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7443: Just returned from Haiti

From: Beverly Najt <banajt2@earthlink.net>

I just returned from Haiti yesterday evening and have been catching up on
nine days of mail from the mailing list.  So I'm actually commenting on
several that were written during that time period.
The situation in Haiti has been very tense, actually extremely volatile.
Since my friendships and associations there encompass a wide variety of
people with different perspectives, economic or political interests,
comprehension and social status, I had some very interesting
conversations.  But everyone seems to agree concerning the volatility of
the situation and it didn't matter what their political persuasion.  Then
of course by Saturday things were really heating up. Please take whatever
I say with a grain of salt, because you know how the stories change and
grow in magnitude as they are passed along.  For instance, a very reliable
source told me that Aristide sold his estate at Tabarre to the government
for 4,000,000USD.  In the space of several days, the reported amount had
risen to $7 million and then I heard today in NY that it was $13
million!!! Of course that's not really the point.  Selling it is!  What
significance might that! ! have?  Certainly there are serious implications
As for all that went on Saturday through Tuesday, but especially on
Monday, it was widespread.  I was told that most of the commotion was
caused by Lavalas supporters, although there were people protesting who
had been paid to do so.  And believe me, the people are hungry!!  Many are
at the point of doing most anything to survive.  I was staying in
Petionville and heard gun shots that evening.  On Tuesday morning the
smell of burning tires filled the air and smoke was rising all around.
Helicopters continued to circle around.  The streets were fairly quiet
around noon as most stores were closed and people were afraid to go out.
There had been much rock-throwing.
Prominent businessmen assure me that the situation simply cannot stay as
it is - there will be an eruption!
Actually, there are many things I'd like to comment on, but since I don't
really know who's actually reading this I'd rather not.  I guess I could
sum up general impressions from many sources: "It's getting hot!"
Off the subject of politics, one e-mail made a great deal of sense and
that was one relating to the Haitian self-image.  I'm not myself Haitian,
though I was married to one, worked or lived there for 8 years, and am
still very involved in the Haitian community.  En route from JFK to Haiti
I could not help but notice the condition of the American plane I was
flying on.  It must have been an older one of its fleet.  It was dirty,
tattered looking, and the crew was impatient, condescending, and almost
downright rude.  It seemed to be a real pain in the ass to work that
flight.  I started thinking about it.  I remember a dear friend, an
intelligent and educated man, telling me once, "Beverly, to be black is to
be at the bottom of the pile, but to be Haitian is to be at the bottom of
the bottom."  As I sat on that flight in seat 8H, looking at the dirty
partition in front of me, one which seemed to have had its share of dirty
s! ! hoes propped upon it, a thought occurred to me.  It's the
philosophical, what came first? the chicken or the egg? Have attitudes and
situations been created by the Haitian people or have attitudes and
situations created what the Haitian people are today?  We are speaking in
generalities here.  But it is something that concerns me.
On my return flight, I was fortunate to have an upgrade to first class
because I had a friend with a contact; and those of us up front were
treated quite well - by a Haitian flight attendant!  But en route to Port
Authority, a Haitian man who'd been on that return flight in economy class
began to comment on the very same things things I'd noticed on the flight
down.   Ahh!  So I wasn't imagining it! This of course lead to quite a
discussion.  Although there are no simple answers, we did conclude that
our self-image is in large part formed by the perceptions of us by
significant others in our lives.  We don't choose our parents, but there
are others we do choose to make significant - whether or not they are wise
choices.  To get to the bottom line.  If we are treated frequently enough
as though we are ignorant, we may begin to believe it.  Then when we begin
to act out those beliefs, we only re! ! inforce what was originally
"suspected".  It becomes a vicious cycle.  The sad part is that Haitians
themselves perpetuate the cycle and turn against one another in doing so.
I, too, agree that it is time for some real soul-searching and
self-evaluation.  There is such a tremendous wealth of intelligence,
insight, resourcefulness and creativity that has not been tapped among us.
I truly love the Haitian people, and yet sometimes I get so aggravated
with them!  I get embarrassed for some when their behavior is a disgrace
and detriment to the Haitian community as a whole.  Even when I think I
understand to some degree why people act as they do, I envision so much
more for them.  And I think that's a key.  Each of us must first envision
what we can become.  Until we see that in our mind's eye, we cannot
achieve it.  We must believe in ourselves, our families, our nation.  Yes,
what we are today is a reality to us,! ! but what we can become tomorrow
must become a greater reality.  In other words, what we see in our
spirits, our inner man, becomes more real to us than what we see with our
natural eyes.  We are all in the process of becoming.  But becoming what?
Will we sit back and be victims of our environment?  Or will we be those
who change our environments for the good of all?
We need to dream BIG!!!! Because truly you will never be bigger than your
dreams.  (I heard that Michael Jordan said he became the athlete he was
because he expected more of himself and pushed himself harder than anyone
else would or could have.)  I dream big things for Haiti.  I'm not giving
up on her!  As discouraging as the situation is at times, I still believe
that one day, the situation will turn around.  One day the Haitian people
as a whole will truly lift their heads, all shame gone, and they will take
their place among the nations of the Caribbean and roundabout.  They will
be a voice to be heard!  Haitians, arise!  You have what you need within
you.  To those of you with leadership abilities, lead well! To those of
you with creative abilities, let them flourish! Believe in yourselves and
what you can accomplish!
--- Beverly Najt