Mon Pays que j’aime,Mon Pays que Voici
Rubrique de Mireille Sylvain-David- June 2011
After cleaning up the deep wounds of a ten year’s old native of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti torn by a deadly earthquake on January 12, 2010, a foreign Physician Assistant (PA) reported that he took a picture of his young patient, a boy with bleached look-alike hair caused by malnutrition and lack of protein. When the boy saw the picture, he said in Creole to the PA: “I am pretty good looking you know, I just need to gain some weight.” The PA who has a fair knowledge of the Creole language could not believe his ears when he heard the boy in such a bad stage of his life talking about his looks, ignoring his miserable appearance and having the courage to joke about it. He asked the boy to repeat what he had just said. The boy said it again, mentioned the PA, but this time with a painful look in his eyes because his injury was profound, the skins of his lower back and legs were damaged and an organ was broken by the external force of the concretes under which they removed him.
The deeply infected wounds of the little boy were causing him a lot of pain, reported a nurse. They were getting worse minutes by minutes. Apparently, the PA wanted to stay with the injured boy a little bit longer, but the nurses were calling him to help other children of another tent. When he finally had a break, the PA returned to the tent where he had left the boy, only to be told that his patient had died. He wanted to see the body before the family took him away for burial. Next to the little boy, he found the picture that he took earlier. The PA silently put the picture in the upper pocket of his medical blouse, and tears were coming down his chicks, reported a Haitian nurse who was devastated by so many kids dying in front of her, hour after hour, like in a horror movie. The boy’s mother was too hurt to notice anything about the picture or to ask any questions, said another nurse. After burying her little boy, she had to search for two more of her seven children missing under the rubbles.
In listening to people telling their odysseys after the earthquake or by simply reading articles or watching television, tears constantly came to my eyes and the emotional pain that I felt was hard to disappear. Of course, death sooner or later comes to all of us, but when in a matter of seconds, you have seen hundredth of thousands of your people gone, this was an incredible painful, emotional experience. This was the kind of emotional pain that most of my countrymen living abroad (Haitian Diaspora) felt when they were facing and are still facing the reality of our country after the January’s seism.
Right now, four months after the disaster, anyone could agree that the essential or important part of our life as Haitians is to stop being emotional and start rebuild our country. But, can our emotions be swept away like the remains of our brothers and sisters thrown at some unknown wholes. They were dropped in those wholes without any consideration and respect and with no post-mortem dignity as human beings usually got. Surprisingly, emotional and psychological distress are not that easy to heal, especially in the Haitian case where healing time brought very often the memory of the glorious past of a country, which had so profoundly declined to end up with the chill and the uncertainty of an ill present. Even though more and more Haitians are trying to exercise some measures of control over their emotions, the majority of us still under shock and in a labyrinth state of mind. The constant view of people living under tents with the fear of the upcoming raining season has become the daily life of Haitians in Port-au-Prince and its surroundings. They have to face also the heart-broken scene of the handicapped children trying to adapt in a society that has never been equipped to assist handicaps. As a matter of fact, handicaps are viewed in Haiti has half humans and called pejoratively Kokobe. No apparatus have ever been made in Haiti for handicaps; no paths have ever been entered in roads or infrastructure created to meet their needs. Some Christian schools have tried to implement some classes for the mentally challenged kids but not for the poor physically handicapped children.
Painfully familiar with misery and disorder, most Haitians have seen in their life time many hardships but they had never lived that kind of shambles that brought an earthquake. They have seen bleached –alike hair children with rounded stomachs, and half naked children playing in the mud; they have seen children in the streets begging for a meal to finally get home to an overcrowded room in a slum. But they have never seen their children dying by the thousands. Statistically speaking, there were facts before the earthquake that malnutrition and illness were ramping in Haiti among the children born of the poor, over-fertile population of Haiti. Some people will argue that there are other children who do not fall in that category. This is true, because like many poor countries in the world, Haiti has a striving middle class (of different levels) and a well-to-do class with golden kids. Those children represent 10% of the youth population. They live in mansion-like houses with maid and gardener services; they eat three meals a day, attend the best private schools and public schools, wear the latest fashion and ride with their parents in expenses chauffeured cars imported from Asia or the Western continent. After their high school, they are usually sent to the university next door (Dominican Republic) or to France and the United-States to choose a profession. Most of the time, they do not return home to give back to the country, because no one ever asks them to do so, or offers them a decent job. These children become the Haitian-Americans, the Haitian-French, and the Haitian-Canadians, name it! They are giving their best to their
host countries with a vague nostalgia of Haiti. For some, Haiti is their parents’ country; for others with a strange sense of patriotism, Haiti is a resort for mountain and beach vacation in the summer and for carnival festivities in the winter.
