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on giving even when it hurts

It seems I opened a can of worms yesterday. I wasn't trying to bait anyone with those worms; I was more or less just letting them loose.

Laurence claims I was being righteous. Perhaps I was. If the ability to separate people in distress from their crazed government is righteous, so be it.

Meryl says I have no idea what it's like to be a Jew, so I can't understand why her and Laurence would refuse aid to the people of Bam, and I can never understand their visceral anger.

I only know what it's like to be hated as an American. I know that people hate us so much that they would steer full planes into office buildings and kill thousands of people in the name of that hatred. But no, I am not a Jew - although I am a passionate defender of the Jews - so I have no idea about hatred that would drive one to hate a government so much that you would take it out on the people. Perhaps I am being naive or simplistic. Prehaps not.

It's a personal choice, I suppose, whether to support the U.S. decision to send aid to Iran. It's certainly personal when it comes to giving on your own. In much the same way, their anger is personal and who am I to dispute that anger or ask them to justify it?

Andrea says:

See, maybe I can't "understand" what Jews go through, not being Jewish myself. But, you know, by that criterion I can't understand what it means to be Chinese, or Yanomamo, or male, or a victim (yet) of a suicide bomber, or anything but Andrea Harris.

Right. All I understand is my need to help people in need. I can't do anything from my safe little haven here except ask other people to help as well.

Lileks seems to share my feelings:

I heard a network news feed on the radio say that the US was sending aid despite having branded Iran as a member of the Axis of Evil. Oy. Did the author of that dispatch believe that the administration regarded the Iranian people as a seething mass indistinguishable from the calculated madness of the ruling clerics?

For me, it's simple. Earthquake = disaster = people in need. Conversely, we have your basic mathematical theory:

The Iranian government hates Jews.
The citizens of Bam are Iranian.
Therefore, the citizens of Bam hate Jews.
True or false?

A prize to everyone who said false. It was kind of obvious though, wasn't it? Maybe. Maybe some people see this:

The Iranian government hates Jews.
People who live in Iran are Iranian.
All Iranians should suffer the same wrath of my anger for the simple fact that they are Iranian and their mullahs hate Jews.
True or false?

Ah, but that's a personal theory, not a mathematical one. So we'll leave it at that. I give to Mercy Corps, you give to MDA and we both feel like we've done something, right? Well, I've given to MDA as well. And the IDF.

And there's where my claws come out. I think it was Laurence's need to add this little self-righteous paragraph after his childish braying about the people of Iran:

This gets me to wondering. How many other Blogathon participants keep an active fundraising campaign/effort for their charity going year-round? How many others do more than just toss the third-class postal announcements or e-mail newsletters or let their bumperstickers and buttons gather dust on a shelf?

So, my work for MDA during the blogathon is not as worthy as yours because you give to MDA year round? Please. Get over yourself. You are not any more virtuous or charitable than anyone else who gives, be it a child giving a dollar of their allowance or someone raising thousands of dollars for the same charity.

And while we are on the subject of that particular post, I'll take issue with this statement as well:

Don't like it? Tell the students to grow some balls and bring the Mad Mullahs down instead of whining on their weblogs and pretending they're cyberrevolutionaries.

Seriously, Laurence. Do you really think it's that easy to rise up against a regime that would shoot people just for thinking about a revolution if they could? It's so easy to say that from the comfort of America, but if you really read any of those weblogs, you would know how hard it is to fight fire with nothing more than words.

I'm feeling very disillusioned today.

If you would care to give to the people of Bam, you can use the link to Mercy Corps in my sidebar or go here for other links.

Update: Ilyka has much more on this subject, as does Starhawk and Mike Sanders.

TrackBack

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference on giving even when it hurts:

» Small World - Smaller Minds from dave's not here
Many of the blogs in my daily blogs list have been languishing in the dust, as I don't always get an opportunity to read them all. There are a few though that I read religiously; A Small Victory is one [Read More]

» Tragedy in Bam from Freedom Lives
When one sees a tragedy as it what has happened in Bam the first reaction is to help in some way as Michele proposes. There are other considerations in any decision as Laurence points out here and Meryl expands on... [Read More]

» Both/And Versus Either/Or from Ilyka Damen
Michele thinks Laurence is indulging in self-righteousness as well; I think she makes a valid point. [Read More]

