until a few months after the delivery of their child. It made me feel so good to know that my clothes wouldn't end up at Goodwill or some thrift shop to line someone else's pocket. There are local solutions to your questions. Sometimes you just have to keep searching and talking to others. Best wishes to you in that endeavor and I encourage all commenters to do the same.

I recently read the book "We Wish To Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families," by Peter Gourevich. It is about the genocide in Rwanda.

In it, I learned that The U.N.'s intervention in the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda actually made things worse. Gourevich, and the Rwanda leaders he interviewed, strongly take the position that Africa is NOT helped by First World intervention, at least not political intervention. So, Gourevich take the position that, for example, American lawyers who rush off to Africa to try human rights cases are ultimately doing Africa no good at all, but actually hurting Africa, which needs to develop its own internal systems of justice to address genocide and other human rights issues.

Moreover, it is debateable whether sending even food and medicine to some war-torn countries is helpful, since these things may end up in the hands of guerilla factions or a tiny elite who can use them to consolidate their power.

Sending food and medicine to politically stable countries with a free press and fair elections would be a different matter.

Also, I would think that sending Rose & Beauty cast-off clothes would help, and not hurt, since it is such a direct, small-scale, one-to-one intervention.

America, in every way, has a responsibility to help out developing countries. First, economically: America exploits the economic resources of many countries. Those countries may not be rich in natural resources (oil, minerals, etc.), but they are rich in something else: cheap labor. Because America takes from these countries, it also has the responsibility to return the favor, perhaps by building infastructure, providing clean water, or providing medical care. Second, politically: I think we all learned what happens when we turn our backs on places that need our help. People become frustrated, and that frustration turn into anger. Then things like 9/11 happen. In the long run, it is in our best interest to help out these developing countries. After all, a strong global economy can only make things better for Americans at home.

In response to some of the other comments, America, in fact, gives the least of all developed nations in the form of international aid. At the Earth Summit in 1992, all developed nations promised to give 0.7% of their individual GDP to international aid. Needless to say, most of these countries are falling short, but America is at the bottom of the list. America gives somewhere around 0.2% of its GDP annually. Shameful.

I think most people in the U.S. are either ignorant of or ignore the situation in these countries, South Africa included. We hear about people living in poverty, but most of us don't think about what that really means. Poverty, internationally, is defined as living on less that $1 a day. You couldn't even feed one family Ramen noodles for every meal on a dollar a day.

I realize that you can't ask everyone in America to live at a lower standard of living to help out those in need in other countries, or even in thier own country. But seriously, how hard would it be to give up a cup of coffee a day, or buy one less DVD a month? I know its not realistic, but it's something to think about....how easy it really would be to help out.

The Disclaimer: I am Canadian.

The Disclaimer, part II: I have a master's degree in political science.

The Disclaimer, part III: this is my opinion. If you don't agree with me, fine, but don't make this any more personal than it already is. If you wish to continue, feel free to email, however don't expect me to answer if all it is is flaming email.

The Legal perspective:

There is no obligation on the part of one country to do anything for another, EXCEPT not violate its borders. And when one country violates another's borders, tit for tat is fine. Borders may also be violated when activities in one country threaten to spill over into another's, threatening that country's sovereignty (this is called externalities).


There are lots of provisions for giving from the "haves" to the "have-nots" (to borrow Tertia's phrasing). Like the UN provision for each industrialized country to provide up to 0.3% of GDP in aid. Only those obscure Scandinavian countries get anywhere close to that, and they have their own reasons for that.

The Moral Issue

Do we have an obligation to each other, as people, to assist in the betterment of our lives?

Damn straight. The way technology is, there's no telling where or when externalities may occur.

We're all in this together. The problem isn't that there is no obligation. The problem is the way the international system is constructed obstructs efficient assistance from one country to another.

It seems to me that charity is charity and no one should feel judged about how or who they help. Giving is a very personal decision, and fortunately (ha) there are charities for everyting you can imagine, so you can give to whoever or wherever suits you best.
Unfortunately foreign policy on charity does not exist in a vaccuum so the US policies on helping other countries vary widely depending on which political group has the most momentum at the time.
Give your clothes to SAfrica, give your clothes to the Goodwill, give your clothes to the women's shelter down the street. Is one choice that much better than the next? Do we really need to judge each other and criticize even when we are doing good?

This is reminding me of Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" (http://teacherweb.ftl.pinecrest.edu/crawfor/apcg/Unit1Omelas.htm)
A poster said it before me - poverty here and elsewhere has not happened on its own. As a political economist whose work is precisely on this issue, I am well aware that some have become wealthy at the expense of other human beings.
Free trade has been a bit of a joke: while it is imposed on the third world as a precondition for loans, etc., the wealthier nations continue to be less than "free" in their trade, with sanctions, quotas, etc. So the most vulnerable are made even more so.
We can either close our eyes and enjoy wealth without questioning where it came from, or we can choose to walk away from complacency and do something about the msiery that so many of our fellow human beings endure every day. It's a choice. It doesn't mean don't enjoy what you have, but don't enjoy it with impunity. We do have a debt to others.
Sorry about the rant,Tertia - this topic is very close to my heart.

