Americans value ‘humanitarianism,’ but how do we decide when to help?

Navy ships were in the first wave of relief heading to victims of the cyclone in Myanmar (Burma) — even though the government there ultimately rejected most aid. The country’s ruling junta refused, despite urgent needs for food, medical supplies and shelter.
   Meanwhile, US emergency organizations are rushing aid to the victims of severe storms and record-setting floods in the American Midwest. Flood emergency has been officially declared in a number of states. Iowa is experiencing a “historic hydrological event,” says the National Weather Service.
   We’ll always face a never-ending list of needs.
   Over a half-century ago, sociologist Robin Williams wrote in his
classic, “American Society,” that “humanitarianism” itself was a basic
American value.

   How strong is that value today?
   What do you think as you hear about these crises in the U.S. and around the world? How do we decide where to offer aid? How do we balance needs abroad with needs at home?
   These are moral decisions as much as they are political or economic decisions. What values should we use when we make humanitarian decisions?
   Have you volunteered to help those in need? What values shape your decisions about giving help?
   Please — add your Comment to the discussion, or
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