UNFORTUNATE HISTORY OF HAITI
The earthquake in Haiti, by way of television, has given the world a glimpse of what it is like to live and die in abject poverty. Granted much of world's peoples have lived and died in poverty for centuries. But in 2010 such poverty should be unthinkable.
The Haiti we see on our screens is unfortunately symbolic of much of the history of that half of Hispaniola, at least since the Spanish sea captain Christopher Columbus of Genoa sailed into their waters.
The next four hundred years, Haitians as a people, seemed just born to die. Napoleon's France made it a slave state. In 1804 both African and local Indians, rose up and defeated the French, becoming independent Haiti.
As Haiti slaves celebrated a new start, the North American leaders, administrations of Washington, Adams and Jefferson were on trainer wheels, doing their best to make a go of it after their hard-won freedom from the English.
You would think that men who had just stood up against "taxes without representation, would be at the front of the celebrating freedom parade with their newly free Caribbean neighbors.
No. The U.S. government sided with the French against the slaves in their victory. (Choosing the wrong partner at the dance has been one of our worst traits.)
We even agreed with the French that the loss of all those slaves and produce cost them money and demanded the Haitians pay France for that loss. That kept the Haitians in debt for years. We went along with a blockade on Haiti.
Also the U.S. government was a nation that allowed slavery. The Dred Scott Decision by the Supreme Court of 1857, declared slaves were property, not persons. The plantation owners and politicians in all the free and slave states feared such a revolt in their prosperous cotton fields down south.
U.S. President Andrew Johnson (the same one who forced great sorrow for American Indians. Remember the Trail of Tears.), in 1868, he suggested the annexation of the whole island of Hispaniola -- present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic -- to secure a US presence in the Caribbean. (No one was interested.)
From 1914 to 1935 American troops kept the "peace" in Haiti. Peace as in Cuba and other South American countries allowed U.S. corporations to drain them dry and give them nothing. (Sounds familiar?)
To make matters worst U.S. troops have twice (1991 and 2004) deposed and overthrown the democratly elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Vanessa Buschshluter, of BBC News, Washington wrote: "It would be nice if Aristide were a saint. It's comfortable to take the side of a saint. But he isn't one."
When Aristide (elected by popular vote) was president, many died with only a few being brought to justice. Historians tell us Aristide did not start out to be a brutal dictator, even though he was an improvement over Francoius "Papa Doc" Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude ("Baby Doc") Duvalier. Such is just a glimpse of the past.
Now, without latrines, electricity, water, hospitals or government, comes the fear of cholera. The world-wide response to the human suffering in funds and people for Haiti shows that most of the world still cares for the less fortunate and the stricken. This help must continue for at least a decade.
The hard-working, good people of Haiti deserves better than their former leaders and from foreign interference. With the earthquake more people around the world know how desperately Haiti needs and deserves a solid new start. With helpers, even from our perceived enemies, of doctors, nurses and specialists of all kinds a better world can emerge. Pray and pass the plate again.
NEW FEATURE: TRIVIA FOR THOSE WHO LIKE TRIVIA: Today, January 29th, is the 222nd founding of today's Australia (know by some as Anniversary Day and by others as "Invasion Day.")