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Wednesday, January 13, 2010


photo: afp/getty images

Big earthquake at Port au Prince in Haiti. The poorest place in our hemisphere. The other hemisphere has Albania and Myanmar. Haiti is so easy to ignore, so easy not to think about, so easy not to hold our attention on the news. Poor people. Who notices the poor? Don't feed them and they'll go away. They have no taste, no valid sense of style. They're coarse and talk dirty. They're not famous. We don't see them on tv but in the backgrounds, except when a disaster strikes that's so bad you have to feel sorry for them, no matter who they are, black, talk French, more African than Africa, poverty like in Tanzania. We of the First World can't even conceive of this poor a people, so we don't think about it. Haiti is not up the ladder. Good Americans only look up the ladder.

It's looking like this drastic blow to people already stricken down and kept down as people can be and go on living, is another episode in Mr Bill of Saturday Night Live a long time ago. Mr Hand in one swipe demolishes Mr Bill, a figure made of toy clay, red, yellow and blue. Each week Mr Hand did in Mr Bill in a new way, like smashed him with a fist, squirted lighter fluid on him and set him on fire. Nutty stuff. It was the unexpected in the way Mr Hand offed Mr Bill that was funny about it. Haiti a nation with Mr Bill karma. No, Mr Hand!

The earthquake hit the dense population center. Haiti was as low as it could go, could sink no further. Armed gangs keep the population thinned and under control. Just last Saturday I saw a documentary, Ghosts of Cite Soleil. That's a Haitian city. The man who was the major thug was a rapper, went by Haitian 2Pac and killing people is what he did. In an interview with him he said no one grows old in Haiti. You die young. The ones killing people for varieties of reasons know their day is ahead. It's something of a game making it from one day to the next. Obesity is not an issue in Haiti.

200 years ago a slave rebellion killed and ran off the French colonialists from the island Hispanola. Haiti is on the western half of the island and Dominican Republic on the eastern half. It was in the time the islands of the Atlantic were burned out and largely sugar plantations replaced the vegetation. All the beautiful species of birds and monkeys, tropical flowers, pure water, everything living in harmony for how many thousands of years unnoticed by the human mind. When the human mind took an interest, that was it for beauty, for paradise. Like all the wild animals that live around us in these mountains seem to know among themselves that if a human sees you, you're the same as dead.

Haiti was a French colony and Dominican Republic was Spanish with some French plantation owners. The Haitian half of the island used up their trees and hurricanes washed the topsoil out to sea long ago. Everything was taken from the land and nothing returned to it. The slaves of Haiti killed and ran out the white plantation owners, like in Zimbabwe a few decades ago. 200 years of being ruled by dictators and their armies, no hope, no help, using the power of their guns to take everything of any value for themselves. Duvalier, Aristide? 2 sides of the same coin. The government and business community does not have the interest of the people in direst poverty on earth in their hearts.

Everything there built of cinderblocks and poor cement. Everything built like playing blocks. Stack up blocks as high as you can get them without them falling down. Then run your hand through it and knock it all down. Port au Prince fell down, down to the ground. Relief aid will be flown in and shipped in round the clock. This could make an interesting thing to watch and see what really happens. It could turn out to be something that needed to happen to change Haiti's track. It's like Haiti has reached a place where it is slowly shrinking and there's no further it can go into poverty. The extremes in their politics keeps the blood flowing down through time. It's not that it's bad so much as it is difficult. A country that is virtually ungovernable.

Now Haiti has caught the attention of the whole world. World Help organizations will be going in, governments, documentary film crews. Just a cigar boat ride to the eastern tip of Cuba where Gitmo looms. Haitians have jumped into the shark filled ocean for many years to get off the land there, take the chance of floating to Miami where they get put in the concentration camp for Haitians not allowed entry and not sent back. Diseases are next. Packs of hungry dogs. Gangs. A lot needs doing really fast. All of Port au Prince will need to be rebuilt. There are no resources for it. I'm curious to see how far the world community will go to help Haiti onto its feet.

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