» bam! (no. not emeril) from gigglechick.com
so... if you haven't noticed, there's a callout on the right nav over there... yeah... there. it's for donations to the iranian earthquake relief fund. i found that link off [Read More]

» Is THIS sick, or what?! from Dodgeblogium
Those twisted religious-zealot mullahs in Iran would rather see people in Bam die in the rubble than permit any "Zionist group" to send trained people to help in the rescues....Iran said on Saturday it would accept aid from all foreign... [Read More]

» Separating people from their leaders from Signifying Nothing
I think Michele has the better of the argument in contrasting Lair’s and Meryl’s reaction to the U.S. sending aid to the earthquake victims in Iran with her own. Personally, I think it’s worthwhile even if not a single Iranian... [Read More]

» With Apologies to Emeril from The Waterglass
The death toll in Bam, Iran is approaching 30,000. That's bad. Iran's corrupt theocracy says it will not accept aid from Israel. That's stupid. It's created a bit of a stir in the blogosphere. Michele at A Small Victory has... [Read More]

» Where hatred ends and humanity begins from WHUZZUP!®
Rarely do I agree with Michele these days. However I do respect her. She's an excellent writer and this is one of those times where an emotional post *should* override politics and agendas. Yeah I admit it. I'm no fan... [Read More]

» When Mercy Is Justified from Matthew J. Stinson | weblog
Sending aid to the victims of the Bam earthquake in Iran is not a moral duty, but like other manifestations of compassion, it's worthy of praise. While Iran's government has proven itself to be hostile to the interests of her... [Read More]

» Some More Great Insight from Rodent Regatta
I'm becoming a regular reader of A Small Victory. One of yesterday's entries, titled On Giving When It Hurts, shows... [Read More]

Comments

Michele,

It is a small mind that cannot differentiate the suffering of a people from the stupidity of a government.

Yes, the Iranian people, and most Arabs for that matter do not recognize the state of Israel, but that does not lessen the burden the suffering of the people of Bam. Your position is a far more human stance than that of most of the respondants.

Remember, you allow comments on this blog for the purpose of feedback, but there will always be mindless trolls out there aiming at bringing you down.

I'm lucky, my blog hasn't gained the popularity that yours has attained. For that matter, it likely never will. You are a much better chronicler of the passage of events than even most media outlets and I applaud your efforts. Keep blogging, and keep speaking as you see things. The minds of the trolls are too small to see that activism doesn't have to come from a political point of view, but can come instead from the heart.

I have to stop this comment now. We just took a mortar inside the perimeter and I have to go put on my body armor. More later....

Dave, thanks for your comments but I do want to clarify that Meryl and Laurence are not trolls at all, but people with whom I've had a friendly relationship. We are just having a major difference of thought.

To others, if you have not read Dave's blog, you really should. It's a great inside view of Iraq.

I wasn't discussing them alone. I seperated the third paragraph from the second in order to begin addressing negative responses on the whole. My own selfish reading habits demand that I keep you blogging. LOL!

I suppose that the fact that one of my eight great-grandparents was mostly german (the blond haired kind) is enough to preclude me from being helped by anyone jewish as well.
I also have to wonder how many blacks will quit donating to the Red Cross when they figure out they give a lot of aid and comfort to all the homeless rednecks who's trailers got wiped by the latest tornado.
Laurence , et al, need to consider the possibility that when Joe Iranian receives aid and comfort from a person or organization bearing the Star of David, that might just be enough to turn their personal hatred around. In the name of hate, they'd rather pass that opportunity up.

Meryl and Laurence have strong points of view on a single issue. Like many who fall into that category, they have an us or them perspective. You see anti-abortion folks like this, or Howard Dean supporters, etc. It's the single reason that I stopped reading Laurence, disemboweling Arabs stopped being funny.

We win friends for America through our big hearts and open arms.

While I tend to come down on the side of helping people in need. However, I'm a little perplexed by your suggestion (in your example equations) that it's just the Iranian government that hates Jews. My strong suspicion is that if you polled the Iranian public at large, you'd find very few (if any) people who had anything nice to say about the Jews. I think most of what you'd hear would be quite venomous.

Iranians, if polled, WOULD probably exhibit a lot of animosity towards jewxs. So?

There is a price for being the good guy--and we are the good guy no matter what anyone says--and that is, in times of need you help. You help everyone who needs help. You can argue--or war--over ideology later.

