Haitians still need our help
October 26, 2007
Susan Scott Krabacher’s early life as chronicled in her new book “Angels of a Lower Flight” (“Book chronicles woman’s path from sinner to saint,” Oct. 15) should be seen as fulfilling the adage that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
In her case, strong enough to walk alone through the teeming streets of Cite Soleil, the largest and most desperate slum in the Western Hemispehere to find children in desperate need of medical care. Enough to ignore violent gangs and stare down criminal gunmen and and berate corrupt officials to be sure that her charges get a chance at life. Enough to walk into to morgue rooms literally stacked with dead babies to rescue her fallen “angels” for decent burial versus dumping at the landfill which is otherwise their fate. Susan does not really want publicity locally but this is all documented at haitichildren.com and it is important for those of us who speak and feel what we call “Spirit of Aspen” to understand that she is one who gives very true effect to the meaning.
Mercy and Sharing Foundation has hundreds of supporters among longtime Aspenites who recognize its efforts in this way, and they in their turn are also part of that. What they may not be aware of (because Susan casts no blame) is that the conditions Susan deals with in Haiti are largely a product of 200 years of disrespect and abuse of that nation by the United States:
In 1797 Haiti was the next nation in the Western Hemisphere to heed the call of liberty and cast out her colonial occupiers (France), a cause directly inspired by the American Revoution and the writings of Thomas Jefferson. But because it was a black nation which was thought to threaten the “peculiar institution” of slavery still in effect, the United States did not support this liberty, but assisted the attempt by France to retake the colony. The ensueing warfare pitted 100,000 European soldiers against the lightly-armed but determinied Haitians in battles that made the American Revolution seem like a church picnic. Haiti prevailed over that invasion and preserved her independence. (The final loss of Haiti as a French base led directly to what we know as the “Louisiana Purchase” as France could no longer sustain its New World colonies.)
Despite continuing sanctions and non-recognition of Haiti by the United States and Europe, Haitians, by their own heart, integrity, and endeavor, built Haiti into what became known as the “Pearl of the Antilles” with the strongest export economy in the Carribean and a reputation as a destination resort equivalent to Aspen today. Poverty was not an issue in Haiti in the 19th century. But then the American robber barons got in there, subverted the constitutional prohibition against foreign ownership and began the process of cronyism, corrupt tinhorn dictators and supression and forced destitution of the masses. Uprisings against this “invasion” were routinely suppressed by U.S. troops.
In 1915, the U.S. Army invaded Haiti and began an occupation that lasted for 32 years until 1947. While the ususal promises of “restoring democratic institutions” were bandied (sound familiar?), the actual legacy was a military control structure turned over to another string of brutal dictators such as “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” Duvalier and the suppression of Haiti people continued. It was not until 1994 that anything like a true free election was held and a true popular leader installed, and even that was violently opposed by factions trained and financed (reputedly) by the CIA.
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I tell you this so you know that what Susan is doing in Haiti is trying to clean up a mess that was created by OUR country and is OUR responsibility. Her 3,000 kids today and maybe 10 times that over her 14 years of service still represent but a small percentage of the 300,000-plus Haiti children who are equally desperately at risk. It is a scale of humaitarian distress that is beyond the scope of any private foundation and can only really be addressed at the congressional level. I urge you write your congressman to get moving on the “Haiti Economic and Infrastructure Reconstruction Act” which is stalled in committee.
As a cocidal to her new and important book, “Angels of a Lower Flight,” I commend to you her earlier film documentary “Children of Haiti” which is available at the Pitkin County Library. In this you will see firsthand the deplorable conditions she has encountered. But, perhaps more importantly, you will also see that the people of Haiti are not defeated by their circumstance. They still have heart and integrity. They still have pride. They still know what liberty means. What has not killed them has made them stronger.
As for Susan, I am not at all sure that “Lower Flight” is a sufficient description.
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