Haiti, the earthquake, and hope -- by, Terry Rey
Haiti was born out of a struggle far greater even than this and Haiti will survive the horrific tragedy of yesterday’s earthquake. Haitians are a resilient and creative people of deep religious faith and national pride. In 1804, their ancestors accomplished something that no other people in world history ever has: a successful national slave revolt. They succeeded where Spartacus failed. It is a victory for all of humanity to celebrate: A Revolution committed to a fuller ideal of freedom than either that of the American Revolution or the French Revolution. Though overwhelmed with sadness, I am ever hopeful for Haiti, and that this too Haiti shall overcome. Many of course have died and others are grieved and suffering terribly, and this is all so lamentable beyond words; but in their name and in God’s, Haiti shall overcome. Several reports from Port-au-Prince last evening and today tell of people gathering to pray and of people gathering in the streets to sing hymns. The healing process begins immediately in Haiti; it always has, and this is reflected every time when someone says – and this is a common expression in Haiti – “Bondye bon” (“God is good”) – on the heels of good things or bad. This earthquake is certainly among the worst things ever to have happened to Haiti, but God is still good, and Haitians will derive strength from their faith and their pride, and they shall overcome. Haiti’s healing and reconstruction will be long and arduous, and it will also require the generous and “unwavering support of the American people” that President Obama has pledged this morning. Let us hope that President Obama can prove the president of Haiti wrong: with good reason, President René Préval has stated the following in the wake of the earthquake: “Once this first wave of humanitarian compassion is exhausted, we will be left as always, truly alone, to face new catastrophes and see restarted, as if in a ritual, the same exercises of mobilization.” Americans need to realize that Haiti is not only our neighbor, but is very much a part of everything that we are and value as a people. Haitians fought in our Revolution for our freedom, just as they fought in our Civil War against our slavery, and just as thousands of Haitian Americans have served more recently in our armed forces. Haiti is a country that we occupied militarily for 19 years (1915-1934), when we created the very Haitian army that for ensuing decades propped up brutal dictatorships, orchestrated coups-d’état, and terrorized innocent Haitian people – all with US support. The resultant political instability is part of the story of Haiti that goes far in explaining the nation’s perpetual struggle and enduring abject poverty. As such, we share in the responsibility for Haiti’s plight, just as we share in the responsibility for its healing.