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#5213: Things were so much better when... (from Kathy S. Grey) (fwd)
Over and over I have marveled as members of Haiti's upper middle class concludes the phrase "Things were so much better when..." with the words "Duvalier was here". Dear Lord! The callousness involved in such a statement just doesn't jibe with the personalities involved, people I know to be thoughtful and self-respecting.
Any mention of the tens of thousands of Papa Doc's victims, his son's, or those of the more recent coup of 1991 - 1994, immediately brings a screeching knee jerk reaction which boils down to something like, "Well, if Duvalier was so horrible, if Michel Francois should be judged, then so should Aristide for all the people he has killed!"
I am looking around for bodies, I don't see any. Rameau has been judged for the Carrefour Feuilles massacre, if we want to pin that on Preval's administration. Durocher-Bertin's assassination remains a mystery, no one knows who killed her. Any other bodies to lay at the doorstep of Lavalas? I sure saw a lot when good ol' Michel Francois was around. I am not suggesting that no abuses took place under Aristide or Preval, but the difference in degree, in the sheer number of dead or tortured, seems never to enter into the thought processes of people who declare that "Things were so much better when...!"
It is true that majority class Haitians, *generally speaking*, are not exactly paragons of moral rectitude. We can't deny it anymore, we have to face facts! It is frustrating for people who possess a little something when their neighbors who possess a little something less never stop trying to pilfer and purloin the fruits of their labors. And it is a fact that truthfulness, long-range planning, and a sense of personal honor are not exactly popular concepts here either. These failings are belabored by the upper middle class, however, as justification for denying the vote to the majority class, or denying respect to the votes of the majority class should they make it to the polls and home again in one piece.
Here is the root of the current brouhaha over election mechanisms. Everyone agrees that even with a second round of voting, Lavalas candidates would carry the majority of the Senate. But instead of respecting that fact, the right wing focuses on the technicality of the election, rather than on the validity of the election. The French-speaking magouilleurs can sonorously declaim the various imperfections in the election process - it lets them vaunt their "education" while simultaneously denying recognition to the majority who want Lavalas and want Aristide!
Some right-wingers seem to have adopted the term "democracy" to describe any discourtesy, arrogance, or just plain sottise commited by a majority class Haitian. Does a truck driver invoke "truck right of way" (a concept not unknown in the United States! :-) ) and pull in front of milady's 4x4 on the Boulevard La Saline? "Democracy!", she cries, "You see how these people are?" Does the laundress talk back rudely to her client when the client demands to know where the other four brassieres and two pairs of shoelaces are, that went out with the wash but didn't come back in? "Democracy!", cries the owner of the missing lingerie, "You see how these people are? Things were better when..."
A relatively small proportion of poor rural Haitians in my area apparently believe that "Things were better when..." because "Things were cheaper then". Well, of course things were cheaper then, things were cheaper then everywhere, not just in Haiti! The fact that a gallon of gasoline costs more in the United States now than it did when Richard Nixon was elected does not mean that Nixon was a better President than Clinton. But with the downward spiral of the gourde - thirty one gourdes to the US dollar as of this writing! - this may just become a rallying point for those who seek to turn the majority class away from it's own best interests.
One day I essayed a small debate with a man I know, an educated, professional man, when he uttered that talismanic phrase.
"Things were better when Duvalier was here," he said emphatically, in regard to a recent attempted rape in his neighborhood, perpetrated against a "bourgeoise" lady by a group of "malhereux" louts working in a gas station. "We should have the death penalty again! We should have it for rape! And for demonstrating, too!"
"For demonstrating?", I quizzed.
"Well... yes! They smash windows. They destroy property! Things were better when Duvalier was here."
"For YOU!," I cried, exasperated at last. "For YOU things were better. It was easier for you to slap down people who irritated or threatened you, you felt safer, so it was better for YOU. For a lot of people things were a lot worse. Go and talk to some survivors, some of the young women, student activists, who had their uterus perforated by Madame Max Adolphe and her bunch of psycho torturers! Go talk to a few survivors of Anti-Gang or Ft. Dimanche. Go talk to people who can tell you how terrified they were of the Macoutes, go talk to people who had relatives murdered by the Army! Do you think they feel like things were better for them?"
"Ahhhh, Kathy," replied my comrade, "that was only if you stuck your mouth (fouye bouch ou) in politics." He seemed to feel that settled everything. The fact that Haitian citizens actually have a right to express their political opinions eluded him, apparently.
Sooo... if things were better for you "when Duvalier was here", I don't trust you. The social classes you despise definitely have a long way to go, but... so do YOU!
Peace and love,
Bon Mambo Racine Sans Bout Sa Te La Daginen
(Kathy S. Grey)
"Se bon ki ra",
Good is rare - Haitian Proverb
The VODOU Page - http://members.aol.com/racine125/index.html
(Posting from Jacmel, Haiti)