Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti: The Real Story


On this Martin Luther King holiday, we can, perhaps, best honor his legacy by taking seriously his call to "move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history." With our 24-hour news cycle committed to covering the Haitian disaster, we can ask deeper questions about the history of US-Haiti relations. Over at Democracy Now, Bill Quigley published his "Ten Things the U.S. Can and Should Do For Haiti" and Randall Robinson the author of An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, from Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President was interviewed, unveiling the irony that Bush and Clinton are heading up relief efforts:

...President Bush was responsible for destroying Haitian democracy in 2004, when he and American forces abducted President Aristide and his wife, taking them off to Africa, and they are now in South Africa. President Clinton has largely sponsored a program of economic development that supports the idea of sweatshops. Haitians in Haiti today make 38 cents an hour. They don’t make a high enough wage to pay for their lunch and transportation to and from work.

In addition, Robinson called on the media to paint the whole picture of why Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere:

I hope that American media will not just continue to—the refrain of Haiti being the poorest country in the western hemisphere, but will come to ask the question, why? What distinguishes Haiti from the rest of the Caribbean? Why are the other countries, like the country in which I live, Saint Kitts, middle-income and successful countries, and Haiti is mired in economic despair? What happened? And who’s had a hand in it? If Haiti has been under a series of serial dictatorship, who armed the dictators? There are other hands in Haiti’s problem. Of course Haiti is responsible for some of its own failures, but probably not principally responsible. We need to know that. We need to be told the whole story of these wonderful, resilient, courageous and industrious people. And we have not been told that. I would hope that this would be an opportunity for doing so.

Over at Alternet, Carl Lindskoog provides readers with a simple analysis of how US policy has greatly affected Haiti. It's difficult to cut through the vague narratives that mainstream media provide, blaming Haiti's own government for their plight and glorifying the American savior complex. These three sources are a great start to Haitian enlightenment.

*Check out the artwork of Ricardo Levins Morales (see above): 1/2 of purchase goes straight to Haiti relief effort.

--Theological Autopilot

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