I am afraid of what I know, but have no fear of the unknown. Yes, I am afraid of dying in poverty, misery, or at the hands of a fellow compatriot. In life there are many things that make me afraid, but the unknown is not one of them.
When I left Haiti for the United States 15 years ago, I never imagined it would take that long before I could go back.
Since I have been writing this column, there is a sense of hypocrisy that hits me every week as I write about the hope of a better tomorrow in Haiti. I ask myself, how I can inspire people to get involved in the matter of the motherland, if I, myself, am afraid of going there?
It makes no sense for me to sit behind my comfortable desk week after week writing about what many people find inspirational, if I am afraid of visiting my own country.
Each time that I would say I wanted to go back, friends and family would quickly discourage me. They would say that Haiti is not safe, that I left the country too young and that everyone has changed since then. I have to admit, in past years, the volatile political landscape has not helped in convincing me that I should take the risk.
I know that I owe Haiti for helping me be the person that I am today. The sense of pride that I have for being Haitian is unquestionable, and yet in the back of my mind a fear of the country persists. I am not afraid of dying, but I would hate to die in futile.
My fear of Haiti started when I lost my father 13 years ago, who for no good reasons, was gunned down by thugs in his own neighborhood. My father was not a politician nor a well-known person, but simply a man, who could not spend a year away from Haiti. He would return each summer to go to the festivities at Saut-d’Eau.
One year as he went to Haiti for his father’s funeral, little did he know that his own death was imminent.
By the time I got the news of my father’s death, it was too late for me to make any travel arrangement. My father’s funeral took place in my absence.
Before he left for Haiti that summer, we had planned to meet upon his return. My father was living in Florida, while I was with my mother in Boston. My last memory of my father was in 1992, when he came to visit, while I was still in Haiti. Although I did not grow up with him, he never failed to tell me that he loved me very much whenever he would get a chance. My mother raised me well by herself, but my father while absent for most of my life was irreplaceable.
When the bandits took the air of life from him, they also instill a fear within me. I never saw the gunshots in my father’s body, but I would dream of them each time I think of visiting Haiti.
The most painful part of this whole situation was not the lost itself, but the complete failure of justice.
How is it possible that a citizen could be gunned down in his own country, and no investigation, no suspects, nothing whatsoever has ever been done? It’s like the person never existed.
That hurts me a lot, and it gives me many reasons to be afraid. I would not want to die in vain, and worst of all without justice being served to the ones I would leave behind.
Unfortunately, my father’s story is not unique. Many Haitians who love their country have lost their lives in such conditions.
Government after governments, it’s as if human life is worthless in that country. You only matter while alive. There is no criminal justice system to help alleviate the pains and sufferings of the victims’ families.
Despite all those things, I remain fervent that a better tomorrow is awaiting my beloved Haiti.
For the thousands, who have lost their lives without a suspect being named in their case, I believe that one day that won’t be the situation anymore. We cannot speak of improving the living conditions of all, if we do not value the essence of human life.
As I am getting ready to land in the motherland after so long, I am excited and yet very anxious. I am horrified of what I know of Haiti, but I am brave enough to experience the many unknowns that I anticipate to encounter.
In all honesty, I have told many of my friends, Haitians or foreigners, that Haiti is not a place for vacations. I find it very insulting when people say they are going to Haiti for vacations.
My idea of vacations is when your mind can be free of stressed and worries are not part of your plan. No one with a good conscious can go to Haiti and not be stressed or worried about what is going on down there. A place where poverty is king, insecurity is the order of the day, and instability is constant is not a vacation destination. But Haiti is the ideal laboratory of hope.
When you see people finding the courage to beg day after days in front of churches, young children finding the stomach to live on despite not eating for days, mothers selling used books just to pay school fees, widows carrying on their daily living despite not finding closure in the lost of their spouses and yet there’s no major civil war or blood shedding in the country, to me that is hope.
Haiti is a country of hope, and Haitians are full of hope. If you want to understand the meaning of hope, I would encourage you to visit Haiti; but if you need to showcase all your material goods, or proving how wealthy you are, then Haiti is not the place for you.
Certainly I am afraid of what I know, but fearless of the unknown. Hope is the greatest unknown of all, and believe me when I say that I have hope in a better Haiti.
— Contact Ilio Durandis at [email protected]
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