Sorry, the full link to the story is:

Katie, you stated that "America gives somewhere around 0.2% of its GDP annually. Shameful." The range of giving among all the nations is between 0.2% and 0.4% GDP, meaning that everyone has fallen short by about the same percentage points, so America is not as shameful as all that. Furthermore, in terms of ACTUAL DOLLAR AMOUNTS, in 2004, the US gave 19 billion dollars in ODA. The second largest giver was Japan--and it gave 8.9 billion.

In terms of giving real help, America is head and shoulders above every other nation.

Oh, my!!! I am the person who e-mailed Tertia to begin with. Little did I know I was creating such a debate. I did not make it through all the current responses before I dedided I should write one of my own, so forgive me if I don't hit on everyone's points.

Firstly, I agree with whomever said that Tertia probably did not mean to end up with a collection of "ashamed to be American" essays. I, for one, am proud to be an American. Here, I don't have to agree with everything the government says and does (or doesn't do!), but I have the freedom to agree/disagree with no repercussions from said government. There are many in the world who do not have that.

Secondly, I generally follow the "think globally, act locally" train of thought. I try to support local businesses and charities. If my neighbour or friend or co-worker needs something, I respond to the best of my ability. In fact, Tertia's load of clothes from me will take a hit because we found out today that the mother of someone who works with my DH lost EVERYTHING to a house fire last night, and I will pull out the things that will work for her. The rest I am packing up in a box and toting down to send off to SA. By the way, the last round of cleaning out just after Christmas yielded 4 large bags and a box of stuff that all went to Goodwill (who, unfortunately, will SELL those things as opposed to GIVING them to those who need them).

Personally, me to my neighbours (everyone who shares this planet with me), I agree with this: "America does have a responsibility to the rest of the world. I think we fail sometimes, but most times succeed. I'm an optimist that we can overcome our differences." But I will say that America is most definitely NOT the only first world country, nor the only one with responsibilities to other nations. We each individually also have those to each other as human beings, which inevitably make us equals.

I just want to make whatever difference I can wherever I can however I can. Keep an eye out for that box, T.

Oh, and kiss the g&d babes for me!

HI all,

This is kind of an aside point, a little off topic. I noticed several people seemed to be complaining about Goodwill selling donationa and "making a profit off the poor."

Goodwill is a non-profit organization. They sell your contributions at low prices which allows them to provide jobs to the disabled, education, credit couseling, and a host of other social services.

Really, I think this is a great form of Charity - more than providing solely for someone's basic needs. People have been using the "teach a man to fish" adage in this thread and I think goodwill really encapsulates this. So don't stop donating to them!

I'm not going to discuss government responsibilities. I am far too cynical; I believe that all politicians are to some degree corrupt and self-serving, no matter what country you talk about. That leaves us all with the personal responsibility to help out where we can. It doesn't matter if it is across the street or across an ocean, as long as somebody gets something they need, who cares where they live or where the help came from?

Going off on a bit of a tangent here...
What makes me really sad about charities is that so many of them tie their aid to their religion. You can't have any food until you renounce your spiritual beliefs and accept their saviour as your own. WTF is that all about? One of my friends went to an impoverished country with his church group a couple years ago and they built a school. I thought that was a great thing to do so I donated some money for the next trip. This time, they built a church. IN A TOWN WITH NO WATER SOURCE. I asked why they didn't put in a well or somehow try to help them get clean water. He said the community really needed a place to come together spiritually. They had their own faith & belief system before the church group came to town. The community doesn't have a school, either. Will the church be used as a school? NO. Needless to say, I won't be funding the next trip. It's so hard to find organizations to donate to who just want to help people with no strings attached. So many seem to have their own religious agenda to promote. Bibles aren't edible and they don't prevent cholera.

Tertia, thanks for the chance to vent and also for all of the information you have given us about South Africa.

I think that sometimes giving at home makes sense, sometimes abroad. I wouldn't bother shipping say clothes to Africa - the costs of that are large and it could be used well here (in my case UK). But if I'm giving money then I think I have a responsibility to give abroad as well - and if it's money it can be used to buy locally made clothes (so helping the local economy in the recipient country) to give out. Obviously that's simplistic, and ignores the possibility of mispending and corruption, but to me it seems silly to send clothes or tins of food halfway across the world if they could be put to good use closer to home. This (home) is where I think the individual can make the most difference in a practical sense. Doesn't absolve of the responsibility to do something for Afria/other poor regions, but that something may be more along the lines of helping open up international trade or funding teaching hospitals rather than handouts, which is probably better done by large NGOs (non governmental organisations) or governments. Just my 2p.