Doing this gives you many advantages. You hold the moral high ground. You become the face of help and succor for everyone--even the citizens of an enemy government. And, in the end, you win.

Why? Because you've proved yourself to be the better alternative. Even great losses will not stop the inexorable march towards the victory that awaits the ideology that understands that there is more than vengeance.

I am jewish and I have to agree with Dave that I suspect most of the people in Iran are probably anti-jew.
I would not however withhold aid from them just because some of them I find despicable.
It is not about them it is about us and when such an event happens we must reach out to help those that have been struck with misfortune because not doing so would diminish us as human beings.

The year-round comment was directed more towards one-shot-wonders like FSCK. I'm surprised you'd take that as a shot against yourself after having done the Donuts For Hannukah thing.

As for the rest,
we've dumped $2 billion in foreign aid on Egypt year after year, and you don't see much improvement in that equally anti-Semitic/anti-American rot there by the Nile.

Laurence, Egypt remains one of (what?) two nations that have signed a peace treaty with Israel. While it is hardly a friend of the Jewish people nor of Israel, it is not an active enemy as Syria is. Having a relatively peaceful border is worth the $2 billion, given what the years between 1949 and 1973 resulted in.

I agree with Jack and Starhawk. We have to always be better than them.

Moral absolutes can be a good thing. Some things are always wrong – terrorism is always wrong, no matter what ‘cause’ it pretends to support. Cannibalism also tends to fall in the ‘always wrong’ side. These are the kind of extreme behaviors that society just can’t tolerate.

Helping people during an emergency is one of those things that’s always right – it’s just human nature to do it, it's why societies survive. Firemen don’t only rescue people they like, they rescue everyone. Doctors are willing to treat Saddam. If we’re going to talk about politics, then I’d say that Israel should bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities whenever they feel the need to do so. But we’re not talking about politics, we’re talking about human nature, helping people in need is the right thing to do.

One thing we should learn from this – building mud-brick homes in earthquake zones is a really bad idea. Any type of construction – even a trailer park – would be better.

yep - if more people would just come down off of their highhorses and ask "hey, what's best for mankind instead of for me?" the world might be a better place... instead of saying "well, they don't like us, so, let's let them suffer..."

ever hear of the lion-with-the-thorn-in-his-paw fable? good lesson.

Man, what a lot of small minded, bigoted full-of-hatred people are out there.

One of the attributes that make us human, and seperates us from animals is that in times of human suffering and need, we put aside our differences, and help our fellow people.

To me, someone who says "Because I am jewish, I won't help those people who are suffering", makes me think of a lesson my one of the most well known jews. Read up on the parable of the good samaritan. And think about what the meaning is. Then try to crawl back to your "moral high ground" - if you can.

But would Iran help either the US or Israel if they were in need? I rather doubt it.

I think Dave is correct about the extent of hatred of the Jews and Israel in Iran.

I think neither side is wrong in this debate. I think there is every justification for not wishing to see your money to go to Iran. Just as there is every justification to try to help those in need despite their beliefs.

As they say of such issues in the House of Commons: it is a question of individual conscience.

Ok, I guess I'll play the devil's advocate for a bit:

There are a lot of people in the world who need aid and assistance. Do the people of Bam need help, in the wake of this earthquake? Yes. But there were millions of people in the world as badly-off of as the citizens of Bam.

We have a maximum amount of money we can afford to give; each dollar we send to Iran is a dollar that DOESN'T go to someone else. In a very real sense, the decision to provide antibiotics to save the life of an injured woman in Iraq is also a decision to allow a starving woman in the Congo to waste away and die. This is triage; we cannot save everyone, so we must make a decision as to WHO we save.

Yes, Iran isn't a democracy, and we can't hold the citizens fully responsible for the government's actions. But just because a country is undemocratic does not mean that the citizens of that country disagree with everything the government does. Both the desire for Israel's destruction and deeply-ingrained, 1930s-Germany-variety hatred of Jews are common among Iranians. If you save the life of an Iranian, you are quite probably saving the life of someone who hates Jews.

So I can see why a Jewish person would prefer to exclude Iranians from their charity budget.

But would Iran help either the US or Israel if they were in need? I rather doubt it.

Most likely they wouldn't. In fact, it's more likely that they'd laugh and say Allah was punishing us or some dumb shit like that. But that's not really the point. You help people because it's the right thing to do, not because you're reasonably confident they'd come to your aid in a crisis.