Sociology speaking, we are facing the existence of two cultures in a poor country: Les enfants de la rue, the street children exposed to a culture of misery and a dream of illegal migration (refugees); the well-educated children exposed to a culture of materialistic possessions and legal migration(visas, airline tickets). In the latter class, some people are working to provide for their families, while like vultures, others are waiting for the next elected corrupted president to fill-up their wallets. These types of Haitians will give the best of life to their children living aboard: Best colleges, best boarding schools or comfortable condos or townhouses, rounded bank accounts, best medical insurances. All these extravagancies are done on the account of the Republic of Haiti. While half of the children from the poor population have never been in school, the other half, which, with the help of some orphanages and the creation of some low curriculum schools, have gotten the bare minimum of elementary learning, poor nutrition and poor health assistance. This kind of attitude, all by itself, represents a state of mind and a culture of corruption, selfishness where morality and complaisance are not registered. The slogan of that culture is “the more you can get for yourself and your family the better you look in the Haitian society.” This kind of corruptively oriented folks are found most likely in politics and in certain private sectors.
In the Haitian Diaspora, in Florida or anywhere else, even though that our incomes do not depend on the Haitian economy, we are, nonetheless, seen as players of a losing came watching the clock wind down. We are, indeed, watching a lot of our friends and
acquaintances going to greater hardships after the earthquake, whereas we are seeing others friends who already had a pied-à-terre abroad going to a less difficult time. Both groups have lost relatives in Haiti but their stay in the United States is different. While one group of honest professionals is struggling, another one is adapting just fine because their children are already here and their bank account are solid. Haitians, fortunately or unfortunately, live in different part of the world; they have seen other countries where governments emphasized on development and infrastructure, where victims of disasters in one town were able to relocate in other towns of their own country instead of fleeing abroad to start over.
In my opinion, each main town in Haiti should have had at least a hospital, decent schools and colleges where teachers and professors were decently paid. Kids should have been taught how to protect the environment and grown-ups should have the opportunity to work for minimum wage to provide for their families. Birth control should have been reinforced informing the people the danger of overpopulation in a country exposed to natural disasters and to economical burdens. The alternative solutions to prevent cutting trees for domestic usage should have been one of the priorities of the government. Instead of compiling millions of dollars in foreign banks, these monies should have been invested in the country to create jobs and ameliorate the little infrastructure left by a few men of good will. The governments should have encouraged the Haitian living aboard to go back home to retire or to share their expertise in the different provinces of the country. Haiti is only half of an island; it was a God given gift, with beautiful beaches, one of a kind, with shinny mountains and valleys. But like most islands, Haiti is exposed to “intempéries” and natural disasters, but the main problem of the country is political wrong doings.
My prediction is that at the end of this year, if nothing is being done, or if something is not done, there will be mounting tensions among the people of Haiti. Certain will argue that a country which had lost so much, instead of being in political turmoil, should have tried of rebuilding. We have seen and known that many countries after wars or natural disasters have rebuilt their environment. I concur, yes, it will be awkward, right now, to see Haiti in a political turmoil while its capital is a tent city where some remains of its citizens and children are still under rubbles. America and other countries of the world have committed billions of dollars to help rebuild Haiti, but the battle among Haitians has yet to arrive. This time, if the people of Haiti think of “revendications,” I hope, they will do it not for survival or revenge, but for a change. For a change that can bring morality, compassion and where people will focus on spirituality, community, family education, and health. Leaders will unite instead of divide. The clergy, the army, the politicians and the businessmen will work together. Traditions, ethics and values will mean something. We need a change that will bring the challenge of balancing democracy to its essence but not to individual or foreign views. Since 1804, too many people have died in the name of survival, we need to shift our view to resolve our problems, bring change and give hope to our bleached-like hair children and to the next generation.
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