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Template for Haiti

the fueling motivation is to make others look good in comparison

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, January 13, 2010.

There are, when you read history - especially, a LOT of history - small, repetitive incidents that slowly sink their way into your mind. The repetition eventually serves as a template. Too little attention is given to the use of historical and cultural templates in journalism. It's too bad, because they are as powerful - more so - that a superpower military. The templates that Haiti suffers under is more damning even than Tuesday's earthquake.

As an example, reading European history in any detail beyond high school texts, you realize that not only was it far more common for small slaughters of Jewish communities to occur, it was damned near a touching tradition. The more famous horrors pre-Holocaust - like Richard the Lionheart's slaughter of the York merchant class - turn out to be less important than the numerous small incidents, the daily slights and dangers that in aggregate led to Zionism winning out over Assimilationism.

Haiti has become the standard joke of the Western Hemisphere. It's overpopulated, ignorant, dirt poor, and led by a succession of demented and cruel thugs. Its black population suffers from being Catholic crossed upon a belief in Voodoo. It speaks primarily a French patois. Now the world knows that the Vatican moves around its sexually predatory priests and how these individuals turn up in locations with congregations least likely to tolerate it, imagine who got assigned to Haiti through the years.

In any just world, the Dominican Republic would be a near pariah and basket case, but because it shares the island of Santo Domingo with Haiti, it looks like Eden run by liberal Social Democrats. The Dominican Republic complains about Haiti, but actually the powers that be prefer it there as is, so they look good in comparison.

The United States owes Haiti. It encouraged a 19th century slave revolt against the French and then backed out of supporting it because our own slave states were terrified of their own slaves, and with reason. As a result, the revenge of the French and near perpetual civil war was god awful, and the sad, pathetic mess of Haiti is in no measure due to our past failures and hypocrisy.

I'm not one who, surrounded by calamity, is easily inspired by those saying catastrophe is an opportunity. Yet, safe as I am in Boulder and viewing the collapse of the ostentatious and terribly built government palace in Porta Prince, along with the hospitals and houses of cheap concrete, I feel the need to express that hope. The hope that support for the people is not just poured into the standard charities, but into a rebuilding of the capital, deforested nation, and people worthy of them. That the machete wielding thugs of drug gangs and Voodoo and insane village witches and predatory priests were destroyed along with the inevitable tens of thousands of dead children and innocents. Pay no attention to the casualty figures, except in tabulating them multiply by five or twenty. They had no interest when the people were alive, somewhat less when they're dead.

And watch the story get conformed to template by the media, and watch the new Haiti begin to show the stigmata of the old, the people as damned by the civilized west as surely as medieval Jews forced to wear yellow badges and caps. So long as we have Haiti, other right wing thugocracies or left wing dictatorships don't look so bad around the Caribbean. That's the template and the fueling motivation to keep it down.