One of my biggest "changing perspectives" down here on Hispaniola was the revelation that the liberal left (heretofore my tribe) was wrong about Haiti, wrong about Aristide. I am accustomed to the mainstream media being wrong, wrong about WMD, wrong about Iraq, wrong basically about the cowboys and the Indians. But I had a naive confidence in Amy Goodman, Pacifica radio, organizations such as WILPF.
What a shock to discover what I have come to learn as the truth.
I had a teacher in Quaker school - stay with me a bit while I digress - for those of you who are not Quakers, the basic tenant is that there is that of God in everyone , so the teachers were expected to respect the students as a someone through whom God might speak. We had some teachers who were fired for "unQuakerly behavior" such as intimation -- back to my teacher, whose question was "How can one discern the Truth, what makes it different from a story?"
The answer that he finally presented us with (because we were just stumped) was that the Truth cannot be suppressed, it returns time and again. Thus, for example, the lessons in the Gospels and Bagavad Gita are essentially the same. And from Lincoln, that one cannot fool all of the people all of the time.
We wander through the political landscape like the blind men surrounding an elephant, each of us certain that we know the whole truth. Inside Quaker meetings, we strive to reach that of God within us and speak from that place, startled to discover that those other people who are doing the same are hearing wildly different messages. Quaker beliefs go from Christocentric evangelical Biblicals to non-theists which is an enormous range. As a religious community we have been torn asunder more than once by the variety of our "messages" from God. Currently our larger family is struggling with the issue of gay marriage - a topic which appears frivolous when one is faced with the issues of war and starvation and planetary dissolution. It bespeaks the luxury of a life where the essentials of life- food, shelter, personal security- are already met.
I long for my Quaker community to take a greater interest in the outer world, to be less focused on ourselves - to reach out a bit to the larger world.
I landed here three years ago believing that I knew the truth about the abduction of Aristide in 2004, the plot to overthrow the liberation theology priest by the "great powers". the injustice of the intervention.
I was wrong. Amy Goodman is wrong. Paul Farmer, whose medical work deserves the greatest respect, is wrong, WILPF is wrong. Aristide had become a corrupt dictator. Now his greatest support comes from the white, liberal left inside the United States and Canada who focus on the removal of the UN peacekeeping forces, the forgiveness of the foreign debt (to give more money to a government that is known as one of the most corrupt in the world), and the mistreatment of the Haitian workers here in the Dominican Republic. All of those positions are -- well --- wrong - in that they will not lead to progress, to healing, to an improvement in the lives of the people. That, of course, is just my opinion. But it has been my work in the last three years to become truly informed - in three languages.
I want to get on to other stories, other topics - to leave Aristide and the broken dreams that he fostered behind.
But Haiti is completely aid dependent, far from self sufficient. So the political opinions of the "Northern" hemisphere matter very, very much.
The current (and former) president of Haiti, Preval, is reputedly a good man, an honest man - the very first president in the history of his nation who retired in peace within his country as all his predecessors were either assassinated or went into exile. Yet there are members of his government who are drug dealers, who are thieves, who are murderers. One of Aristide's supporters, a woman named So Anne Auguste, travels about the leftist circles in the United States being hailed as a "human rights activist" while inside Haiti she is known as Aristide's vodou priestess, someone who gave out guns, ordered attacks, perhaps murdered a new born baby in a hideous ritual. How can we be so wrong about the character of a person?
Haiti is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. It holds the core of our racial history, the source of our deepest wound. It is listed as one of the ten most dangerous places on earth. Yet..... there is much that we - poisoned by affluence, searching for simplicity- can learn from the dignity of her people.
As the news of Africa - of Kenya, of the Sudan, of the Democratic Republic of Congo - draws the attention of the world, please remember Haiti, no more than 500 miles off the coast of Florida. Our only little piece of Africa- now with no more than 1% of its trees left, with 70% unemployment, has people who -- literally - eat dirt.
What do we, who built our wealthy nation on the backs of their African ancestors, owe them?