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#2365: Re: #2359: Antoine responds to Poincy (fwd)

From: Guy Antoine <GuyAntoine@windowsonhaiti.com>

Poincy says:

Antoine, you are from the North and seem to hold great esteem for 
Christophe, I don't think Duvalier was more ruthless than he was. In 
fact, he was madly ruthless and you know it. He was the word himself. 
You praise him, is it because none of his victims was close to you or 
is it because he made the North prosperous or because he built a 
wonder of the world?

I respond:

Poincy, I professed my admiration for Christophe, based on his
real accomplishments, like his passionate defense of our liberties
against French colonialism and the prosperity he brought back to
the North of the country after an economically disastrous war of
independence.  I mentioned those two facts in my reply to you.
The Citadelle is the embodiment of the first, and the passion for
liberty it truly represents always fascinated me more than its being 
a "wonder of the world".  If it truly is, I would prefer to let some 
world-class architect pronounce it so, due to my lack of qualifications
in that domain.  But the great passion of Christophe did overwhelm
me.  I have to confess that in spite of your litany of Francois Duvalier's
great accomplishments, I still find myself decidedly underwhelmed.

That said, I am not an apologist for Henry Christophe's crimes as
a ruler.  I do not beatify him.  What I sincerely wanted to do was to
un-link him from Duvalier as you had done, in order to deal with
each leader's real accomplishments on an objective basis.  It is a
fundamental weakness to attempt the linkage of leaders (let it be
Duvalier and Christophe, Duvalier and Dessalines) in order for
one of them to seek the glory associated with the other, as in a
form of historical osmosis.  As Lloyd Benson said to Dan Quayle, 
in an American presidential primary debate: "I knew Jack Kennedy, 
and sir, you are not Jack Kennedy".  What I am plainly saying is that 
Francois Duvalier was not Jean-Jacques Dessalines, and Francois 
Duvalier was not Henry Christophe.  I know of Christophe's 
accomplishments, but quite frankly I did not know of Duvalier's, 
until you came up with the following list of Duvalier's supposedly 
real characterizations and accomplishments, which I have tried to 
compile analytically with no prejudice to you:
.  a wholeheartedly devoted man to the cause of the forgotten lot 

. hated because he is doing humanitarian good to a deprived,  
neglected and rejected group pushed to live in subhuman conditions. 

. came with the resolution to stop it ( Boyer's rural code, Petion's 
partitioning of land, little South Africa in Haiti, politique de doublure)
and he did.

. universities were open to bright children coming from the poor masses. 

. the poor began to aspire to better themselves on the education front. 

. the poor aspire to a bourgeoisie class, as he wanted to create a black

. went the wrong way about it and the country has suffered from it. 

. if one of you is black, you owe many thanks to Duvalier, to create the 
opportunity for you to dream today if you are dreaming. 

. giving the majority of the people an opportunity to dream for a better 
life, making way to elevate their social status is an achievement. 

. (the) natural right to develop your human potential. Duvalier brought 
that right to life. 

. The masses were no victims (yes extension of abuses were extended 
to them but it was insignificant). 

. Maybe, Duvalier's mistake is that he did not institute some bogus 
tribunal where those accused falsely of treason could be tried legally 
in public places. 

Poincy, what you have done here is to give us finally some material
that perhaps can be objectively debated.  I will say from the outset
that I am not a biased observer.  I tend to believe that a lot of your
claims are greatly exaggerated.  However, I would much prefer to let
the people who make History their business, people like Michel Rolph
Trouillot, address the points that you have made, evaluate them one 
by one, because the end result of this would have far more credibility 
than what I personally have to offer, which is basically my memories
of growing up under Francois Duvalier, memories that you dismiss
as "tales, tales, tales, political tales, dramatic tales and moving tales".

To dismiss those memories is entirely your right.  For David X. 
Young to dismiss them as a "victim's mentality" is entirely his right.  
To dismiss the grievances of families who have lost their loved 
ones to a leader, you admit, was a "ruthless dictator" supposes 
that such a leader has left such a tremendous legacy of positive 
accomplishments that those grievances will indeed take a second 
seat to those historical accomplihments.  This is the way of History.  
And this is why I keep coming back to my original, fundamental 
questions: What is the true legacy of Duvalierism?  What were his 
real, concrete and positive accomplishments (that I might want to 
tell my children about)?
As I see the infrastructure left to the Dominican State by the late 
Rafael Trujillo (justly despised due to his profound racism and 
his heartless massacre of some thirty thousand Haitians), as I see 
the startling improvement in education and public health realized 
in Cuba by Fidel Castro (just as despised and reviled by the 
Cuban and American political right), I begin to wonder about 
Francois Duvalier's own legacy. But from my vantage point, I only 
see decay and persistent damage to a people's aspirations to 
justice and freedom. You see it  quite differently. Which one of us
is right?  Each one of us has to make up his own mind about it,
be the judge.  This is our own right as well.

Finally, I will terminate this post, Poincy, by unreservedly agreeing
with you that "he went the wrong way about it and the country has
suffered from it."  I would only add "immeasurably".

Guy S. Antoine
Look thru & Imagine!