By Max A. Joseph Jr.
On May 15, Dominicans head to the polls to elect a president, a vice-president and a National Assembly. As usual the 800-pound gorilla in these contests will be Haiti, their country’s western neighbor and former ruler from 1822 to 1844. Not surprisingly, Haitians living on the wrong side of the border are being treated as political pawns and subjected to inhumane treatments by these malditos. Case in point: Luis Abinader, the standard bearer for the Dominican Republic’s biggest opposition party (PRM) is berating the current government for “filling the DR with Haitians” by not aggressively enforcing his country’s innovative and controversial immigration law that retroactively invalidates the nationality of generations of Dominicans of Haitian descent. He promises, if elected, to rid the DR of every illegal immigrant (read Haitians).
Demagogue politicians possess an uncanny ability to sniff out and exploit real or perceived insecurity of gullible or ill-informed people. Should these politicians’ perverted behavior be discredited or the erroneous beliefs of that constituency acknowledged and dealt with accordingly? Although many countries have grappled with these unfortunate situations at different stages of their existence, a consensus on what constitutes the correct approach to dealing with them has yet to emerge, seeing that history is replete with successful rabble-rousers and unsuccessful ones. Nevertheless, no one should lose sight of the fact that “adding fuel to people’s unreasonable fear or insecurity” ultimately affects everyone. The unintended consequences, in some instances, have been dire.
It is interesting to note that years of unmitigated propagandas and senseless anti-Haitianismo rhetoric from the neo-Duartianos have succeeded in indoctrinating a large segment of the Dominican society. Needless to say, the die is cast, as these poor souls are now irreversibly convinced their way of life is being threatened by their darker-skinned neighbors. Analogically, the situation of hundreds of thousands of Haitians in the DR is not unlike that of the Jews in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Many are routinely beaten, killed by frenzied mobs or summarily deported to the Haitian side of the border and their assets confiscated. The only missing piece being the concentration camps which, in due course, makes way for the gas chambers used in the Nazi’s failed attempt to exterminate the European Jewry on an industrial-scale. Based on these historical precedents, it would be imprudent for any Haitian to dismiss the twisted rhetoric emanating from the Dominican leadership and not assume that something sinister could be in the offing.
Like their KKK brethren, the neo-Duartianos (Juan Pablo Duarte, 1813-76, their namesake spearheaded the drive against the Haitian occupation in the mid-19th century) are utilizing meaningless physiological differences among humans to promote their bogus assertion of cultural or racial superiority. Their absurd philosophy must not be taken lightly, given that it has periodically engendered the worst atrocities perpetuated on humans by humans. Meanwhile, divinely-anointed guardians of human behavior such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International apparently decided that these cruel treatments of Haitians in the DR do not rise to the level of human rights violations worthy of a collective response from the international community.
It is up to us to formulate a corresponding response to these provocations, which would involve taking the fight to the enemy by providing political and material support to those Dominicans of Haitian descent who were deprived of their natural birthright, due to displaced anger or mass hysteria. Being biologically and culturally African, we Haitians proudly and unequivocally embrace these characteristics and are not responsible for the Dominicans’ repudiation of their own identity. I wish Luis Abinader would elaborate on his contention the DR is totally different from Haiti, which he also claims poses a threat to his country’s national sovereignty. Like those of his compatriots, his reasoning is probably shaped by what he reads in publications such as Encyclopedia Britannica and CIA World Factbook.
These demagogues have become proficient at fomenting instability in Haiti while hiding behind a virulent anti-Haitianismo, the bizarre unsophisticated approach to forging a Dominican national identity, which is gaining traction among the gullible masses. With the help of an equally shortsighted fifth column on the Haitian side of the border, they not only vengefully disrupted Haiti’s bi-centennial celebration in 2004, but also facilitated that country’s invasion and occupation by French and U.S. forces. As we Haitians are fond of saying: “Bat chyen-an, tan-n mèt-li” (Beat the dog, and wait for its owner).
Quarantined since its inception, notwithstanding its steadfast commitment to peace and good neighborliness, Haiti has never been accepted as a legitimate member of the international community. With that being said, it is nonetheless ridiculous for anyone to believe that Haiti, because of its dysfunctional condition under the existing geopolitical order, cannot possibly defend its fundamental interests or play a meaningful and positive role in the Caribbean region. Racially inspired and irrational, such arrogant perspective of the situation is actually the real threat to stability and peace in the entire Hemisphere.
Our indolence within the last century, compounded by economic strangulations and many invasions and occupations, is unfortunately being perceived as an admission of defeat. Far from it, we have never relinquished our creed despite the torments associated with not falling in line. Unlike the perennially confused neo-Duartianos, Haitians will get to write the last chapter of their history, seeing that it reservedly belongs to them, in spite of the Trujillos, the Balaguers, the Abinaders, the Medinas, the OAS or the UN.