I think Dave is correct about the extent of hatred of the Jews and Israel in Iran.
Dave's always correct about everything, dude. The quicker you people figure that out...nevermind. Anyway, yes, there's a high degree of Jew and Westerner hatred in Iran. But that's no reason not to help the Iranian people. As others have said, it might be a great opportunity to show them that we're not as bad as they think.

To raise a minor point here, I don't think that anybody is talking about 'witholding' aid from the people of Iran.

After all by that logic you are withholding money from any charity you don't donate to which means that no matter how many charities you do give to, you would be guilty of withholding money from tens of thousands of other charities.

Ultimately giving is a triage process in which you determine the priorities for which charity to give to based on your own personal values. Everyone has their own values and therefore their own priorities in that regard and I don't believe that it's fair to condemn people for what charities they choose to give to or not to give to as long AS LONG AS THEY ARE GIVING TO SOME WORTHY CAUSE.

Personally I am not donating any money to the Iranian relief for two reasons. First of all I think it's more important to donate money to charities that deal with ongoing problems rather than emergency relief efforts for some widely covered disaster, which tends to end up being overcontributed to with much of the money going to waste. See what happened with a lot of the 9/11 charities.

Secondly, while the people of Iran are most certainly not to blame for the actions of their government...the government of Iran has enough money to fund a completely unecesarry nuclear program that now has no potential targets except American forces or American allies. And if they have the billions to fund those nukes, they have enough money to care for their people. If they choose guns over butter, it's not my fault or my responsibility.

It's not a matter of spite but a matter of choice. When choosing to give, I'll contribute to needy causes in my own community first, to worthy causes in the US and in other Democratic nations; but I am not going to send money over to totalitarian states hostile to the US, particularly Iran which actively supports terrorism and has murdered US troops and citizens.

Yes there is a distinction between the totalitarian government and the people of Iran. And when the people choose to make that distinction clear as they did in Russia and East Germany, I'll be happy to support them. Until that time the priority of my charity will go to my neighbors, my countrymen and my allies.

It may not be very globalist, very christian or very liberal or very noble of me; but that's how I feel and that's how I do. Charity begins at home, it begins with your friends and not with your enemies. They're my priority.

I doubt the people of Iraq are much more Jew-friendly. Not that I'm completely unsympathetic to Laurence and Meryl's point of view.

"Pay attention to the joke," he said. "The joke is the only form of political comment that is authentic in the Middle East -- and for the most part uncensored." He then told a joke now doing the rounds in that part of the world: "Two Iranians lament the state of their country. Finally, one says to the other, 'What we need here is a bin Laden.' 'Are you crazy?' his friend gasps. 'No!' the first Iranian says. 'That way the Americans would come and rescue us.' "

Brava, Michele. Hold to your convictions and don't be discouraged by the disappointment you must be feeling in people you otherwise respect. Everyone's a mix, eh? As long as they're alive they can grow and change, and, it is to be hoped, they will.

Everyone bleeds red, feels pain, suffers loss. The impulse to relieve suffering is universal and universally honored. All civilizations have some statement of "The Golden Rule." The God of Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed said it, as did the Buddha.

Bind up the wounds, offer the comfort there is, and don't worry about the nay-sayers.

Meryl says I have no idea what it's like to be a Jew, so I can't understand why her and Laurence would refuse aid to the people of Bam, and I can never understand their visceral anger.

I must've missed the meeting where "Lair" and Meryl were appointed spokespeople for the tribe. I for one am having a hard time understanding how anyone would think the Israeli government's hurt feelings are more important than 20,000 dead people.

Michele, dear, I couldn't agree more. Thank you for stating it so well and posting all the links.

Let us pray that when it comes time to depend on the kindness of strangers Lawrence, Meryl, and O. deus and others of their persuasion run into people like you and not like themselves.

Anger and selfishness are understandable. Indeed, in certain circumstances necessary, perhaps even admirable.

Not in the face of great tragedy and the unimaginable suffering of others.

Not ever then.

If a pedestrian gets hit by a car and lies bleeding in the street, we don't stop to quiz him about his political beliefs before providing aid. Sure there's a chance the guy might be an extremist who wants everyone in the world outside of his own ethnic or religious group to be obliterated, but even for a person full of that much hate, we don't withold assistance in a time of crisis.

