Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Earthquake In Haiti

I watched with interest a report on Haiti on the PBS Newshour on Monday, before the devastating earthquake hit the the Port-au-Prince area, and it explained how the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation was trying to pick itself up after over two hundred years of anarchy and poverty. many international organizations were providing Haiti with aid and many of its debts were being foreign so that it could invest more in its people. The report explained how Haiti - the second oldest independent nation in the Americas, after the United States - was bring given one more chance - possibly one last chance - to get things right.
With this 7.0-Richter scale quake, which has left hundreds of thousands of people dead, all bets are now off. It is the most cosmic form of irony that Haiti should find its fortunes, which began to look promising after the election of President René Preval in 2006, reversed in a single natural disaster. Now, more than ever, anyone who can help with aid should do so. It's hard to find anyone without sympathy for the Haitian people.
But not impossible. Many people have already heard Rush Limbaugh's assertion that Preisdent Obama is sending aid to the Haitians to shore up support among his fellow black Americans and that he cares more about Haiti than about terrorism. But Limbaugh's racially bigoted, logically bewildering rhetoric pales in comparison to Pat Robertson's insistence that the earthquake was divine retribution for a pact Haitians supposedly made with the devil to win their independence from France.
Here's what Robertson said: "They were under the heel of the French, you know, Napoleon III and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.' True story. And so the devil said, 'OK, it’s a deal.' And they kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got . . . themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another."
For the record, the Haitians revolted against France because the French parliament tried to restore slavery in the colony (then called Saint-Domingue) after it had been abolished by the National Convention government that took over France in 1792. Napoleon Bonaparte (not Napoleon III, the nephew of the original Napoleon) sent an army to crush the slave revolt, but the army was defeated by the slaves and done in by yellow fever - not the devil. Napoleon's troubles in Haiti led him to sell the Louisiana territory to the United States, including New Orleans.
Speaking of which, I don't want to repeat Robertson's interpretation of Hurricane Katrina.

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