Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rebuilding Haiti

There are a few other things I want to blog about - but the poverty in Haiti is what I'm thinking about this morning.  I hope my readers will send donations to the charities of their choice.  I try not to write usually about things in the news, but I thought I would make an exception.

I've read two books that revealed some of what life in Haiti was and is like.  The first is this book, Bury the Chains.I hadn't realized much of the history surrounding the slave trade and the eventual abolition of slavery in the Caribbean.  This book is highly recommended, well written and moving.

One of the things I remember however, is that the governance of Haiti was an experiment.  As the wikipedia entry suggests - it is the second oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere.  But from that beginning, they have had a history of dictators and instability.  The country was freed by France in the early nineteenth century - but the people remained poor and uneducated.  Before the slaves were freed, some of the only education they received was through churches and religions. Before liberation, teaching a slave to read (even the bible)  was a punishable offense.

 So this country (like many others) has a history of slavery, and all the legacies that provides.  They started out on the wrong foot - four steps behind.   Without an educated populace, divided into the have's and have not's. 

I wrote about Rick Bragg's All Over But the Shoutin' here.  He spent time in Haiti in 1994, and he observed that although it was a very different place from the South of his childhood - he said "poverty is the same".  Bragg's mother had picked cotton to feed her sons.

His observation surprised me, because Haiti and rural Alabama seem like such radically different places.  But it's true - when people are just trying to survive, provide for their families, find food,etc. - there is much in common. The surroundings are different, but the struggle is the same.

Natural disasters will always happen - they're like death and taxes.  It seems to me that some places have more infrastructure and resources to deal with them.  I hope that with some of the relief being provided for the Haitian people to survive - some resources will also help them rebuild.

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