We know that Iran is not at all unified against the West or in favor of the mullahs. In fact, by all reports the populace is increasingly fed up with the mullahs and there's a decent chance Iran's political landscape could soon undergo a dramatic change. By witholding aid for this horrific disaster, we would not only be doing the wrong thing morally, we'd be playing right into the mullahs hands: "We told you you couldn't trust the evil Americans."

It's hard to even fathom the extent of this disaster - we're talking about over 20,000 people dead in the blink of an eye. If you can't respond to that level of tragedy with some measure of compassion, even for your enemy, then you've allowed your own humanity to be subsumed by hate.

If you are involved with giving charity on a regular basis or with charitable organizations you are well aware that there is always a resource allocation question.

If this earthquake occurred in Nazi Germany during WWII, would you understand a Jew (or anybody else) choosing not to contribute? Granted that Iran is not Nazi Germany but the fact that they have rejected Jewish help from Israel and are significant sponsors of Jewish-directed terrorism might help you understand Meryl and Lawrence's position.

I've said it elsewhere...

I'll say it here...

Only Nixon could go to China, perhaps only Bush can go to Tehran.

Can of worms? Oh, Lordy, this is more like busting open a nest of rattlesnakes.

I think it is kind of deplorable and hard-hearted for anyone to deny any sort of aid to the earthquake victims in Bam. Perhaps the thousands of acts of mercy that would be meted out in the hospital tents and ambulances there might actually promote a little world peace.

And we wouldn't want that, would we? What would we do with all of our hate and fear?

D

With due respect to Lawrence Simon and Meryl Yourish, they don't get to speak on behalf of Jews, any more than I do. We all only get to speak on behalf of ourselves. When Meryl, or Lawrence, or I, or any Jew, speak of "our" anger, we are speaking of "our anger," singular.

And if they want to declare that a non-Jew "can't understand," they're entitled to say what they want, but I'm just as entitled to think and say that what one understands is a simple matter of learning and experience.

Plenty of non-Jews are well-educated in anti-semitism, and plenty of Jews are not. What one is sensitive to, over-sensitive to, angered by, not angered by, enraged by, not enraged by, sympathetic to, not sympathetic to, is not a matter of Jew or non-Jews. And, frankly, as a Jew, I'm angered, myself, at a Jew who claims otherwise, who wants to "play the Jew card," much as I do understand that kind of feeling (I have had that kind of feeling at times, and acted on it; and later regretted it).

Meryl says we all have our ugly sides. That's true, and it's brave, and admirable, of her to say that. But in the end, she's placed this under a banner of "Anger, Yes. Misplaced? Perhaps Not."

I sense Meryl, as she writes her piece, struggling with her initial urge to defend her anger. But the better part of her, I think, knows better.

She and Lawrence are entitled to put their anger wherever they want, but I'd say that blaming tens of thousands perfectly innocent poor people, telling them, essentially, they should all suffer horribly and die, because we don't like the ruling members of their government, we hate them and despise them, is, well, telling tens of thousands of perfectly innocent poor people they should all suffer horribly and die.

Because of their dictorial government.

By that logic, America should have gone in and slaughtered every Iraqi. And we should wipe out all the Arabs, and jillions of Moslems, and, heck, let's get some French while we're at it.

This is a form of insanity.

I was with you from the first on this, Michele, and thought it such an obvious thing that it wasn't even worth commenting on, even after you raised the ridiculous possibility that any decent person would wish for death and suffering for innocent people. Apparently it's worth commenting on. Meryl is struggling with her conscience. Perhaps her soul. If I prayed, I'd pray that she doesn't let her hatred and anger win her soul. The same goes for Lawrence, and anyone who would leave innocent people to suffer and die.

Hint to "Ken": advising Jews that they should act more Christian doesn't fly very far. Except to, charitably, make one roll on the floor laughing.

"Why can't you Moslems and Jews settle your Middle East problem like good Christians"?

You might want to reconsider your thinking on this in your future ecumenical efforts, Ken. It's the Christian thing to do.

...but isn't it the right thing to do? to help people because the NEED it, not because they DESERVE it.

this thread is so strange. people please stop yelling in your sleep and wake up. if it is wrong for the people of Iran to hate the people of Israel. then it is no better in reverse.

here we have a human tragedy -- personally i blame the Iranian government for not modernizing but that is now the past. meet the present tragedy with human compassion. especially if "an eye for an eye" is your basis for equity, then compassion ought return compassion in the future.

anyone reading these words please heed Michele's call and change the cycle from negative to positive, today, though some personal positive act -- even if a kind word is the most you can muster.

