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6916: Orenstein responds to Simidor's Open Letter to the Progressive (fwd)

From: Catherine Orenstein <catherineo@earthlink.net>

Regarding my recent article on Aristide in The Progressive:

I've been out of town, but feel an urge to reply to Simidor's open letter to
the Progressive  - please pardon the delay.  As accused, I do see Haiti
through my American "imagination".  Just as Simidor sees it through his
Haitian imagination. Have we any other choice?  Our own experience
inevitably colors how we see the world. But it doesnt follow, as Simidor
suggests, that I travel to Haiti only during the tourist season, that I see
Haitians as naive and simple - or that my understanding of Haiti's current
political juncture is the product of guided tours and naive or wistful faith
in Aristide.  On the contrary, my article gave voice to what I consider the
intelligent and often complicated sentiments i've been hearing both in and
far from Port-au-Prince, both in and out of the tourist season, from
Haitians of all classes but especially the poor.  I am surprised by
Simidor's assertion that a guided tour would "most certainly" be necessary
to find the likes of Francilus Saint Leger - the Aristide enthusiast whom I
quoted in my article - for I found the streets to be full of people like
him.  On this trip, as in the past, I heard over and over again from poor
people that yes, they still support Aristide.     Where, I wonder, is
Simidor conducting his polls?

This is not to say Aristide is not a controversial figure, with a host of
critics on both the right and the left (wherever these directions may
actually be).  It's also true, as I wrote, that the international community
has given Aristide the cold shoulder - only a very few foreigners supported
the electoral process this time around.  And of course Simidor is hardly
alone in his belief that Aristide is a ruthless, scheming politician  - I
made reference to some of these opinions in my article.   Aristide may turn
out to be worse than his critics say - who knows?  Nonetheless my reporting
indicates (and i cant believe that anyone seriously doubts) that Aristide is
still by far the most popular figure in Haiti today.   The incongruity
between these critics' vision of Aristide (well represented in the northern
press), and the hopeful support for him I consistently hear from the poor,
was the crux of my article.  This incongruity does not suggest to me that
Haiti's poor are naive hero-worshipers "who carry small images of the czar
Aristide next to their heart," as Simidor puts it.  On the contrary, it
suggests to me that Aristide's critics and their criticisms ought to be read
in broader context.  After all, as Simidor says, Haiti's people are well
informed, they listen avidly to the radio, they make rational choices - and
they make up the vast majority of the population.

On another note, regarding the phrase "lape nan tet, lape nan vant" -  i
regret not being more accurate, and would appreciate any enlightenment from
the linguists on this list.  the phrase was explained to me as a pun on the
words bread and peace (by those wearing clothing that bore the slogan, as
well as by an aide to aristide).   I presumed - mea culpa - that it played
on a spelling variation as well as the fact that the words sound alike.  Are
there some words with spelling variations? Or is this just the product of my
American imagination?

catherine orenstein