Gorgeous pictures of your kids by the way! They're so big!

I believe that America does have a responsibility to help other countries. And I believe we do that. But where does our responsibility end? At what point do other countries step in and do their part?

I get so tired of the Bush-bashing, and being called an uneducated, ignorant moron (etc) for voting for him.

Our country and the world's problems have been around longer than Bush.

I don't think it matters whether you give in your own country, or give abroad. What matters is that you give.

Been gone most of the day, doing a bit of charity work myself...funny you should post this!

I, personally, am a giver. I give locally, globally and everywhere in between. I feel it is my sense of duty as a HUMAN, not as a European or an American or anything else for that matter.

I do what I can on a personal level. Yes, it pains me to see the downtrodden in my streets and on TV, just as it pains me to see them elsewhere. So, I do my little bit to hopefully give them a ray of light and help them find their way to a better place, no matter where they call home.

To me, it's just nice to be able to help. If it's locally or globally, if someone is in need, why not help if you can? I can't speak for anyone else, but I think all of us have a responsibility to help each other, as members of the human family.

I guess it's also like do unto others what you would want done to you.

Funny you should post this, Tertia. I was thinking about this exact issue after reading the particular post you mentioned about taking care of our needy at home first. My thought on reading that was, "Yes, I want to help the needy here in my country, but I also want to help the needy elsewhere. What's to say that I can't contribute both locally and internationally?"

It's sort of like saying that people shouldn't contribute to environmental causes b/c schools are more in need. Or that we shouldn't contribute to schools when people are homeless. Or that we shouldn't be building housing for the homeless when people are going hungry. There are so many worthy causes, and clearly, not everyone can give to every cause, so it only makes sense to give to the causes that touch you the most, for whatever reason. Fortunately, there are many, many charitable organizations doing good work all around the world, and a gift to any of them is a help to humanity.


When you go through the emergency demonstration at the beginning of a flight, they tell parents to put on their own oxygen masks on before their child’s. The logic there is that you’re of no use to anyone if you’re dead. (To be blunt.)

In my eyes, charity should begin with home in the sense that we (America) are of no use to anyone else if we’re barely functioning ourselves. How can we help other people when we’re falling apart?

How can our government reach out and put oxygen masks on other countries when we’re not getting enough air to stay conscious?

When you apply logic to the situation, it makes sense. I want my government to worry about me... and if my government takes care of me, I am left in a position where I can help other people.

Unfortunately when it comes to matters of the heart, we don’t always use logic. I think of humanitarian efforts as matters of the heart. You’re going to help where you feel you’re most needed... you’re going to help others in the way that will help yourself sleep peacefully at night. Maybe you rest easily knowing that you sent some sweaters and socks to South Africa... or maybe it gives you peace to know that the homeless shelter down the street has a few extra blankets tonight.

Either way, when it comes down to it, we’re all human beings... no matter what country we call home, we’re all walking the face of the same earth. I don’t care who you’re helping on a personal level, just so long as you’re helping someone.

People afflicted by American poverty are so much better off than the poor in the developing world. They have at least some access to high-grade health care, immunizations, clean water, sewers, reliable electricity, and free education. Most poor Americans have TV sets! And shoes. And American children are required to go to school—they're not working to help support the family. Americans who complain about foreign aid are completely in the dark about how vastly different American poverty is from developing-nation poverty.

I wish the US government would spend a lot more on foreign aid. I also wish there would be more money for the have-nots in America—meaning less money for the rich (higher taxes) and less money for the amped-up military. (Although I wouldn't object to military spending if it were going to stop the genocide in Darfur.)

most federal government policies in the united states are stupid, short-sighted, and tilted very heavily toward the haves. state policies where i live (texas) are exactly the same.

we have the "best" health system in the world, but it's only available if you have insurance. and medical insurance is a disappearing thing, the cost increasing every year, so fast that many small businesses can't provide it.

while our politicans want to "get government off your back," they refuse to let homosexual couples enjoy the rights that heterosexual couples have. it's okay to pollute the air and water, but it's not okay to choose an abortion without telling the world about it.

it's important that we "leave no child behind," but we insist on doing education on the cheap. a growing reliance on "user fees" and other cost recovery methods that shift the burden from the government to the end-user means that people who most need services will be unable to afford them.

it boils down to a fundamental different in priority: some people believe that government's purpose is to advance the needs of business, and let the people fend for themselves, thinking that if businesses prosper everybody else does okay. others believe that government's purpose is to advance the needs of the people, and provide services to every person (like health care and education) that benefit the entire society, but are too expensive for any single person to provide for themselves.

i'm in the latter category. i also tend to believe that jesus doesn't need to be a part of my government.