Michele.

In a strange way, this Iranian earthquake has worked it's way into a bigger picture.

BLIND HATRED

Yes, Arabs hate Jews... Arabs hate Americans... we in turn hate them back. What has it gotten all of us? Do we know for a fact all of those dead Iranians agree with their countries policies? No. We don't know that any more than if we know if the 3,000 + victims of 9/11 agreed 100% with our nations foriegn policies.

And even if they did or didn't, did they (Americans and Iranians) deserve to be crushed under stone and rubble for it?

It's about people who have lost loved ones, people trying to get by another day, and an opportunity for others to show compassion. Maybe, just maybe some people over will see through the Mullahs and their propagansitic bullshit.

I admit it was one of those "fuck Iran" people too. But you've made a good point and have given me something to think about. Excellent post.

In case anyone isn't aware, Iranians aren't Arabs any more than Spaniards are.

CNN, FOX, and MSNBC report that Iran has turned down offers of aid from Israel.

So Israel could not help Iran if it wanted to (and they apparently offered, or there would be nothing for Iran to turn down).

Gary makes a very good point~Iranians aren't arabs.
And I'm not at all suprised by the reaction.
The mythical Jesus spoke of compassion, forgiveness, turning the other cheek, concepts lost on quite a number of people. The guy was no more than a man in my opinion, and even I get it.

"I'm a THIS and those people are a THAT."
Yeah, well, in the end you are all human.
Some of you, anyway. And I guess a good number would also be The Chosen Ones, or The Favored Ones, or whatever their little ancient books tell them they are.

There's an article in the Jerusalem Post (ajpost25 name & password) about an Israeli group that's trying to send aid to Iran despite the mullah's decree, through 3rd parties.

"In fact, Iranian callers on the Voice of Israel's popular Farsi-language program Sunday 'expressed their deep gratitude toward Israelis who have supported sending aid to Iran,' according to program director Menashe Amir. He added that they 'harshly criticized' their leaders for rejecting the open-handed gesture."

"And I guess a good number would also be The Chosen Ones, or The Favored Ones, or whatever their little ancient books tell them they are."

Kinda ruined a nice message there, BSTI, with an ignorant and bigoted crack at the end. Shame, that.

No Michelle, you're not naive. Nor are you simplistic. And despite how you feel, you're far from disillusioned as well.

That was very well said. Oh, I could nitpick about a couple sentences, but your point comes across five by five. Compassion and intelligence must overcome inherited prejuduces and defective learned behaviors. The people of Bam deserve our individual compassion. Those who would visit evil on the innocent deserve the business end of our intelligence. The short version is called "building a foundation for lasting peace".

The people of the United States have excelled at this since long before I was born. Live at peace with us and we will offer you many forms of help. Attack us and we will render you impotent before any negotiations can begin. It's a best friend/worst enemy kinda thing, and the people of Bam haven't attacked us.

I think your response did an excellent job of reminding those who disagree with this fundamental of the purpose of the human soul. All of those whos "ends" in their personal constellation far too often justify the "means" would do well to read it again.

Pardon my spelling & punctuation.

Elwood sends.

Just a few observations about the spirited debate I've scrolled through so far...
1.) Yes, Iranians are NOT Arabs, they are Persians, but they ARE Muslims, and most of them are Shi'ia. SO? That does not excuse their anti-semitism, any more than it would excuse any OTHER group of people from irrational hatred. {"...irrational hatred of the French is DIFFERENT though..."}
2.) All humans feel a deep need to reach out, however they can, to other humans in need, especially when the cause of the catastrophe is an act of nature. So give to some charity if you want (or if you can) and let those who can't (or won't) answer to their own consciences, as ultimately we all must do.
3.) Americans are SPOILED by their Constitution; they cannot know what it means or feels like to live under tyranny, unless they are refugees. SO don't even TRY to judge the (percieved) lack of courage of people who are living under the "Mad Mullahs;" what would you do if they held your loved ones as helpless hostages?
4.) The city of Bam has been repeatedly referred to as an "ancient" city, sitting astride trade routes that are centuries old. How stringent was the "anti-earthquake" building code in 500 BCE? Since we in America take years and billions of dollars to replace bridges and roads that are only decades old, how much do you think it would cost to replace an entire city?
5.) The people of Iran/Persia rememeber Americans; some of them remember us as the people who supported and trained the late Shah's secret police (SAVAK) and others remember us as the idiots who voted for Jimmy Carter as President, allowing the Mad Mullahs to take over the government. As one poster after another has mentioned above, people are INDIVIDUALS, not herds of animals that can be easily manipulated. The bloggers from Iran are saying what I'm sure many Iranians feel in their hearts or guts, but are too afraid to voice in public. Do you think ALL Iranians desprately want their government to develop nuclear weapons?
Finally, as my mother says, "Just do what your heart tells you, and you'll sleep better at night."

