I think of myself as being able to accept the possibility that I am wrong and others right. 🙂 I believe that others are entitled to their opinions just as I am to disregard them. Which is why as ludicrous as it was, as trivial as the comment given the magnitude of the disaster in Haiti, I cannot help but comment on the twisted logic of he who calls himself Reverend Robertson.
In the past few days, I have made the mistake of reading reader comments on various online news sites. I love how the anonymity of the internet gives people power to say things they wouldn’t dare say to someone else’s face. But it’s alright, because I feel that if you feel strongly about something, you feel strongly about it, and no-one should make you ashamed to stand by your convictions. For that I suppose Robertson deserves a bravo, because he verbalized what many in this world are probably thinking.
Robertson’s comment, aside from displaying how much he delights in human misery, reeked of karma undertones. Of course Haitian ancestors asked to be whisked away from the shores of Africa packed in ships like sardines and asked to be placed on an island with a large fault line that has caused repeated earthquakes and tsunamis since eternity. If only those darn African slave ancestors had known their place and remained subjected to the cruel rule of the French then we wouldn’t be where we are today.
I don’t blame you Robertson or your senility. I don’t have to look far to see why Americans have a distorted view of Haiti…one often laced with disdain. Why you mention Haiti, and the image conjured in the average mind is poverty, natural disasters, violence, political upheaval, and unwanted HIV infected boat-people. I know this to be true, because Haiti only become an entity in my mind when I moved to the US in my early teens and those were the images forced upon me.
In high school I wasn’t taught that Haiti is a beacon of hope, a nation founded in 1804 through the efforts of a successful revolution of oppressed people against their oppressors (since when has that not been a good thing? Avatar?), of people who would rather have died for their freedom than to be enslaved.
Rather, it was that Napoleon decided to abandon Haiti because yellow fever had taken too many lifes of his troops. That he had more important things like Louisiana to worry about. Right! It wasn’t abandonment, they were defeated as clear as day, with sticks and stones against their French artillery. And so what if they prayed to the gods of the earth, sea, rivers, and sky for strength? (I’ll allow Robertson to have at least some kind of intelligence and assume that the devil he was referring to is the practice of voodoo).
I wasn’t taught that after the richest colony in the world became independent as the first recognized modern nation with an African-descended leader that they were made to pay reparations amounting upwards of $3 billion for being made free to France. That the US remained hostile to and threatened by this nation of free former slaves and didn’t officially recognize its existence until the great Lincoln granted recognition in 1862. That for the century after independence various European countries invaded the waters off the island up until the US’s almost 20 year imperialistic (and racist, exploitative, oppressive) military takeover in 1915. No, Haiti is skipped in the history books until the great Roosevelt and his “Good Neighbour Policy” withdrew US troops in 1934 making us believe that troops were just there to prevent Germany from getting a stronghold in the Western hemisphere during World War I.
But it is clear that the actions of Haitians confused and intimidated the powers that be in the 19th century. What? Here we are being kind, paternal, God-fearing people to you child-like ungrateful heathens, and this is how you respond? Eh, yeah, the Haitian Insurrection changed the equation alright! So no, I don’t blame you Robertson, and millions of other Americans who have been made to believe that Haitians have had it coming for ever daring to fight for their freedom and independence. But ignorance is not an excuse.
I was but a teenager when I realized that many people in this world truly cannot see us black people (and potentially others coloured darker than themselves) as human beings. Yeah, now in the 20th and 21st centuries. It is not right, but it is what it is. This revelation came to me via the media…again. I had been keeping up with the almost simultaneous genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia and thought I understood why Rwanda just wasn’t getting as much attention from the world as Bosnia. But then a newscaster nicely spelled it out for me one day. It was an American news station, and a young white American woman reporting from Bosnia. The lady could not keep herself together and through her tears she blurted out something to the effect of “…you hear of disasters around the world, you see pictures, but it’s not the same…here I look around and the poor victims, they look like my grandmother, like they could be my cousins…” Yes, that pierced my soul like a dagger of ice. In translation, Bosnia was different because she apparently could only empathize with people who looked like her. WOW! That those of us who were not Caucasians are merely other living things on the order of rats, birds, and lions. I gotcha! Excuse me for breathing.
So, as aid s.l.o.w.l.y trickles into Haiti, I guess I will just remain satisfied that at least something is being done. Can’t ask for much being that the curse of HAM and the wrath of God are still in effect.
But there is a lesson to be learnt still. Prayers and wishes cannot influence nature. Naturally occuring disasters will always occur and we won’t be able to predict them what with all our technology and all. The situation in Haiti currently is magnified because of man-made problems – the poverty, the political wars and corruption, the poor infrastructure. Next week the masses of the world would have moved on to the next big thing like who wore what at the Golden Globes. But I know the next few weeks, months, and years are going to be difficult for Haiti. I’m not one to blame victims. But there are countless mini-Haitis around the world. Like my dear Ghana who’s southern part lies in a seismic zone. Whose capital, Accra, suffered a 6.5 magnitude earthquake in 1939 which miraculously only killed a few dozen people. A capital city whose population has blossomed towards 2 million people packed into slums and haphazard and hastily built constructions with the use of cheap materials.
Why Haiti? Who knows? But will we be ready when the next natural disaster strikes out of the blue?