I swear before God and before the nation to be the intractable and ferocious guardian; henceforth, it floats on the horizon as a reminder to all Haitians the prowess of our sublime martyrs that were immortalized under the blaze of bullets and machine guns at the Crête-à-Pierrot, the Butte Charrier, and Vertières for the purpose of creating a fatherland where the Haitian Negro feels sovereign and free. Is this proclamation emanating from a country known for its passionate embrace of European philosophers of the enlightenment period (17th and 18th centuries) an appeal for the renewal of the Dessalinian spirit or empty words? Well, it is the pledge of allegiance to the Haitian flag uttered in 1934 by then-president Sténio Vincent (1930-41) meant to instill a sense of purpose into a submissive nation recovering its sovereignty after 19 years of American military occupation (1915-34). Unfortunately, it symbolizes what is wrong with Haiti today. Most Haitians cannot fully remember the whole sentence or, more to the point, could not care less about it.
Reporting on a visit to Haiti in a 1976 edition of National Geographic, a senior assistant editor for the magazine, Carolyn Bennett Patterson, dryly wrote: “Haiti needs no renaissance of tolerance; its people are so profoundly tolerant as to be blind”. I was at first taken aback by the reporter’s statement, only to partly agree with her upon finishing the whole paragraph in which she stated “There is a distinct lack of racial bias. White people are safe on the streets, day and night, alone or in company. In this Haiti is different_ different from many countries of the Caribbean, from parts of the United States, from sections of Africa”.
If Ms. Patterson was to go back to Haiti today, she would probably equate the tolerance she innocently but correctly described in that 1976 article as a fatal case of collective resilience that brought the demise of a country once called “The Pearl of the Caribbean”. As she appropriately stated in the article, Haiti: beyond mountains, more mountains, “the local proverb not only characterizes Haiti’s vertical geography but also the struggle of its people. Surmounting one obstacle, they encounter others, then others”. But what she failed to allegorically tackle in the article was the Himalaya of them all: the minority’s sense of divine selection to rule over the poor and destitute majority, and the latter’s resilience to it. This same minority deliberately boycotted the country’s bi-centennial of independence on January 1st 2004 and is now enjoying the fruits of its duplicity that came in the form of a military occupation of the country since February 29th 2004, first by France and the U.S and presently the U.N.
Indeed Haitians (the poor) are tolerant to a fault. Not surprisingly, their tolerance is abused by a minority of Haitians whose own intolerance toward the destitute majority (80% of the population) would make Ms. Patterson cringe. This inconsiderate minority, (the economic and political elite, pseudo-intellectuals, and wannabe bourgeois from the proletariat), ironically, best suited to understand the meaning of Sténio Vincent’s words, conspired in 2004 to turn Haiti into an armed concentration camp. When Hedi Annabi (the current Viceroy) nonchalantly stated “We (the U.N) don’t have a development plan for Haiti and never will”, one had expected some of these turncoats to come to their senses and realized the extent of their treachery, but that was wishful thinking. `
Portraying itself as the perpetual victim of a decidedly angry, barbaric, and unruly majority, this minority goes to any length in preserving the status quo. One article published in June 27 2000 in the Standard-Times by a member of that group (by the way the author’s last name betrays his proletarian roots) is a case in point. In it, the author called Aristide an anti-U.S drug baron; his supporters, skinny bones and dirt poor bandits educated in the notion of Maoism, and René Préval a leftist dictator that has allowed Haiti to become a transshipment point for Colombian drugs entering the United States. Not fully satisfied, he added that Aristide’s bandits had stormed the U.S Embassy at Port-au-Prince; desecrated it with human excrement to the point where civilized citizens accustomed to the Embassy’s halls hardly recognized them. One can only wonder where the U.S Marines guarding the Embassy had gone that day. Probably fishing or beaching.
Yesterday in Washington, millions of Americans witnessed the fulfillment of a dream that many thought unrealizable. It happened within two generations because someone dared dream and lifted the marginalized out of their stupor. Yet, it could not have happened without the other side realizing that the land (the United States of America) belongs to all Americans and racial exclusion would condemn their great nation to an uncertain fate. Aptly, it was the triumph of reason over obscurantism and deliberate ignorance.
We, Haitians, however stopped dreaming a long time ago and failed to understand that Haiti was bequeathed to us as safekeeping for future generations. The pledge of allegiance to our flag is not a collection of empty words but a genuine plea to honor the sacrifices our heroes by fulfilling our responsibilities. Indeed, it is not too late for those who have allowed the barbarians to sully the sacrifices of our ancestors come to their senses. As for myself, I dare dream that one day Haiti will be liberated and its honor restored.