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Rushing to help
Elected officials at last week's press conference at the Haitian Monument in Franklin Square

"You already give to Haitian relief - it's called the income tax." - Rush Limbaugh

I'm usually sympathetic to the point of view that says charity begins at home. But I've never seen the point of complaining when the most desperate among us get some help on someone else's dime.

No matter how much money is sent to Haiti, none of us would trade places with them in a million years. So why complain? Just do what you can and be thankful for your own blessings.

(Whining about money is especially distasteful coming from someone like Limbaugh, who just signed a $400 million contract to spew more shallow, hateful invective on the airwaves. What $400 million could do in Haiti now!)

The Haitian link to America, and Savannah in particular, is very real. In 1779, over 500 free black volunteers from Haiti - the Chasseurs-Volontaires de Saint-Domingue - joined a combined force seeking to retake Savannah from the British. The battle cost the romantic figure of Count Casimir Pulaski his life, as well as that of Sgt. William Jasper, who three years earlier had successfully defended Ft. Moultrie in Charleston Harbor. (The resilience of that fort's makeshift walls of palm tree trunks gave the Palmetto State its nickname.) Another participant was Pierre Charles L'Enfant, future designer of Washington, D.C.

Unfortunately, heroism and bravery by themselves are rarely a match for competence and professionalism, and that was the case with the Siege of Savannah. The British garrison of hardened veterans, many of them Scottish Highlanders, easily repelled the poorly-led allied assault. Nearly 1000 dead patriots were buried in mass graves as the allies retreated.

Decades later, Savannah - which despite its reputation has a shamefully bad record of conserving its colonial history - simply built over the remains of those brave men in the name of progress. Thanks go to the Coastal Heritage Society and the city for their role in rebuilding Battlefield Park off MLK Jr. Boulevard and spearheading further research.

This shared history is what led Chatham County Commission Chairman Pete Liakakis last week to mobilize the Savannah Responds initiative, which coordinates local disaster relief. At a press conference last week in front of the new Haitian Monument in Franklin Square, commemorating that sacrifice in 1779, he said:

"We in Savannah have a particular debt of gratitude to repay to Haiti, which sent soldiers who fought valiantly by the side of our countrymen, many giving their lives, in our fight for independence from British rule in 1779."

As if in direct response to Limbaugh's bile, Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson added at the press conference, "Savannah is a caring city, especially in a time of crisis," a typically graceful remark from this graceful leader.

Savannah Responds has designated a drop-off area for Haitian relief supplies at the northeast corner of Mall Boulevard and Abercorn Street. It's open 8 a.m.-8 p.m., seven days a week and collections will continue through Jan. 31. Items most needed are canned goods, cereals, rice, bottled water, disinfectants, rope, tarp, brooms, buckets, batteries, new clothes, and simple tools.

Other efforts have come to my attention over the weekend: The Christian Revival Center is working with Hosea Feed the Hungry and Faith on the Move Ministries to coordinate relief efforts. For more info go to Drop off bleach and water at Faith on the Move at 810 E. Broad St., corner of East Broad and Gwinnett.

Give what you can. It's the right thing to do, and it really pisses off Rush Limbaugh. A win/win if there ever was one!