How much should America pay to help the victims of the earthquake and tidal waves that killed thousands of people on the shores of the Indian Ocean? Americans like to think of themselves as generous people, so there was incredulity when President Bush first announced an aid grant of $15 million. The figure was quickly raised, but even at $35 million still seemed paltry. Many believed that Bush hadn’t understood the extent of the losses -- or hadn’t troubled himself to find out.

  Just how fierce the ensuing criticism was in America can be gauged from today’s cartoon by the great Pat Oliphant. Bush, wearing the cowboy hat Oliphant so often portrays him in, is a very unwilling giver. The poor tsunami survivor must plead for money, as Bush reluctantly ("I suppose" -- in spoken English this usually indicates a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the speaker) offers $5, which he then doubles to $10, adding a load of excuses. Things really get bad when Bush makes himself out to be a victim too ("You think you[’ve] got troubles!", a colloquial phrase meaning "My troubles are even worse or more numerous than yours!").

  Finally the president raises the offer to a more adequate $350 million (but Japan is still giving more: $500 million) and stomps off. To sweeten the deal, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the president’s younger brother, will take part in the rescue effort.

  To be fair, it should be pointed out that the US military is now heavily committed to rescue operations, particularly in Indonesia, where twelve big military helicopters are ferrying supplies and evacuating victims; naval vessels are offshore serving as mobile hospitals, and military doctors and other personnel are playing an important role in the ongoing effort. But why did it take so long for the president to respond appropriately? Bush grew up in an aristocratic American family, and as Westerners say, noblesseoblige -- if you occupy a high position in society, you are expected to contribute to philanthropic endeavors without complaint. That was certainly the elder Bush’s line.

   But look at the younger Bush’s complaints and excuses. Clearly Oliphant believes that Republican tax cuts, on top of the expensive war in Iraq, are making it harder for the US to respond to unforeseen events. And that is a dangerous position for the American government to be in: life, after all, is full of costly imponderables.


  从漫画大师帕特·奥列芬特所画的这幅漫画中,可以估量出美国国内随之而来的批评有多猛烈。在画中,布什头戴牛仔帽(他在奥列芬特笔下经常是这个样子),是个极不情愿的资助者。当布什勉勉强强给了5美元时,那位从海啸中幸存下来的可怜人必须苦苦哀求,后来他才把这个数目翻倍成了10美元,还加上了一大堆托词。(在英语口语里,“I suppose”通常显示说话人缺乏热情)。当布什把自己也说成是苦难缠身时,事情就变得更怪了(“You think you[’ve] got troubles!”在口语中的意思是“我的麻烦事比你的还要糟、还要多呢!”)。


  凭心而论,应当指出的是,美国军队正在进行大量的救援工作,尤其是在印度尼西亚,12架大型军用直升机在那儿运送物资,疏散灾民;海军舰只作为流动医院位于离海岸一定距离之处,军医和其他工作人员在当前的救援工作中正起着十分重要的作用。但总统为什么花了那么长时间才作出了适当的反应呢?布什在贵族式的美国家庭长大,按照西方人所说的一句法语“noblesse oblige”:如果你在社会上处于较高的地位,就理应为慈善事业贡献力量而毫无怨言,这的确是老布什的行事方式。