I do believe 1st world nations have an obligation to help people who are still struggling with basic survival. We are all humans, citizens of this planet, and I feel have an obligation to travel together on the road to improved lives. I also believe that in helping people in other countries & cultures, our nation & culture benefit—from the exchange of ideas and beliefs as well as learning new ways to help our own. So why travel round the globe to feed someone when there is a hungry homeless man living under the bridge two blocks away? Well, I do what I can to feed him too, but I am convinced that the world as a whole, not just individuals who are suffering, will be better off if we can help redistribute some of the wealth in the world: more stable, more interconnected, and more able to benefit from the contributions of those who are no longer consumed by their daily struggle to survive.

Should we step in to stop genocide and other atrocities? Well, my reflex answer is, “Of course! We can't stand by and let that happen.” But that is such a difficult policy to implement because politics muddy the water so much. So many situations seem clear-cut, such as the wholesale slaughter of ethnic groups, but there are many where the true facts are blurry and constantly changing, and the politicians are left to decide what's worth fighting for (oil? diamonds? rutabagas?) and which murders they can afford to overlook. I think that leaves too much leeway for profit-driven policies and abuse of patriotism.

I am tired of the rest of the world picking and choosing what the US should do with its money and military, wanting us to shell out money and power when it's needed, then accusing us of feeling we own the world and can do what we want, that we're meddling in the affairs of other nations. I'm not saying we don't deserve the criticism, I'm saying it's a fine line that we rarely walk successfully.

Personally, as a Christian, I make my decisions based on the concept of stewardship: I have been blessed in many ways, and it is my moral responsibility to make the best use of those blessings. I prefer to support organizations such as H*bit*at 4 Hmnty and Heif*r Int'l that provide solutions (in the US & abroad) for immediate needs while improving long-term self-sufficiency in a way that is culturally appropriate to the community.

I haven't read all of the responses yet, so bear with me if I repeat. We send money to a variety of charities, mostly domestic, but definitely some global ones too. Many of the domestic ones have global impact, like environmental causes, the American Cancer Society, and Child Welfare League of America. Global causes are usually more along the line of Amnesty than for starving children in Etheopia.

I don't think it's the best use of resources to mail clothing oversees that can be used here, because an agency can pick up my extra clothes at my doorstep and I can use the money I would have spent to mail supplies all the way to SA towards a financial gift to a charity oversees. That charity can probably buy much more clothes with that money that I would have sent in the first place. Plus, they could then spend the money on their own economic ground, supporting their own businesses.

Anyway, I'm all for efficiency. Also as a social worker I am familiar with American causes and more likely to give my money towards such things as cancer, child abuse, Autism research and poverty issues.

There is more suffering in the world than I can help, but I can help some, and I'm more easily touched by what I see here every day.

Let me also add that I think that this COUNTRY (like, the government) has a duty to assist other nations in need of help.

Well... I think that we need to realize that the USA does give quite a bit abroad, however, what that means and where it goes depends on who is sitting in the oval office.
Now, the USA is also rather good and gracious about giving. Individual donations (vs. corporate) are astronomical. This, I believe, does not take into account things like donations of time and material goods.
Having said all this... where does my money go... in the end, to where I want it to go. This is usually the things that speak to me personally... I give money and time and goods to many local places... but I am a global person and I tend to give to places I have been. My SA (South America) is very needy too.
I do, however, think that the planet is our global responsibility... there are homeless and hungry people everywhere... there are humans suffering under some atrocious government/dictator/regime everywhere... We can't solve all the ugliness overnight, but we should all do our part.
Sometimes I think it is sad that we have charitable giving du jour... but the fact still remains that there is a need, even if it happens to get loads of money at one point in time... take the Tsunami for example, there was a whole bunch of money that went, and I hope that it is able to solve the more pressing and immediate needs, but I know that the needs related to the tsunami will linger for many years and in ways we can't begin to fathom. And I think it is somewhat sad that by the time these needs arise (say children suffering the consequences of losing one or both their parents) that the money will no longer be there and that those needs are still justified.
Having written all this makes me think that my standard of giving might make a little change, I will give to things one full year (at least) after they have been the charity du jour.
forgive my rambling...

You ask the good questions don't you Tertia?

My charity giving is a bit all over the place: WSPA, the animal organisation, who helps rescue and care for animals all over the world. Then there's the building shelters for returning Afghan refugees, and also money for the Sudanese in Darfur. That's one of the causes that make me the angriest and demonstrates to me that this world is really fucked up.

I can't help but feel that I have to help even if it's only $20 or $50 sometimes. I live on this planet with millions of people who are not as fortunate as me. By a million miles. And while I know that there are poor people in Australia, (and I walk past a lady in the street every day who sleeps in front of a door) I feel that there's a difference between "Australia poor" and "Africa poor". Such a huge difference that I can almost not comprehend that it's possible to be that poor.

I think it IS my responsibility to help if I can. I may not be changing the world, but I can't help thinking that if I just contribute a little bit here and there, maybe everyone else will too, and we can make this crazy planet even just 2% more comfortable for someone on the other side of the planet.


"amped-up military"????