As a Jew, I figure that when people are struck by tragedy such as this earthquake then (assuming I have the resources to do so) I should help them. So what if I don't care for their government? Even if I did equate the people with their government, which I do not, I can refer to Proverbs 24:17 (Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth) and Proverbs 25:21 (If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink.)

And if I did equate the people with their government, I figure I owe them a very old debt of gratitude due to Cyrus' Decree of Return for the Jews in 539 BCE.

Incidentally, Michelle, I'm not exactly much of a Torah scholar, but it's not difficult to recall that the Talmud refers to a "righteous person" about every other sentence, along with God's commandment to be a righteous person. So I'm sure that if a Jew is calling you a righteous person, then, as coming from a good Jew, surely that is the highest praise.

However unintentionally.

Of course, since you are a gentile, it must therefore be that you are a "righteous gentile."

I'm glad I'm not Iranian, Jewish, Egyptian, Alabamian, Episcopalian or anything other than just a person. An individual. If I align myself with a certain group, or profess a certain set of values or beliefs, it is because I personally choose to do so and not because (apparently) for some groups this attitude is at some mysterious genetic level.
It's hard enough to do what you the individual think is right without all this "because you are such-and-such you must feel/do this" cluttering things up. Everyone, every group, at some point in history, has been shat upon. It conveys no holy glow. It conveys no special rights.
You have to make your own choices, sans the hivemind. It's extremely difficult for me to do anything else. But then, given the whole argument going on here, I'll never understand it, will I?

Anyone who thinks I'm a bigot has never read my weblog.

As to the rest, I answered over there.

Scrolling through these debates I must say I find it increasingly absurd that people continue to equate not contributing to a particular charity with 'bigotry'

After all by that logic anyone who fails to donate to the United Negro College Fund must be a racist and anyone who donates money to orphans in Bolivia but not Brazil is an 'Anti-Brazilian' Bigot.

Talk about P.C. run amuck.

I’m sorry. I can’t be so magnanimous as some of the responders here. I’m so damned disappointed at this response to the Iranian disaster that it would make me embarrassed to refer some of the anti-Iran-aid people as worthy blog sites (at least as I’ve come to know “my kind” of blog sites). Michelle, you’ve said they’re friends of yours, and loyalty to friends is a very good thing.

I, however, have no such compunction about responding in my own inimical way. Gawd. I would have thought better of these folks.

Dear Gary, it was a crack at religion in general, as all religions seem to teach that their flock are the Chosen Ones. I'm sorry I wasn't clearer, but if I am to be painted as a bigot, it should be understood that I am bigoted against all religions, not any specific one. And I am not an atheist, either.

Buddhism teaches that followers of the Buddha are the Chosen Ones? What school of Buddhism is that?

Shintoism teaches that followers of Shinto are the Chosen Ones? Do you have a cite on that?

Hinduism teaches, etc? Okay, a few strains do, but only a small minority.

Animism teaches etc?

I could keep going. And I won't even get into the misunderstandings of Jewish teaching, a religion anyone can convert to, this brings up, or the possible integration or conflicts with various strains of Christianity.

I'm glad you clarified what you meant, BSTI, but I have to conclude you don't actually know very much about religion. Incidentally, I'm an agnostic atheist and always have been. Funny, innit?

Just on the slightest possibility anyone might think differently, I'd like to say that I don't think Meryl Yourish is in the least a bigot. (I do wish she'd quit referring to Palestinians only as "pals," which strikes me as dehumanizing, but that's up to her, and not at all the same as being a "bigot." And, as Michele notes, one can have a civil disagreement with someone one respects. What's amazing is that anyone would have to point that out.)

