Today marks one year after Haiti’s devastating earthquake. Throughout the country, Haitians mourn for lost loved ones, pray, call for moments of silence, and, most importantly, they continue to survive. In the midst of Haiti’s melange of life and death, where those who continue to live take a moment to acknowledge fallen family and friends, Fox News chimes in with the harmonic precision of a cracked bell to say there is no hope for Haiti.
Yesterday, Fox News ran a piece by Carl Thomas entitled Haiti- What’s Your Solution?. The solution presented was clear: Haitians need to leave Haiti, or stay and die. Part of this idea stemmed from the notion that Haiti’s culture is systematically inferior to others, and that Haitians would best be served by assimilating into other French-speaking cultures.
(I’ve since renamed this piece from “Fox News Still Doesn’t Get Haiti” to “Analysts Still Don’t Get Haiti” since a commentor pointed out that the WSJ has a similarly distasteful op-ed.)
While Mr. Thomas presented the basic fact that the myriad of NGOs in Haiti have not made much headway collectively in assuaging the country’s endemic woes, he extrapolates on it to conclude that no amount of assistance internal or external can bring Haiti to a state of normalcy.
It’s pretty easy to write such articles when your reference point is only pain and poverty, rather than the life that takes place around it. I don’t know if Carl Thomas ever actually visited Haiti (his article seems to only reference other AP articles rather than providing first-hand accounts). Even assuming he had, if he were to only look for devastation, then that’s all he would see, and that’s the only future he would see. If Haiti existed as a country of destitution rather than one simply of poverty, I might be inclined to agree with Mr. Thomas and his article. But the fact is that it doesn’t, so I don’t.
Edwidge Danticat describes Haiti’s hope best in her New Yorker article A Year and A Day. It’s that extra day that keeps Haitians going. It’s the fact that simply being alive gives you an extra day to make your life your own that continues to give Haitians hope. And it is that hope that propels Haiti forward through disasters, not into them, as Mr. Thomas mistakenly infers.
The reason Haiti will survive from the disaster of the earthquake, from a sudden cholera outbreak, from the confusion and angst over the presidential elections, and from any other obstacles thrown its way, is because Haitians choose to survive, and nothing more. And when an entire country of people choose to survive and choose to push ahead, the collective consciousness that makes that choice simply cannot be shown another option. I’ve seen it myself, in the eyes of tired vendors on the side of the road at night, who endlessly sell their wares. I’ve seen it in the determined faces of young men marching uphill carrying unseemingly heavy burdens on their heads and shoulders, with unflinching resolve. I’ve seen it in the eyes of Haitians who march to work everyday without fail with a degree of professionalism that many of America’s Fortune 500 could well use, despite the personal tragedies they might personally face.
No, you cannot defeat a country that boasts such citizens.