I mean no disrespect to anyone by what I am about to write and wish that anyone who becomes offended recognizes this as my typical stream-of-consciousness gibbering (which I have been afflicted with since leaving Rhode Island, it seems).
When talking with Ivo last night about Haiti, I said that I was surprised by how many people were talking about Haiti. I don't mean to be-little the country in any way, but it has been suffering for a very long time, and this suffering is often unnoticed.
I thought back guiltily to a current events project in the 7th grade. That would have been 1991, just after the coup and capture of Aristide. Haiti was in the news and was the topic of my current events presentation that week. (Our history teacher made us read a newspaper article and write a summary and opinion on it, weekly.) I stretched my little 12 year old mind as far as it would go and then wrote that I thought that America should not come to Haiti's aid because there were Americans who needed aid every day and we should think of ourselves first. I'm inclined to feel guilty about having had this opinion, but my current knowledge of developmental psychology and an oft remembered story of one of my sister's high school classes remind me that this 12 year old paper was what it was. (The story that my sister told me was one of a civics class, or something, in which a fellow student proposed ending poverty by giving everyone a large sum of money. Shame, that in the past few years I have thought "This politician is no smarter about economics than that classmate of my sister's".)
Years and years later, when a New York times front page showed a Haitian woman making a cake from dirt and a bit of flour and water to feed her family, I was working at a diner on a college campus, where many of our patrons read the Times. There was much talk about Haiti and it was so sad and difficult to read in a place that served food. By the afternoon I hadn't eaten much and had heard the same conversation over and over again. A former waitress came in for a late lunch and I took the opportunity to sit and have a chat. She was listening in to a nearby table's conversation.
"My parents go to Haiti every few years to volunteer for an aid organization." she said
"That's wonderful!" I said.
"Well, yeah, but how they started this tradition is a bit ridiculous" she admitted.
It's like this: When her parents were preparing to marry, her father was in charge of booking the honeymoon. It was going to be a big surprise. She set out the things that she would need for a hot or cold place and he secreted them into a bag and they were off. They flew to their honeymoon destination, where her mother discovered, they would be staying in Haiti for two weeks. "Haiti?" She asked, shocked. "Yes." Her father beamed with pride. "You've always said that you wanted to go to Haiti!" "To TAhiti! Not to Haiti!!"
But they stayed and found that there was actually some good works that they could do and they return often as 2nd, 3rd, etc honeymoons.
This story pops in my head every now and again as a buoy against some of the more upsetting (and down-right hateful) things that I have heard on the subject of Haiti after the earthquake. It may be inappropriate or it may be helpful but hopefully it won't stop any important dialogue about this unique and suffering country.