How deep is our love for the motherland? If I were to walk down any urban street in North America, searching for Haitian expatriates and asking them this one question, the response would have been an overwhelming “profound.” I would not have been surprised. Most Haitians love their country. However, if I were to rephrase the question by asking for proofs of their love, something concrete, tangible to back their claim of deep love, the response could be very different. It is sad, very sad, but it is true.
Haiti has the best glorious past many countries could ever dream of. Next to door to Haiti is the Dominican Republic, a country Haiti has ruled in several episodes throughout their shared history. However, no one would notice this now, for the sharp contrast in many ways is hard to overlook. A view from above in route to Haiti is just enough to make one’s heart sink. Yet, many of us remain complaisant while the land of Dessalines plunges into oblivion.
For many of us, everything seems okay, at least at the surface; and we have gotten so sophisticated at concealing our shame, our wounded pride that it doesn’t appear to bother anymore, until a new trigger emerges in the aftermath of some unavoidable collective humiliation. Then, we go on and cry—the crocodile cry—desperately praying for this latest wave of embarrassment to go away.
When I was in college, many of my peers took special classes to fine-tune their English in order to quicken their illusory fast-track toward Americanism. Around me and others, they turned in to the big “Pretender,” pretending like René Depestre that Haiti was in all their dreams—but in their dreams only.
Meanwhile in Haiti itself, the country is edging each day toward the point of no return. Misery and poverty are intertwined, blended in an awkward mixture where those who live through it no longer feel it, for it has long become a fait accompli, a vexing reality. The state bureaucracy has turned into a get-rich machine out of which opportunist politicians, recalcitrant financiers, petty- bourgeois without out any form of scrupulousness and other dubious figures have seized upon to fill their lots, shamelessly.
For Haitian politicians, panhandling is the norm, not a circumstantial mishap. Haiti’s sovereignty has been subordinated to the authority of foreign diplomats at the UN and other big business interests; and we still claim we are the descendants of Pétion, Dessalines etc.
If there was any doubt about Haiti’s deprived state, one has to watch Raoul Peck’s latest film, Fatal Assistance or Assistance Mortelle (in French). The shocking revelations of Jean Max Bellerive, René Préval’s former Prime Minister, are just enough to make one’s stomach churn.
René Préval, then an impotent president, could only sit and watch as international plotters arranged his departure—in a bundle like they did Aristide some years earlier.
Edmond Muller, UN representative in Haiti, phoned Préval around 9 pm one night to ask him to pack his bags. This account came from the former president’s own words. When he refused this latest humiliation, he was practically sidestepped until the very last day of his presidency.
There is an unspoken consensus that Haiti must be rescued from the grips of its enemies. This will not happen, however, until there is a genuine, conscious effort to restore the physical state of our beloved motherland. Passiveness won’t work; it can only prolong our shame, our seemingly endless misery.
I don’t have the answer to Haiti’s myriad of problems. I can only say this: Collective effort is urgently needed to bring salvation to this once Caribbean paradise. Human intelligence is a country’s best natural resource, and knowing all the beautiful minds that Haiti has produced, it should not be an impossible task. It only requires a sincere and patriotic commitment. We can do better than that.
Dr. Ardain Isma is editor-in-chief of CSMS Magazine. He teaches Cross-Cultural Studies at the University of North Florida (UNF). He is a scholar as well as a novelist. He may be reached at:firstname.lastname@example.org