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Where does one start with the current debacle in Haiti?

Posted: Thu Oct 14, 2004 4:14 pm
by admin
Where does one start with the current debacle in Haiti? I promised myself that I am not going to write more than just a few sentences right now on the subject (something that is highly unusual for me). But the news has got me down. When you are down, you risk bringing everybody down with you. As the moderator and one of the main animators of the Ann Pale forum, I cannot afford to do that. But already, the silence around the current events in Haiti weighs heavily on our minds. I know that we are all thinking of Haiti at this time, no matter our political penchant. Haiti, for those of my generation who grew up during the terrible repression of the Duvalier era, has gone nowhere but south... South, meaning gone to hell in a handbasket. The euphoria that followed the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier through the emergence of the Lavalas movement and the popular
election of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, that period of time that was so pregnant with hope one almost did not mind the severe cramps brought about by the military remnants of a discredited duvalierism just so long as we could still believe in the inevitability of a just social order steeped in the dignity and full participation of a people that for once would be in charge of its destiny, that dream that the majority of us shared would turn out to be just a cruel illusion.

Everything that could have gone wrong in Haiti has gone wrong and then some. The convenient boogeyman : Jean-Bertrand Aristide, never mind that he has been unceremoniously kicked out of power not just once but twice. With the advent of the technocrats; with the promise of more than a billion dollars in foreign aid (though we'd been down that road before); with the compassionate and unprecedented attention of George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Jesse Helms's understudy and protege Roger Noriega; with the teachings of Western style democracy
freely given to our people by the likes of Brian Dean Curran, James Foley, Yves Gaudeul, Dominique Villepin, Regis Debray; with the tender loving care of Haiti's passionate freedom fighters like Guy Philippe, Jean Tatoune, and Jodel Chamblain; with the insatiable appetite for regime change exhibited by Haiti's intellectual and human rights sectors; with the manifest enthusiasm of Haiti's industrialist sector with respect to a new order and a new social contract... one would assume that the country would get the jumpstart that it needed, if only Jean-Bertrand Aristide would vanish from power. But 7 and a half months later, things have gone from bad to worse and every ill is still attributed to JBA and his partisans. No less than the great Colin Powell is saying so. As for GĂ©rard Latortue, it's the perpetual refrain: Look, he has no responsibility whatsoever for the current situation as long as JBA is still living in a remote corner of the world and the "lavalas" are still breathing freely in some destit
ute slums of the country. The solution? Pure and simple: Put every one who's connected with Lavalas in jail and throw away the key. The justifications? Spin them just as fast as the Bushies can spin new reasons for invading Iraq.

Haiti is a country at war with itself. Haitians are at war with themselves. To be Haitian is to be at war... against your neighbor or somebody just down the road.

But, wait! It's only going to get better. Isn't it?

The Haitian Revolution is ongoing...

Posted: Fri Oct 15, 2004 9:24 am
by admin
I had to go and read again the words that I wrote during the early hours of January 1, 2004 to regain a sense of perspective on current events in Haiti. One needs to take the long view on ourstory to realize that the people of Haiti have just begun to fight for their place in the sun.

The Haitian Revolution: past, present, and personal
Guy S. Antoine
January 1, 2004

Unless one has developed a specific interest in Haiti, for one reason or another, it is likely that the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1803 will not come to mind on the first day of the New Year. Haiti has, for all intents and purposes, become irrelevant in most people's perceptions of World History, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Haitian Revolution did in fact shake to the core many of the dearly held assumptions of the 18th century in regar
d to the universal applicability of the ideals of freedom, equality, and aspirations of all men, notwithstanding their racial differences. The French and American revolutions, and even the Church (just as it accommodated itself later to worldwide anti-semitism, segregation of blacks in the U.S. and apartheid policies in Rhodesia and South Africa) never dedicated themselves to the goals of eradicating slavery and promoting a universal set of human rights, with the necessary emphasis on the word "universal". The Haitian Revolution was the first movement of its kind to boldly challenge all assumptions of racial inferiority and buttress this challenge with sweeping military victories over the armies of the most powerful European nations of that time.

This created a tremendous amount of fear in the U.S. and other parts of the world that Haiti's example would replicate and bring a swift end to their highly profitable plantation systems. From that fear grew the need to suppress Haiti from the news and from
gatherings of the civilized world. Powerful economic interests, in concert with the prevailing racial ideology, dictated at that time that the independence of Haiti should not be recognized.

