Español English French Kwéyol

Haiti : Reflections in a time of crisis

Par Jean-Claude Dutès *

Submitted to AlterPresse on January 11, 2011

“Celui qui oublie s’égare et se perd à jamais dans le labyrinthe de son propre passé, retraçant toujours les chemins déjà parcourus.”

We ignore the warning after the earthquake ravaged Cap Haïtien in 1842. We did not heed the message after floods nearly destroyed Gonaives in May 2005. And we misunderstood the urgency after Mapou was inundated by floods in October 1954 and buried in mud in June 2004.

Perhaps, now, more than ever is a time for self examination, a time to ask questions, as we seek to understand our contradictions and the consequences of our actions.

As we read and hear of reports of burning and destruction after the recent elections should we not ask: is it not time that we outgrow Dessalines’s policy of “koupe tet, boule kay” or “cutting heads and burning houses.”

As we read and hear about pervasive fraud in the elections of 2010, should we not ask: is it not time that we terminate Petion’s legacy of electoral fraud?

As we read and hear about our compatriots still living in tents or makeshift dwellings with no or rudimentary sanitary conditions, should we not ask: is it not time that we break with President Boyer’s heritage of government’s indifference to the plight of more unfortunate compatriots after the earthquake of 1842?

As we read and hear that a candidate proclaimed himself president before the votes were counted and raised veiled specters of riots under the guise of political manifestations if he is not declared the elected president, should we not ask: is it not time that we renounce the politics of “gro ponyet” or strong arm?

As we read and hear the comments of one of the presidential contenders, a respectable constitutionalist, indicating that “reason must take precedence over law” should we not express our befuddlement and ask: is it not time that we respect our own rules? Is it not time that we reject our history of flagrant constitutional violation in the name of political expediency?

As we read and heard about the indignant statements about fraudulent elections from “losing” presidential candidates who agreed to participate in an election that excluded the majority of Haitian citizens, should we not ask: is it not time that everyone learn to play by the same rules? Is it not time that we take them to task for their duplicity? Is it not time that we state unequivocally “tout moun se moun,” that everybody counts and that we reject the politics of exclusion?

As we read and hear about young men burning and destroying government and private property, vandalizing the office of an opposing political party and intimidating political opponents after the 2010 elections, should we not be concerned about the potential return of the Tonton Macoutes and Chimères?

As we read and hear that “Vaudouisants” were accused of propagating cholera and attacked and killed, should we not examine the role of the many religious Christian denominations permeating Haitian soil and souls? Should we not be concerned about a repeat of the Catholic Church inspired persecution of “Vaudouists” in the 1940’s? Should we not ask the cost of the presence of these groups in our midst? Do we not have a responsibility to confront the nefarious effects of religion based cleavage in our vulnerable population?

As the song says “When will we ever learn?”

Just as our ancestors, men and women, found a way to offer human beings in bondage a beacon of freedom in a world contaminated by slavery, it is my firm belief and hope that as long as we continue to breathe we will find the fortitude within ourselves to correct our historical trajectory and create the future that our children deserve.

May we never forget and may we have the wisdom to let our past be the compass to guide us in creating better tomorrows. In hope of keeping our memory alive in a continuing effort to learn from our moments of glory and humiliation, victory and defeat and pride and shame, and in homage to those who perished or were in any way injured or harm by the earthquake, I humbly invite you to join me in dreaming of a new Haiti for the new year.

I dream of a Haïti that is the symbol of the indomitable spirit of all oppressed peoples’ striving for freedom and liberty.

I dream of a Haïti where friends from all corners of the world would come to seek the comfort of our warmth, be soothed by the caresses of our cool mountain winds, nurtured by our delicious meals and revel in the sounds and rhythm of our music.

I dream of a Haïti where children would only walk a mile to school instead of six or eight.

I dream of a Haïti where parents could provide for their children so that our children would no longer be the target of predatory orphanage builders in quest of a quick buck under the pretense of helping children.

I dream of a Haïti where all children would have a meal before leaving for school, a lunch in the afternoon and a meal at night.

I dream of a Haïti where no children would be distracted from learning by the groaning and the pain in their stomachs.

I dream of a Haïti that is a sanctuary against the caprices of Mother Nature instead of being her casualty.

I dream of a Haïti where the educated would use their knowledge to lift the uneducated instead of using their education to keep them mired in ignorance.

I dream of a Haïti where the uneducated would not be too embittered and angry by their misfortunes that they would not allow themselves to learn from the ones with formal education and knowledge.

I dream of a Haïti where the formally educated would allow himself to learn from the experiences of those who were not lucky enough to go to school.

I dream of a Haïti where personal achievement and actions are valued higher than family origin, skin color or social class in evaluating a person’s character.

I dream of a Haïti where Yvrose Jean Baptiste would go to Mirebalais or Jacmel or Carrefour or anywhere in Haïti to make her purchases.

I dream of a Haïti where Yvrose Jean Baptiste would not have to damage her spine carrying 30 lbs on her head.

I dream of a Haïti where Haïtians would not use the accident of birth as a right to exclude other Haïtians for the fruits of the harvest of our collective effort and as a weapon of political and economic disenfranchisement.

I dream of a Haïti where the wealthy would pay their fair share of taxes just as the poor market women and men.

I dream of a Haïti where the leaders and those in privileged positions would see the benefits of building adequate roads instead of riding in SUV’s on poorly built and poorly maintained roads.

I dream of a Haïti where the politicians would work for the Haïtian people instead of for foreign powers.

I dream of a Haïti where the people would walk away from anyone who attempt to sow divisions based on skin color, social class or religion.

I dream of a Haïti where there would be a functional government, sufficient roads to move relief goods, hospitals to treat the injured, and adequate facilities to treat the dead with dignity and respect after the next earthquake.

I dream of a Haïti where all Haïtians would believe that we are our brother’s keeper and remember that Mother Nature is an equal opportunity leveler.

I dream of a Haïti where Haïtians from the Diaspora return to Haïti to work with those who never left with respect and mutual appreciation for each other’s expertise and skills.

As Morisseau Leroy observed and exhorted us in a 1948 poem there is work to do.

“My friend what is happening?
The country has changed
Shoulder to shoulder
Together we bend
Together we rise
For the earth is ours
I now see a beautiful country
It is time
It is the hour
I am rebuilding my country with the help of my brothers.”

I dream of a Haïti where all Haïtians would see in January 12, 2010, a reminder from our ancestors that they had done their part in Vertieres on November 18, 1803 to rid us of the external shackles of slavery, and that this earthquake, coming 178 years after the one that destroyed Cap Haïtien on May 7 1942, is a call for drastic personal effort to rid ourselves of the psychological chains of slavery, and through that process transform Haïti into a sanctuary from the vicissitudes of nature.

Haïti is on her back… she is weak but she is breathing…

As Jacques Stephen Alexis wrote in “Les arbres musiciens, “

“The trees are cut down from time to time, but the voice of the forest never loses its power.”

I dream that we, Haïtians and those who want to be friends of Haïti, are listening.

As the poet Bigaro Diop once wrote:

“The dead are never gone; they are always with us.”

May we always remember and let our memory be our compass.

Fraternally yours,

* Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Clinical Neuropsychologist
Clinical Associate Professor
College of Osteopathic Medicine, Michigan State University