Have you not seen the news... you know, where the American soldiers are dying in Iraq because there isn't enough money to get the protective armor needed on military vehicles?

Do you have any idea how little most of those soldiers over there are making? They're being blown to bits, in unprotected vehicles, for somewhere around $1500 a month.

I strongly believe that we, as Americans and as humans, have a responsibility to the world we live in. Unfortunately, the present US administration believes otherwise and seeks to use the world as it's own little playground. It makes me deeply ashamed to be a part of the country as it stands. Having just been to Ethiopia to pick up our daughter, I have seen that poor here in the US is NOT even close to poor in Africa. Not to say that US poor and destitude don't deserve a helping hand, but I think a sort of triage should take place and the neediest helped first. It tore my heart to see that my daughter's birth family, too poor to even eat regularly or get any medical care, gave of themselves much more than anyone I have ever known. I must admit that I don't know any American, no matter how generous or socially concious, that would give someone else their last drop of water.

Even the tiniest pebble dropped into the largest sea leaves ripples. Even if we can only give our time, a nickel, some love to someone that has none, ANYTHING - it can make a huge difference. That said, I don't have alot myself and even less after adopting, but I certainly have more than most in this world and I have a duty to share or at least help others learn to live.

Yes, I think the have's of this world have the opportunity to help out the have's not of this world. We're all part of the human race and I see no point in setting "borders" to charity. I'm from Australia, so I can't comment on the US situation. While I appreciate that there are people who struggle in Australia, we do have organisations which offer help to those people. I don't think you can compare poverty in a first world country to "life and death" struggle in developing countries. I think the true spirit of the saying "charity begins at home" means to "set an example for others to do good" - ie do something and someone will follow suit. Personally, I choose to be a world vision sponsor - a drop in the ocean I know, but at least it's a drop.

I think charity should begin with the individual. So I can choose where I sent my donations of clothes, money, etc. If my country wants to put its citizens first, or the most poor in the world first, I will not be upset by either choice. It's hard to define a country's morals, since it's made of so many different people. That's why I try not to judge a country too harshly

No time to read all the comments, so forgive me if someone else said this already.
Polls in the US show that people think US spends too much on foreign aid. That would be bad news, right? Wrong. Because if you ask just how much people think is spent on foreign aid, the response is that people think it's much higher than it actually is.
So, people think we spend X, and that's too much. But we don't spend X, we spend something like 10% of X.

When UN Secretary General criticized the US for our dreadful foreign aid budget, right wing noise machine attacked him. Not surprising, but sad.

Does anyone remember/understand places like Korea, Viet Nam, Mogadishu, Gulf War I?

Do they recall Black Hawk Down or our guys being drug through the streets, dead, chained to the back of vehicles?

The current UN situations where the food and clothes were sold on the black market by the leaders of the ruling parties?

America does give, and in a lot of respects, she gives from where it hurts; the lives of the young servicemen and women who are sworn to protect our country, incidently, and not to give their lives so that other countries who are, more often then not, caught up in family like squabbles, can impose their might on each other.

WHich includes Rwanda, which seems to have been mentioned repeatedly. It is wrong, but where do we draw the line of blood. Do you want your husband, your brother, to give his life because of age old conflict, Hatfields and McCoys, third world style has gotten out of control?

Military history is a hobby of mine. It is personal, I spent a good part of my life in the Marines, I care about our guys - where they go and why they went there.

In the last probably five conflicts (forbid to call them 'wars', they were not wars to us, they were officially termed 'conflicts') history has shown that what went down was staged. There were political/economic benefits afforded certain people who were in the know.

These benefits did not apply to the guys we burried. they applied to the higher ups.

War; politics, are rich men's games that poor boys play.

Most of our military is made up of men and women looking for a way up in life. Steady job, education. They are not looking to die. They will, however, if so directed.

I think Rebecca's post was most succinct. America's reputation as being a leader, as being one of the 'haves' is a reputation of myth these days, not of reality.

We have poor here in this country that will meet or beat anything in third world countries. In the appalachians, even tho there may be the 'illusion' of opportunity or care, the fact remains that children, adults, still sleep in huts w/out running water or electricty.

Please tell them that they don't exist.

I know that there was a time when i was a child that everything i wore to school belonged to my best friend, from the skin out. We were on welfare and my mother simply could not afford to buy food, pay morgage, electricty, water and clothes for five children.

We took our lunch, if we had something, and a cup for water from the water fountain.

They say it builds character when you are ridiculed for being different (read; poor, white...) I think it builds a kiss my ass attitude, myself.

This is very disjointed. I already have a set up in place where i syphon off my used items, so i didn't participate in Tertia's air care drop.

however, having the knowledge i have of the being a prior 'have not', i live a weird style. I limit myself to what i will own, a certain wardrobe style and numbers in it.

I am leery of excess. I own no jewlery of any sort, save a recent purchase of a tennis bracelet and a watch.

