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#4012: Haiti (fwd)

From: Ethan Casey <editor@blueear.com>

On May 21, Haiti held elections for parliament and municipal councils.  I
haven't followed Haiti much since the big events of 1993-4, but I went there
on four different occasions in my teens and twenties (most recently in
January 1993; I was there the day Bill Clinton was sworn in as US president,
officially betraying his campaign promise to let in Haitian boat people
unless they were "clearly" shown to be "economic" refugees), speak both
French and Haitian Creole, and have always taken the place very
personally -- understandable when one considers what an intense experience
the place is, and how formative it can be to have gone there for one's
first-ever trip outside the United States at the age of 16.  Which can be
not-so-good for one's blood pressure and overall outlook on life and the

Remember what a big deal, and how divisive, Haiti was in North America circa
1993-94?  Well, the quasi-invasion finally took place in October 1994 (had
Clinton had the nerve to order the USS Harlan County to land a year earlier,
tens of thousands of lives would have been saved), and everyone except those
with a direct stake in it (read: Haitians) promptly gave it the Pontius
Pilate treatment: There, that's taken care of; on to Bosnia and beyond.

What goes around comes around, and in truth, nothing has been resolved in
Haiti, or looks to be resolved very soon.  Around ten days ago, the top US
papers gave Haiti's parliamentary and municipal elections perfunctory,
ostensibly well-meaning one- or two-day coverage, and left it at that.  (Has
anyone seen anything about it in print or online since?  I haven't.)  The
Washington Post's and New York Times's news stories are -- especially
considering recent history -- a study in wishful, disingenuous,
mealy-mouthed bourgeois establishment liberalism at its (to me) most
predictable and sickening:

Washington Post, May 21:

"... potentially the most fateful election since the three-decade Duvalier
dictatorship collapsed in 1986. ... [Riding on the outcome is] whether
democracy can prevail in a country that has known brutal repression for most
of its 200-year existence."

"An election crossroads for Haiti" by Michael Dobbs

New York Times, May 22:

"Overcoming fears of violence, Haitians crowded into chaotic polling places
today to elect thousands of legislators and local officials with the hope
that their country would finally escape its political paralysis of the last
three years. ... [T]here was a widespread expectation that perhaps Haiti had
a chance to have a fully functioning democracy and recover from its
turbulent past and impoverished present."

"Haiti's Long-Delayed Election Is Chaotic but Nonviolent" by David Gonzalez
[no longer available free of charge]

This is journalism by-the-numbers, and it's difficult for me to bring myself
to read straight through.  There's so much more to be said about Haiti,
notably including what is pointedly *not* said in such articles for, you
know, reasons of space.

I'm thinking of returning to Haiti around November of this year if I can
figure out how to justify it in work terms, when Jean-Bertrand Aristide
probably will run for president again.  Much as I'm sickened by the view of
Haiti from Washington, I'm no great fan of Aristide either, and I find his
likely return to the presidency richly ironic all around, and no great cause
for optimism.  I'd like to be there on hand to see what's going on.  Thus
I'll be glad to hear, on-list or off-, about any Haiti-related web sites,
email lists, or other resources between now and November.

Here's a selection of writing and sites on Haiti that, on cursory
inspection, seem much more valuable and interesting than almost anything
you're likely to read on the subject in the Washington Post:


The language of the prophet

"That is the language of the prophet, and it returns Aristide to the source
of his real power," writes DAYLE CASEY, reviewing Eyes of the Heart: Seeking
a Path for the Poor in the Age of Globalization by Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
"It is a matter of seeing, he says, of seeing with the heart as well as the
eyes. It is the language of Amos and Jeremiah and Jesus. It can get one
killed. Can Aristide continue to speak it if he becomes King of Judea once


[Dayle Casey is my father.  He's visited Haiti almost every year since


A Controversial Caribbean: C.L.R. James by Paul Dorn

"In 1938 James completed the manuscript of his most important work, The
Black Jacobins. To a Euro-American audience still in serious denial about
the reality of slavery, James graphically revealed the brutality inflicted
by nascent capitalism. ... James showed how even in the most degraded
circumstances, slave society had cultivated a leadership that included such
figures as Toussaint L'Ouverture, Jean-Jacque Dessalines and Henri

[This article seems like a thorough, workmanlike academic rundown of the
life and work of one of the great leftist intellectuals of the 20th century,
the Trinidadian C.L.R. James, author of the classic history of the Haitian
Revolution, The Black Jacobins.  Note to Phil: James is a once and future
Honorary Contributor.]


Windows on Haiti

"To study Haiti is to gain a remarkable insight into the nature of Man. Our
objective is to facilitate this task by offering you some interesting
Windows on the culture of Haiti. The real exploration begins when you go
beyond those Windows and take some steps of your very own. We have been
gratified beyond measure by the expression of a few for which this web site
has provided a starting point for further contact and personal discovery, a
discovery which may for some translate into a lifelong journey. We hope that
others, and most particularly high school and college students, will
likewise take advantage of this labor of our love for Haiti."

[A website that I intend to bookmark and return to, with cultural and
political commentary and an admirable-seeming boosterish attitude toward all
things Haitian.]



Galerie Macondo presents HAITIAN ART

Haitian Paintings, works of art from a land of poverty and deprivation that
evoke the joy and richness of the human spirit

[Haitian art is great.  This site was brought to my attention to Mary Ann de
George, a member of this list and one of BlueEar.com's best friends.]



Best regards, Ethan

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