Today, after long and repeated delays, voters are going to the polls in Haiti. No surprise, there are problems
, in particular around the poorest neighborhoods.
I have been watching Haiti from afar for a few years, interested because a friend has been frequently traveling there to help get water into Cite Soleil, and also because I have been so very unaware of Haiti's tragic path.
Today, for totally unrelated reasons, I went looking for information about the Columbia Exposition of 1893, which, of course, celebrated the arrival of Columbus in the New World - or Espanola as he dubbed it. Haiti.
Jump over to see what I found.
We should not forget that the freedom you and I enjoy to-day... is largely due to the brave stand taken by the black sons, of Haiti ninety years ago...striking for their freedom, they struck for the freedom of every black man in the world.
spoke these words at the dedication of the Haitian pavilion. At a time of increasing racial strife in the U.S., Douglass was able to point to Haiti as a beacon. How remarkable.
Today, our country is remembering the grace and strength of Mrs. King.
Many of us are troubled by the lasting impacts of the hurricanes in the south; land-grabs, voter disenfranchisement, the wholesale abandonment of an entire region of our country, much of it poor and black.
Douglass went on to say -
My subject is Haiti, the Black Republic; the only self-made Black Republic in the world. I am to speak to you of her character, her history, her importance and her struggle from slavery to freedom and to statehood. I am to speak to you of her progress in the line of civilization; of her relation with the United States; of her past and present; of her probable destiny; and of the bearing of her example as a free and independent Republic, upon what may be the destiny of the African race in our own country and elsewhere.
Haiti as a beacon and example to the U.S. Think of it...
Yet Douglass continues with these words, true at that time, and so sadly true more than 100 years later.
... she is the one country to which we turn the cold shoulder.
... But a deeper reason for coolness between the countries is this: Haiti is black, and we have not yet forgiven Haiti for being black or forgiven the Almighty for making her black. In this enlightened act of repentance and forgiveness,our boasted civilization is far behind all other nations.
I wish I could say that these are the only conspirators against the peace of Haiti, but I cannot. They have allies in the United States. Recent developments have shown that even a former United States Minister, resident and Consul General to that country has considered against the present government of Haiti. It so happens that we have men in this country who, to accomplish their personal and selfish ends, will fan the flame of passion between the factions in Haiti and will otherwise assist in setting revolutions afoot. To their shame be it spoken, men in high American quarters have boasted to me of their ability to start a revolution in Haiti at pleasure. They have only to raise sufficient money, they say, with which to arm and otherwise equip the malcontents, of either faction, to effect their object.
To them, the welfare of Haiti is nothing; the shedding of human blood is nothing; the success of free institutions is nothing, and the ruin of neighboring country is nothing. They are sharks, pirates and Shylocks, greedy for money, no matter at what cost of life and misery to mankind.
1893. 2006. I pray for the violence to end, for the possibility that we humans can move forward, but I am growing more and more cynical.