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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 22, 2017
Mike Whitney
Liberals Beware: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas
John Grant
On Killers and Bullshitters*
Peter Linebaugh
Catherine Despard, Abolitionist
Patrick Cockburn
The Bitter Battle for Mosul
Ted Rall
Sue the Bastards? It’s Harder Than You Think
Yoav Litvin
The Emergence of the Just Jew
Kim Scipes
Strategic Thinking and Organizing Resistance
Norman Pollack
Mar-a-Lago, Ideological Refuge: Berchtesgaden, II
Fred Donner
Nixon and the Chennault Affair: From Vietnam to Watergate
Carl Kandutsch
Podesta vs. Trump
Ike Nahem
To the Memory of Malcolm X: Fifty Years After His Assassination
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Tough Talk Won’t Fix Chicago
Paul Donnelly
Betsy DeVos and the War on Public Education
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
The End of an Alliance for Police Reform
Richard Lawless
Wall Street Demanded the Nuclear Option and the Congress Delivered
Liaquat Ali Khan
Yes, Real Donald Trump is a Muslim!
Ryan LaMothe
“Fire” and Free Speech
CounterPunch News Service
Bloody Buffalo Billboards
February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail