FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Jeanne: Compare Florida to Haiti

by ALAN FARAGO

CORAL GABLES, FLORIDA

While millions of Floridians are grittily focused on finding a way back to normalcy, it is worth reflecting on the dominant concern of our times: security.

Hurricane Jeanne hit Haiti hard before it did that loop the loop and aimed right where Frances had gone before. The double blow bent the knees of the most hardened residents of Florida’s Treasure Coast, already weakened by calamitous, toxic outflows from Lake Okeechobee.

The death toll in Haiti, first reported at 500, quickly mounted to more than 1,000 and is likely to double. More than 250,000 are homeless. The storm hit in the middle of the night in Gonaives, where most deaths occurred, without forewarning — no Weather Channel, no TV reporters with goggles leaning into the blistering wind.

When a hurricane aims for the United States, millions of people mobilize in synchronicity. The storm’s passing sets the stage for federal emergency managers, power crews clearing trees fallen from roads or on roofs, transformers shipped by the bushel in flatbed trailers, plywood stacked in perfect bundles, gasoline stations resupplied and rallying the troops.

Every response of our government to disaster reinforces the large-scale systems that provide comfort to people who can afford them, even when the viability of those systems is shaken by the power of nature.

But in Haiti — the poorest place in our hemisphere — every disaster only reinforces the vacuum of power and absence of organization to protect people from survival of the fittest.

In the United States, there seems no end to what we can do. In Haiti, there just seems to be no end.

“Those who didn’t have strong legs and arms to climb up on trees or roofs perished,” said Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami. Most of the dead were children, according to Bastien.

History has not been kind to the distance between Haiti and the United States. Haiti’s exile assets are rich with spirit and culture, but neither are homogenized the way Americans are accustomed. Haitians are a deeply religious people, but their suffusion of the other world as a way of explaining the sorrows and joys of this world is anathema to the orderliness we believe keeps our own hearts of darkness at bay.

Consider what 17 Haitians experienced last week who, days after Hurricane Jeanne raked their island, were deported by the Department of Homeland Security from a U.S. penitentiary none belonged in back to a hell none deserved.

If Haitian immigrants comprised an educated middle class like Florida’s Cubans or had a leader as threatening to our government as the one who has outlasted every president who sought to remove him, if Haitians had power, they, too, might have influenced immigration policy so that brothers and sisters could stay if they put one foot on dry ground in our country.

But Haiti’s dictators have only been ruthless or corrupt and compliant. For the most part, Haitians are poor and blacker, too.

Bastien asks with as much sorrow as anger: “Where is the United States?”

I think she is owed an answer. Those images on our television of refugees dazed and shocked as they tumble from life rafts or buckets, arrested as they step on our shore by our police in plastic gloves, are reflected in the blank faces and troubled silence of house cleaners, taxi drivers and dishwashers gripping the bottom rungs of the ladder we all use.

It is pretty clear where the United States is: We are nation-building in Iraq. We can’t summon the resources to help places like Haiti because we are pinned down in other hemispheres, and no color paint makes it a prettier picture.

Today, a million Floridians are waiting for the power to go back on. The waiting is terrible. People’s tempers are short, and patience is thinner than a page of newsprint.

But if you were a poor Haitian in Gonaives, where thugs commandeered relief supplies, you are one misfortune, one infected cut from death.

Today, to poor nations that view America with 1,000-yard stares from their beachfronts, it seems you have to be meaner than fate for the United States to cut you a break. That is not how it feels here: We are all waiting for the next whirlwind without any clear sense of how to protect ourselves from it happening again.

Americans who believe the value of the war in Iraq is that it is there and not here should understand the logic of helping our poorest neighbors achieve peace and prosperity in order to protect our own borders.

Truth is, we really aren’t sure what our missions are, beyond securing our own faith. It is not enough. The threshold for our attention as the wealthiest nation has to be something less than a catastrophe.

Our own comforts obscure how difficult it is to rearrange poverty that people experience as a humiliating stigma they did nothing to deserve. And although we seem to recognize that in a world of globalization we are not an island unto ourselves, too often our relations with the undeveloped world are poisoned by the attitude that if they would just learn to do business like we do, or if they can’t, let us do business for them, then everything would be swell.

Sad to say, if Haiti had enough oil, it would have something we need and we would have something to fight for. That much would be clear.

And still — were this so — our borders would not be secure any more than they are from the winds of a hurricane.

ALAN FARAGO, a longtime writer on the environment and politics, can be reached at alanfarago@yahoo.com.

 

Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades and can be reached at afarago@bellsouth.net

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail