Haiti & me: In search of Jean Bertrand Aristide
When thinking about Haiti, a lot of people think first about that terrible earthquake disaster of 2010 — and also about President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. And I do too. So on my first day in Port au Prince, I toured most of the earthquake disaster areas. And on my third day there, it only seemed logical that I also attempt to meet up with the great man himself. And I actually came THIS close to doing that too!
After recovering from wandering around the Carrefour district’s Carnival celebration the night before, I then went over to check out Aristide’s house. “President Aristide is actually here today,” said the guard at the door, “but he’s not seeing visitors right now. However, you can always wave to him on our closed-circuit TV camera.” Great idea! So I smiled and waved and smiled and waved at the CCTV camera like the idiot tourist that I am.
Next I went off to visit Aristide’s Foundation Pour la Democratie and looked around there. Met some interesting diplomats, students, professors and a chicken.
Then I visited UniFA, a medical school established by Aristide in order to create more doctors in Haiti — where the ratio of Haitians to doctors is 10,000 to 1 in urban areas and 20,000 to 1 in the countryside (no wonder vodou cures are so popular here). “How many students study here?” I asked a bright-eyed first-year physician wannabe, sitting outside eating her lunch between classes. (Actually all the students here are clearly bright-eyed and diligent and idealistic — all young, gifted and Black. Go them.)
“About 700,” the student replied.
“So can you tell me how cure my sore knees?” I asked.
“No, we haven’t gotten that far in our curriculum quite yet.” Rats.
Lastly, I stopped by a large apartment building that had been constructed during Aristide’s presidency in order to house some of Port au Prince’s homeless population, right before GWB sent in the Marines. Two things about this apartment building were note-worthy. First, it was the only building for blocks around that had actually withstood the 2010 earthquake. And, second, the apartments all had two bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen.
In stark contrast, directly across the street one could also see a hundred-odd new U.N. housing units — such as they were. Each family had been allocated a really really small cube-shaped one-room dwelling with no bathroom, no bedroom, no kitchen and no running water. And their shared port-a-potties were all way down the street.
So just exactly who is this guy Jean-Bertrand Aristide? And why do American neo-cons and corporatists all hate him so much? I don’t know. Maybe because Aristide doesn’t want to keep Haiti forever “barefoot and pregnant”? Maybe because Aristide, a former priest, actually tries to practice the teachings of Jesus? Your guess is as good as mine.
In any case, here’s a bit more about Aristide’s back-story for those of you who have never heard of the guy. In 2001, Aristide was democratically elected as president of Haiti, just one year after George Bush stole the 2000 American election. But, unlike GWB, Aristide’s emphasis was on inclusion and education.
And now, ten years later, Haiti has been stuck with President Michel Martelly, aka the “Neo-Cons’ Choice,” elected in the same way that the U.S. got stuck with Dubya — illegally. “He is our guy!” cries Wall Street, War Street and the Deep State. http://billmoyers.com/2014/02/21/anatomy-of-the-deep-state/
What the freak was Aristide thinking!
Surely Aristide should have known that anybody who denies WalMart access to economic slave labor is naturally gonna be in big trouble — and educating a country’s children and providing its citizens with healthcare is also a really bad idea because then countries like Haiti will no longer have a subservient labor force and a really dumb electorate — and that’s just not the corporatist way. Aristide should have known better. Even most Americans are clear on this concept, keeping their eyes down and their mouths shut. Why couldn’t Aristide do the same?
PPS: Here’s another interesting fact about Haiti: The whole population of this country has African DNA. So far, I’m the only white person I have met in all of Port au Prince. For instance, there were over 2000 people at the carnival in Carrefour last night — and only yours truly was white. And you know what? No one cared — because everyone was having such an amazingly wonderful time there, dancing in the streets, even me (except, of course, for my sore knees).