Today, we recognize not that Haitians have been able to live independently for 200 years, as they have not, but that 200 years ago, our forefathers firmly established the ideals under which we should live and eventually die for. Today, Haitians are still engaged in the fight to make those dreams come true, not just for a small subset of privileged individuals, but for all Haitians -- and by extension, all people in the world who are still denied their basic human rights. Should we not mark this date and celebrate those ideals, we would simply deny ourselves one of the exceptional opportunities that our concept of time provides to regroup and gather our strengths to continue the struggle on many fronts. For the Haitian peasant family which is still illiterate, malnourished and often in danger of starvation and untr
eated life-threatening illnesses, for the Haitian laborer working without adequate identity, citizenship, rights, and legal protection, we must celebrate the ideals of the Haitian Revolution and be mindful of the fact that 1804 has yet to concretize to their eyes in any meaningful way. Hence, 2004 is not an end in itself... it's only a renewal.

From a personal perspective, I am mindful that I owe the rights and personal freedom that I exercise today to the struggles of those who preceded me, and in a large part to the heroes of the Haitian Revolution. That those rights and personal freedom also come with the moral obligation to do anything in my power to advance the stage for those who will follow, thereby establishing myself as a firm link in an unbreakable chain of links to the full concretization of our collective freedom. Five years ago, I decided to dedicate a website to that goal. Today, I can look at "Windows on Haiti" as the result of my dedication and input to the struggle. On purely objecti
ve terms, the website is a very small step in terms of protecting the gift of Haiti that was bequeathed to me, but on a personal basis I feel satisfied that on the bicentennial anniversary of Haiti's independence, I have dedicated my energies for five years to letting the world know that to a great many people, Haiti and its Revolution still matter.

Countless freedom fighters and nationalist leaders have acknowledged that they were inspired by the Haitian Revolution, from the liberation wars of Latin America, to civil rights advocacy in the United States, and the anti-colonialist and anti-apartheid struggles on the African continent. So in many lands, the Haitian Revolution became synonymous with freedom of the oppressed. Indeed many of those struggles were successful in their execution, as many new nations emerged, following the examples of Haiti and one should add, the United States. That the United States was a white nation that prospered and that Haiti was a black nation on the road to total impo
verishment is also a fact that has not been lost on the world. The aftermath of the Revolution can be murky to the indiscriminating eye. What's the big deal, might one say. Hence the struggle continues to have the Haitian Revolution come true for every single Haitian. It is associated today to the struggle for economic rights and political freedom, literacy and health, education and democracy. Any ordinary citizen or government leader, who would exalt the virtues of the Haitian Revolution and not dedicate himself or herself to the concretization of its revolutionary ideals in today's Haiti and for the Haitian poor, is simply mouthing words without a good appreciation of their meaning. For the Haitian Revolution to be completely successful, it has to live in every Haitian heart. It has to guide all Haitians in positive actions for a better future.

I think that there are greater forces aligned today against the political freedom and economic rights of the Haitian people than there were even at the tim
e of Toussaint Louverture and Dessalines. Those forces yesterday were naked in their exercise of strength and oppressive ideology. True, at that time, they were also married to a program of Christianization of slaves imported from Africa. But, all in all, it was easy for a slave to tell his friends from his enemies. Today, all internal and external enemies of the Haitian people like to present themselves as its great friends. They act in the name of Haitians, but not for their benefit. They create economic initiatives to rob the people further of their last possessions, while pontificating about the fiscal benefits of one set of economic policies as opposed to another. They sow discord and hate to keep the people divided. They promise everything to those who do not have, while in practice they only deliver more to those who have already. They champion democracy in words, while they marginalize the masses and deprive them of their right to vote and participate in decisions that will greatly affect their future
. I see greater social upheaval happening in the near future, though I do not possess a crystal ball to see how it will all play out and to be able to tell to those who would listen "I knew exactly how it was all going to end." In fact, I do not see an end to anything. I see only the continuation of the struggle.

Today's political leaders should simply read their history and understand that their time is necessarily limited. Limited in securing material benefits for themselves or limited in extending the gains of Haiti's revolution to the disenfranchised masses. No one is immortal. However, their name and reputation will outlive them and they will be judged by their survivors and by the people for whom they have chosen to serve or not to serve. Far from the passions of the moment, History will record their deeds and judge them quite apart from empty speeches and promises.

Long live the Haitian Revolution. The people of Haiti have just begun to fight for their place in the