Since Meryl's posted a response to all this on her blog, I've posted a response to that here. Sigh.

My comments are the first post under Tues, Dec 30. (Permalink won't work right now.)
http://www.hfienberg.com/kesher/

Being better than them isn't enough. The graveyards are full of people, organizations, religions, and even nations that were better than those who obliterated them. It's hard to feed the starving when you're too busy feeding the worms.

Being better than them only means anything as long as we are also stronger than them. We may think ourselves better by helping our enemies when they are in trouble, but if our help ends up being used to slaughter the innocent, we will not only have possibly put ourselves in danger for strengthening our enemies, but we will also be seen as accomplices in the crimes of those we aided... and few will think of us as "better" for that.

Polls in Iran show that most people love the US and hate their government. But why let facts get in the way of a good hate-on? People who love America are our enemies. Just like, you know, all those disgusting East Europeans twenty years ago. We should have killed them all when we had a chance. Damn shame we didn't do it before we put ourselves in our current grave danger from those damnable Communist people.

Myself, I keep a bomb shelter ready for the Iranian attack; it may come any day.

I haven't read any of the previous replies, so forgive me if this repeats anything. Something Michele and I share is that we are both Americans, as are most of you who read this. The strange thing about Americans is they way we treat enemies, when we determine youare our enemy we will come on you with a force and fury unknown in human memory, but if you survive we will treat you with the finest medical care and will give you the same care and attention we would our dearest family member. The same is true with our political enemies. That's why we will give as much as we will to Iran. Despite the claims of the Grench and friends, America is the most civilized country n the planet, and while NOT a judeo-christian country anymore (a pity IMHO) we've internalized the most important teachings of charity and forgiveness.

Gary Farber: Well, I can't speak for BSTI, but when he meant "Religions", I automatically thought of the three Abrahamic religions. (Since we're in the context of the dicussion of the Middle East. Perhaps "Religion" was too broad of a term to use).

You have to admit, once any of them step away from their "Christian/Jewish/Muslim Brothers" in the ecumenical movement, they all believe they're the only ones on the fast track to God.

Speaking as a Christian... I know we're the worst. Not only are us "Protestants better than those Catholics", but each denomination claims to be the "true" chosen people. I had a pastor once refer to the Baptists down the block as "The Chosen Frozen". :0)

Forget booze... I think religion should be practiced in moderation. It's the root of so many atrocities in our history.

Polls in Iran show that most people love the US and hate their government.

Do polls show that they love the Jewish citizens of the United States, too? Because so far it's members of that group that are expressing reservations.

And, oh, by the way, the correct answer to my question is "no, they don't like Jews much at all".

Just like, you know, all those disgusting East Europeans twenty years ago. We should have killed them all when we had a chance

Straw man much?

But why let facts get in the way of a good hate-on?

People are expressing hesitation to aid Iranians because of their additude towards Jews and Israel, not because of their attitude towards the United States or the mullahs. So snidely pointing out "the facts" that Iranians like America and dislike mullahs is irrelevant at best, misleading at worst, and amusingly ignorant in either case.

You know, D Bongard, we'd like some proof and links that all the people in Iran including the Jews that still live there hate Jews and Israel, as opposed to the backward-ass mullahs that the previous generation put into power. But you won't bother providing proof, you'll just sit there smug in the perfect sanctimony of your self-righteous certainty.

I'm perfectly willing to stipulate that many, maybe most, Iranians have been taught to hate "Jews," a category of people most of them have never met. It's irrelevant to me. I'm Jewish, by the way, and write constantly about anti-semitism on my blog.

But -- and I know this is weird -- yes, I believe members of the KKK, Nazis, child molestors, mass murderders, and fans of Scooby-Doo all deserve to be pulled from earthquake rubble. Justice can come to them in another way, and it is not for me to pick and choose who shall live and who shall die. According to the big G of Jews and Christians and Moslems, in fact, that is up to Someone else. You are welcome to believe differently, of course, and act accordingly. And so you shall.

You know, D Bongard, we'd like some proof and links that all the people in Iran [...] hate Jews and Israel

I didn't say "all the people" in Iran hate Jewish, dipshit. So I really don't give a flying fuck if you want proof of it or not.

Feel free to live under the delusion that it's the evil mullahs forcing anti-semetism onto an innocent population. Hey, that whitewash of reality worked for the Germans and most of continental Europe; maybe it'll work for the Iranians too.