I sleep on air mattress. (obviously single)

My car is almost ten years old.

I set aside a certain amount of money to contribute, on a regular basis, to charities i trust.

Giving, no matter where, is a personal matter built on personal mores and beliefs. The country we live in whill not ever change that.

I'm with Wessel and Jillian. Look, I'm an American, accident of birth and all that so I'm not "proud to be an American" any more than I'm proud to have hazel eyes - it's just how things fell out. On the other hand, I'm not NOT proud to be one - it kills me to see people eagerly denigrating themselves, especially when traveling abroad - "Oh, I'm not like THOSE ignorant Americans." I can find SA on a map, have traveled extensively, and really don't think I'm as rare a bird as all that.

To the aid/war question: the "damned if you do, damned if you don't" thing does apply. Being the last superpower, I think a lot of times this country gets treated rather like a parent - there to be argued with, loved, insulted behind its back, fought with - but in the end, it's always expected that they'll be there for you when the shit comes down. (Gross generalization, I know).

For charity, I say: do what you can, either at home or abroad. I really don't want to get into the business of finding out who exactly needs it more - that's perilously close to dividing between the "deserving poor" and, you know, the other kind. Do you think you'll do best volunteering in a soup kitchen? Do that. Is the funding of education for Russian orphans close to your heart for some particular reason? Work on that. In a situation like the tsunami, which was news for the entire world, obviously the reaction will be more dramatic, but I don't think that means that people don't do charitable things at home all the time; it just isn't newsmaking the way things like the tsunami are.

My views on this issue are far too complex to get into in a short comment so my very brief version is - Yes, I do think we have a responsibilty as a nation and as individuals to help those in need.

For a really, really wonderful (a bit utopic but still ultimately very enlightening) look at this issue I can not reccommend the following book highly enough.

The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time
by Jeffrey Sachs

READ IT. It is so important and really, really fascinating and inspiring. And not at all dry or academic. Really. Go to the library or order it at Amazon RIGHT NOW.

When I worked on my MA in African studies I thought about this a lot. I believe that a) first world countries do have an obligation to help the rest of the world and that b) South Africa doesn't 'owe' anything to the rest of Africa, but it's in a good position to be a leader.

From a historical perspective, a simplistic view is that the first world owes its riches to the rest of the world. The hard part is justifying making people today pay for what happened in the past.

As a Canadian I am a World Vision sponsor for a little boy in Indonesia. The $35 I send every month does good and makes me feel great. I don't know about any country having a responsibility to help but on personal level I cannot help but doing what little I can. I encourage others to do similar, great program!

Sadly our government is so focused on the wrong things... Blood for oil takes prescedent in the US. Our government doesn't even care about it's own poor people. We have poverty, homelessness, domestic voilence, wars in the ghettos. But our current administration is so focused on money, greed, appeasing the Christian right, that is forgets about equality and humantarianism, here and abroad. We are in Iraq when we should be in Darfur. We are more concerned with the drug companies' bottom lines, not the elderly who need the drug. Our motivations, our support really doesn't have anything to do with what's best, rather what is most profitable. And sometimes it makes me ashamed to be from this country.

actually, it is a misnomer to make any statement about our current government doing anything to appease the christian right.

In fact it is a great fallacy to accuse our current government of ANTHING 'christian' except a lot of rhetoric.

hmmm...come to think of it....that is about as 'christian' as some christians get...

i stand corrected!

all christian present company excluded, i am sure.

I think that morally we all have an obligation to help everyone. I think that everyone, regardless of economics has something that can benefit others.

But should charity begin at home? Probably. If you don't help those at home, your country will become over burdened and eventually, less able to help anyone else. It's like mothering- if you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of your babies.

But you can't ignore such devastating need elsewhere. You just need to do all you can. I think it is great if people want to send clothing to SA- especially since there aren't that many places that need used clothing in the US. There are lots of places to get used clothing in the US for very, very little.

As far as stepping in to stop genocide- yes I think we should help. BUt many places don't want the intervention. There are many times when I read news stories of POed people griping that the US went to someplace and did something and what an evil bad country we are. Those are the days that I wish I could stop all aide to non US countries and put all of that money toward our educational systems, our homeless, our small businesses, our roads and parks, etc. There are many times when I think it would be great to stop aide for just 6 months- just to let the real truth be seen about how America intervenes with the rest of the world. Perhaps we would find we do too much and that we really are stepping on everyone's toes- but I don't think so.

I am an Air force wife and an Army daughter. When there is a crisis in the world my father and husband are both deployable. My dad went to Iraq for over a year. When the tsunami hit one of my first thoughts was, "I wonder if Chris or my dad will get deployed to go help?" I can't help but think that. 80 people are gone from our Air Force base right now helping to clean up that mess. That hits pretty close to home here. So many of the world's problems are everybody's problems.

