Expressing my view!

Sharing with whoever would read my thoughts

Haiti : destruction what was – recreating anew

by Antoine Craigwell

Since the earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, there has been a rush by many, including governments to provide aid: in rescue and recovery, and with medical supplies and food. With the announcements, thanks to the prolific media’s presence, especially through CNN and BBC, there has been an outpouring of aid from non-profit organizations, led by the United Nations and the American Red Cross, and the organization founded by the Haitian singer, Wyclef Jean, the Yele Foundation; people from all across the U.S., from all across the world, from as far as Taiwan on the other side of the globe and Israel, of all nations, stepped in to help rescue the Haitian people. It was particularly admirable that a rescue team of 40 from Iceland, a country in the throes of its own economic crises and a bankrupt government, with their specialty in search and rescue, came to help.

Ten days later, while those who had come into the island nation to provide assistance had shifted gears from rescue to recovery, incredibly, people were being pulled from the rubble, alive: images were on the news an 84-year-old woman was rescued as well as a 22-year-old man, beating all the text book odds of a human being unable to survive beyond three days without food or drink. And, through an American perspective, seeing this disaster through the presentations of the media, the Haitian people, with the exception of a few isolated pockets of expressions of frustration and anger at the slow pace of aid reaching them – water, food and medical supplies; there was calm. The people were behaving.

Interestingly, the same media, striving for its oft sought after fair and balanced reporting, as well as showing the planes landing at Toussaint International Airport, spoke of the flights held in holding patterns and diversions, of the towering pallets of food, clothing and temporary shelter, all still cling-foil wrapped on the airport’s apron; also showed interviews with aid personnel who complained of being forced through the absence of materials to sterilize surgical equipment with, of all things, vodka – which they surely would’ve wanted to drink, to help dull the images of death and dismemberment, suffering burnt into their consciences, seared into their memories; of the smell of decaying, decomposing, putrefied human remains, those who had as yet to be found in their crumbled concreted tombs, and those, the estimated 80,000 who were buried in mass graves, unidentified and unaccounted for. The same media, showed images of regions outside of the capital where no one had gone to help: who knows how many may have died entombed in their crumpled homes, buried under their respective prides and joys – their own homes.

The 7.0 magnitude earthquake (a force the equivalent to more than 100 mega tones of TNT or several times the force Hiroshima and Nagasaki), which struck at 4:53pm along the fault line, was the crust of the earth going about its business – readjusting, shifting, fitting into place; caught an estimated two million people by surprise, as they went about their business. In truth, the island nation of Haiti was no stranger to disaster. A few years ago, as if the climate, the very weather, which turned azure skies and a turquoise, tranquil warm water sea, a respite from the cold of the north in balmy 85-degree temperature, into a sign that all was not well with the world; the island was slammed by more than one hurricane, natural disasters, which as of the time of the earthquake, the island nation had not quite recovered.

But, for those Haitians who were killed either by falling masonry, died of starvation or from their injuries because no one could get to them or knew they lay in pain, trapped in their homes, the shadow of disaster seemed to be a permanent cloud stuck, hovering over their country; at least for them they were out of their misery, they know nothing anymore. It is those who have survived; those who were trapped, pinned under steel or concrete, tons of it, whose limbs were amputated, to stop the insidious and pervasive march of infection that threatened to join them with their country men and women who had ceased to breathe, who had shuddered in darkness and in silence one last time, and literally didn’t know what hit them; to save their lives. It is those who survived, the major question is: what life for them now?

In the U.S. as in many other so-called first world countries, being in any way unable to provide for oneself or family has truly become a curse of this age. Many thousands of Haitians, who just moments before the earthquake, who had survived countless triumphs, were to be brought low, reduced to a life of who knows what. In the U.S. for example, while ostensibly there are resources for the disabled, and a law to protect against discrimination, in a land and among a people easy to marginalize; life for an amputee is hard, often, as in NYC, to wander the city’s streets or the subways begging for a handout. For the many able-bodied men and stout women of Haiti who before this devastation held their heads high with pride, what now would be their fate, how would they be viewed, who would have mercy on them, who would forget that an earthquake caused buildings to collapse and in the rubble trapped many, and who would see these amputees as survivors? What does one say to a child, boy or girl, who now is disabled?

The article written by Sir Hilary Beckes, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, and published in the Barbados Advocate, (http://www.nationnews.com/story/guest-column-hilary-beckles-copy-for-web) circulating around on the Internet focused on the bigger picture: the sovereignty, nationhood and identity of the Haitian people – aspects of which at the microcosmic level essential for the creation of a home are just as important as for those who died in their improvised tombs, as if they said to the world at large, “this is my house, my castle, my domain and I’ll die in it.” Could it be that those who recently died in this natural disaster waved their fists in the air and dared that Haiti should rise once more and be the nation it once was? Sir Beckles addressed the history of Haiti, from its inception, when Christopher Columbus landed on the island, which he called Hispaniola, to the occupation by the English, Dutch, Spanish, and then by the French, who made the island into a colony and imported slaves to till the soil and to produce for the French government and people. Sir Beckles recounted the nation’s history, reveling in the pride of a people, the first in the New World to achieve independence from France in 1804 (Part II- http://antiguaobserver.com/?p=22628) and took his readers through the path where that glory was stripped away, taken, to be finally summarized in the words of an American evangelist, Pat Robertson, who suggested in his bigoted view, that the people of Haiti had made a pact with the devil, but who could not see that the devil the Haitian people trusted was someone like he.

Now with the outpouring of support, aid, and assistance, is anyone asking those pertinent questions: would the island nation of Haiti be allowed to rise up to reclaim even a semblance of what it once was? Is the Preval government capable of charting a new course of nationhood, forged in the blood recently spilt and the blood of his country’s ancestors? What would be the fate of all those who are missing limbs, their ability to provide for their families severely compromised, or who would take care of them? What can anyone say to the young men and women who are maimed by this disaster? Would the heavy American presence, 10,000 troops, act as a guarantee that U.S. companies would get the chance at first dibs at bidding or the best assignments to rebuild?

Was the earthquake indeed necessary for this nation to start over?

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January 31, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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