By Max A. Joseph
While the international community is justifiably appalled at the sight of humans getting decapitated, immolated or hacked to death by religious fanatics, it has remained silent on the lynching of a Haitian shoe shiner, who was found hanged with both feet and hands bounds in a public park in the Dominican Republic.
Could it be that Haitian lives don’t matter?
Far from being an isolated case, the lynching of Henry Claude Jean should be understood in the larger context of an unstated, but operational strategy that demonizes Haitians as expendable beings undeserving of the “universal values” that others take for granted.
The correlation between the lynching and the occupation is irrefutable. Both epitomize the callous attitude, if not hostile intent, of the international community toward Haitians. Shocking as it may that, in the 21st century, a person could be lynched because of the color of his skin or his origins, the hateful crime is on a par with the indiscriminate slaughter of underprivileged urban dwellers at Cite Soleil by Minustah soldiers on July 6, 2005. Accordingly, it is extremely unlikely that Henry Claude Jean’s killers would ever be punished for this horrible crime, as immunity from prosecution is automatically granted to anyone participating in the culling of Haitians.
We must stop compartmentalizing atrocities. Denouncing the lynching of Henry Claude Jean while overlooking the transgressions of the Minustah, which also include the cholera epidemic, unprovoked beatings and rapes of Haitian citizens, is the apex of a hypocrisy that no conscientious Human being should condone. Unfortunately, this cherry-picking, which makes some atrocities more palatable than others, has become a disturbing reality that enables those intending to harm Haiti to put forward their own narrative, which holds that Haitians are incapable of governing themselves.
Strangely enough, Haiti has had a plethora of leaders that unreservedly embraced this preconceived notion, even though it originated with the very entities which, for two centuries, sought to invalidate its existence as a nation. I am however one of those Haitians who believe the arrogance and brutal tactics of our tormentors would eventually awaken the nation out of its stupor. Unfortunately, the catalyst for such awakening remains anyone’s guess, as Haitians have practically gone through every possible scenario in the course of their storied history.
For starters: charity begins at home. We should not be criticizing the wretched conditions of Haitians living in the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic while similar circumstances exist in Haiti. We cannot be disapproving of the disfranchisement of Haitians in the DR while back home the natives are not even permitted to choose their own leaders. We should not expect other countries to respect and protect the rights of Haitian citizens living within their territorial confines while in Haiti those same rights are either absent or ignored. Are we promoting our own twisted version of exceptionalism?
I am inclined to believe that is not the case, given that the prerogatives of the state have either been outsourced by our leaders or voided under the occupation. Aptly, the prospect of a stable and prosperous Haiti would remain an unfulfilled dream for generations of Haitians, as long as the majority does not fully participate in the shaping of their economic, social, and political future.
Through my years, I have met Haitians from all walks of life and came away with the impression that achieving a broad consensus on what is best for Haiti may be harder than the history of the country would indicate. The once proud little nation that 211 years ago single-handedly confronted the then-existing world order of slavery no longer exists.
Through the machinations of the international community, we are now in the process of reinventing tribalism, hence the bizarre suggestion that Haiti should adopt the Rwandan model, which has the minority Tutsis lording over the majority Hutus. The tribalism analogy might seem far-fetched to some people, but it reflects the reality on the ground. The courageous men, women and children that were gassed, hacked to pieces, or burned alive at the stake by French soldiers of Napoleon Bonaparte expeditionary force couldn’t possibly have imagined this unpleasant outcome.
Beginning with the first U.S occupation of Haiti (1915-34) and up to now, with a few exceptions, the more compromised the politician, the more likely he’ll be chosen to lead the country. By becoming a nation of sycophants and impenitent collaborators, we are primarily responsible for the present state of affairs in Haiti, notwithstanding the intrigues of our tormentors. Nonetheless, the creed upon which Haiti was founded still resonates in the hearts of the uncompromised and the mantle of our ancestors will be reclaimed, regardless of the challenge.
Nations or empires for matter crumble when they stray too far from their creed, a well-established fact that mirrors Haiti’s situation at the moment. Fittingly, Haitians of every ideological stripe need to engage one another in a national dialogue that could help Haiti reconnect with its creed (liberty and justice) and lay the foundation for a prosperous future in this interdependent but equally unforgiving world. Sooner rather than later, the keepers of the current geopolitical order would have to conclude that it is pointless to deny Haiti its rightful place in the community of nations. The awakening is inevitable but, first and foremost, we must reject the culture of dependency that has Haitians considering foreign aid as some form of entitlement.