I guess I didn't really answer the question in a concrete manner,
But that's a little about how I feel. . .

the 'haves' definitely must help the 'have-nots'. else, we humans can't consider ourselves anything higher than modern apes.

oh goodness tertia. i didn't read the whole post, i stopped on the question about a belief in taking responsibility for the third world.

i believe my country -- usa -- should take a responsibility in the third world. i believe we should not be starting unneeded wars and instead devoting all that money to places like the sudan, ethiopia, all of africa. i believe that our military budget SHOULD NOT be 50% of the discretionary funds (ADD to that $190 billion that has been spent on the iraq war), instead we should devote less money to killing people and more to saving them.. at home -- universal healthcare, better social welfare -- and then heading out from home to those who need us the most.

i strongly believe that the power my country wields in the world could be used for good and not bad. we should have created a department of peace, not homeland security. we are a country of the paranoid.


the reason i wrote about keeping things here is because in my day to day life i see the forgotten in my own country, i hear the stories of people not having enough food -- in the richest country in the world.. many of my friends --- privilaged and educated but poor -- cannot see the doctor when they want too because they have no healthcare. and while i realize healthcare is a privilage in most countries, it should not be in the richest country. the disparity between the rich and the poor in this country is only growing.

the priorities of my country need to change now. yes, they do. they need to change so that we can use our wealth for good all over the world, instead of bad.


i must have sounded like a selfish american who wants it all for us. oh goddess, i'm sorry. i did not mean to sound that way. really and truly. i did not mean to sound that way. i don't think i am, i probably am, but i try not to be.

Man, what a topic. I hope to find time to read some of these posts!

I think there is a difference between helping a people and taking over. GWB's whole "everyone needs democracy" is such crap. Let me tell you, democracy isn't all it's cracked up to be. We don't know everything so why are we running around trying to "save" everyone?

I believe you can better one person at a time if they want to better themselves. There are people happy mooching off the government and have no want-to when it comes to changing their situations.

An example in Africa: schooling is not free. So, if there is an organization that let's Americans fund a child for school, that's great...if the child or parent is taking the initiative to sign up for the program. If some zealous freak is running around yelling "every child needs to go to school" I don't agree with that at all.

So we have an obligation to other people if they ask for help. We do not have an obligation to save the world.

And for crying out loud, let's get kids graduating who can read, write and do math here in the States before we look abroad. We're going in the toilet - can we save ourselves first?


Hey Tertia...lets tackle abortion as the next topic!

I love America and I'm a liberal. I'm not ashamed at all to be an American. I'm ashamed of past actions and inactions. I love America enough to push towards changes that will make it a great country for all, not just the lucky few.

As for global responsibility, I believe in that as well.

However, I do think that each country has a responsibility to tend to their own as much as they are able. For example, I believe that America still has a debt to be paid to African Americans regarding the legacy of slavery. I believe that health care should be an American right and so should housing. And I believe that white South Africans have a large obligation to black South Africans.

Most of my volunteer work and charity dollars go to my community and to my country. But I also donate to organizations like Doctors Without Boarders and other groups that benefit people all over the globe.

For everyone who wants to cut military spending...the military is run like a business. When things get cut, it's not pork defense spending, it's not contractors or consultants. It's health care, basic weapons, military housing, etc.

There are Marines dying on their third tour in Iraq. Their third tour. The pace shows no signs of stopping (despite what our Liar in Chief says) and the troops are still lacking equipment.

I agree that military spending needs to be cut, but unless we change the system, it's not going to be cut the way most people think. Cutting spending means more burden on the backs of the troops and their families.

As for most Americans being selfish, I don't see that. My spouse is a Marine, he was in Iraq last year and might be going back to the Middle East this summer (Please, God, not Iraq.) Many of our friends are on second or third tours in Iraq. You may not agree with their motives, but they sure as hell are not in it for the money or for selfish reasons.

Bottom line...I think as Americans we are screwed no matter what we do. If we step in and help we are painted as "overstepping our boundries" and "forcing our viewes on others" if we sit back and do nothing then we are "selfish, greedy, and cruel" to the rest of the world.

Personally, I'm a little tired of it.

Ok, not going to read other comments before writing my own. I think that Americans should help other countries with both time and money. Yes, there are lots of Americans that need help; but that doesn't mean we can ignore the rest of the world. I do struggle with the fact that it seems that other countries are either complaining that America doesn't do enough to help other countries but if America goes in to help somewhere, then we are butting our noses into things that are none of our business. On a more personal note, I think that individuals have a responsibility to do what we can. We can't expect the gov't to do it all. My husband and I give to missions through our church that help people in underdeveloped countries. We also give to a food pantry to help feed people in our area who need help.

My husband and I have argued about this a few times. For everyone's sake, I will withhold my long (but VERY well reasoned) academic arguments on the issue and just say that borders and nationality are an artificial construct. Children of one country are in no way more deserving than another. The children that deserve more are the children that are in most need. That generally happens to be children in Africa, South America, and parts of Asia.

Honestly, I believe that most Americans have absolutely no idea what conditions are like in other countries. They see pictures, but have never been to these places or taken the time to investigate. If they truly understood how bad the situations were in other countries, and compared it to the US, they may finally realize how different the situations are.

Imagine carrying the "at home" reasoning out. Say someone with the wealth of Bill Gates had to decide what to do with $1 million (Bill Gates is a very charitable man, so I use his wealth as an example, not him). The "at home" argument could be used just as easily to say "I *could* give this money to a charity that helps poor children, but my OWN child really really wants a private jet. Why should my own children be deprived of their needs? I need to take care of my own family FIRST before I start giving money away to other people." This is approximately equivalent to the wealth of even the poorest in the US vs. the rest of the world. If people make the US first argument, they necessarily agree with the moral and logical foundations of the family-first-private-jet argument. How selfish and blind to the true nature of the world.

Although I admire the first commenter's sense of charity, I take issue with charities that send out religious tracts with their assistance. Sure, they aren't actually obligated to believe, but it sure seems fishy to me. Just help people live in *this* world, and let the missionaries spread whatever "word" you endorse without bribes, please. It's just not ethical.

In response to the question, that sort of thinking (help here first, OR ELSE) reminds me an awful lot of the assvice about international or domestic adoption. In terms of private individuals' charitable giving/actions, why the **** do people think they should have any input into this at all? In terms of the state, as far as I know, a government has an obligation to help its citizens. That's all. That happens to include relations with other countries, which are vastly improved if they dig in their pockets and do the decent thing, and as an extra added bonus, it feels good. So helping foreigners is part of a government's obligation to its people. IMHO.

I guess I feel those of us have the means to help others should help, in whatever way we best can.

I don't know if we ought to look after "our own" first before turning to the rest of the world. I believe that the whole world is "our own." A little girl in Angola whose family cannot make ends meet is no less deserving of my help than a little girl in Detroit. I think if we see an opportunity to help, we should take it. I've been so abundantly blessed and I've given so little, I know I should be doing more.

Speaking of which, for those of you who don't know, you can go to the Hunger Site (I think it's hungersite.org but I'm not sure) and click once a day and the site's sponsors will donate a cup or so of staple food to needy people in a developing country on your behalf. Almost no effort required.

I find your comments interesting, as I have never thought of our gifts as a "bribe" to believe in God. I've given it some thought now, though. I was led to this passage.

Holy Bible NIV
Psalm 49

"Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me- those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches? No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him- the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough- that he should live on forever and not see decay. For all can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others....
This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. Selah
...but God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself. Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him. Though while he lived he counted himself blessed- and men praise you when you prosper- he will join the generation of his fathers, who will never see the light of life. A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish."

We can't take it with us when we go. All that matters is the LOVE that we showed to God's children. That's all I thought I was doing when I sent out my shoeboxes at Christmas and Easter. Sending love. The trinkets in the box will quickly fade. God's love that I sent will not. I trust that my gift was received by some of the people I sent it to.

Long-time lurker, first-time poster, and I have to be rude and say I don't have time to read the 97 comments that came before mine - though I really wish I did - but I really want to comment, so I hope I'm not repeating what others have said (too much.)

I'm a journalism student living in the Southeastern US, and as much as I would like to be able to say that ALL Americans (or hell, even most Americans) feel at least somewhat responsible for those in less privileged countries, recent experience tells me that isn't the case. It pains me to say that. I have an "investigative report" due on Monday for one of my classes, and as our topic my partner and I chose to research the amounts and types of local humanitarian aid being devoted to the Darfur crisis. Knowing what I have learned over the past several months about the atrocities in Sudan, I genuinely expected to see at least some efforts being made by the local branches of organizations such as Amnesty International, UNICEF, Red Cross, etc., and I was terribly disheartened by what we have learned. In not so many words, the local offices of each of these three organizations have told us that public awareness of the genocide is more or less nonexistent in this area. And sadly, I feel there is no one to blame for that except the mass media outlets. If they (or I guess I should say "we," considering my area of study) devoted a quarter of the Michael Jackson/Britney Spears/Jessica Simpson bullshit coverage to what's going on in Sudan, I truly believe that there would be a public outcry. Maybe I'm just in denial, but I like to think that most Americans do have some sympathy for the rest of the world. Unfortunately, though, I believe most of us aren't given the opportunity to learn about what's really going on out there.

Just my two cents. Love your site, btw. You always have such interesting topics.

What a great topic.
I cant comment on any US politics as I am Australian. I am proud of my country's history of lending a hand to those in need, and likewise I do the same myself. I choose the charities I donate to that are close to my heart, whether they be local or international.
Do I feel that wealthy nations have an obligation to help out 3rd world nations? Most definitely....

The people who can help the people who need the most help have an obligation to do so. While homelessness breaks my heart, genocide breaks it a thousand times over.

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