Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Devil and Pat Robertson

"And you know, Kristi, something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it.

“They were under the heel of the French, uh, you know Napoleon the 3rd and whatever, and they got together and swore a pact to the Devil.

“They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.'

“True story.

“And so the Devil said, 'Okay, it's a deal.’

“And, uh, they kicked the French out, you know, with Haitians revolted and got themselves free.

“But ever since they have been cursed by, by one thing after another, desperately poor.

“That island of Hispaniola is one island. It’s cut down the middle. On the one side is Haiti on the other side is the Dominican Republican.

“Dominican Republic is, is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etcetera.“Haiti is in desperate poverty.

“Same island.

“They need to have and we need to pray for them a great turning to God and out of this tragedy I’m optimistic something good may come. But right now we’re helping the suffering people and the suffering is unimaginable.”

The televangelist Pat Robertson is quoted above from a segment of the 700 Club.

Robertson is certainly correct about one thing “…the suffering is unimaginable.” There are some estimates that the death toll could reach 500,000 in this historically marginalized society. If ever there was an example for the need of a broad education Robertson’s comments and those of Rush Limbaugh provide ample evidence. (Please see the links below for their respective comments)

There are so many things incorrect with what Robertson says that it’s not worth the effort to correct the historical record. It is in fact the rhetoric of a cursed race and people that I’m particularly interested in. Sometimes it is not the historical record that I think we should be concerned with because at times those errors can be revised but the underpinning ideologies that construct the narrative, I believe can be much more harmful.

I’m sorry if this gets a little long winded but I feel that Robertson’s comments raise some foundational questions that continue to haunt discussions around race and social justice.

As Robertson has framed it the people of Haiti had committed a fundamental wrong by making a deal with the devil to end their enslavement. And deal with the devil to end the bedevilment of their lives as slaves; I think I would make that deal as well. Now the desire to end your social death seems to me to be so compelling that I don’t understand the critique. The devil of slavery seems pretty damn bad. Taxation without representation was enough to make the former British citizens that colonized America go to war with their former brethren, but slaves’ fighting to end their slavery has to be part of a demonic plan. Robertson exemplifies a problem that continues to affect the collective thinking of the Western world and that it that all are not entitled to the very same social conditions that are taken for granted across advanced industrial nations.

Haiti has remained impoverished ever since the former slaves did what Jefferson and Washington saw as a requirement of subjecthood. They fought to be free and because they were former slaves and remained slaves in the eyes of the United States founders they were not deemed suitable to be free. The most rudimentary research on US foreign policy toward Haiti will reveal and long lasting unwillingness to bring Haiti and their democratically elected leaders into the “family” of nations.

In one sense the Haitians have been cursed, but, for having the audacity to get free. Robertson and Limbaugh make me tired and like Fannie Lou Hamer said “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

No peace to those who call the Haitian’s cursed, when in fact they are the ones pronouncing the curse. No peace to Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh when they sneer at the death of thousands.

Pat Robinson source:

Rush Limbaugh’s transcript:

1 comment:

  1. Yes, the devil is in the details.

    Two explanations for the level of disaster that this 7.0 magnitude earthquake has wrought (and remember, the Loma Prieto earthquake in 1989 was the same magnitude) are worthy of note for folks in the west who are asking "why?":

    This is from Amy Goodman's Democracy Now:

    1) Concannon: economic policies thirty years ago, written by international experts, forced Haiti to have more assembly manufacture
    plants, which required a captive labor force in the cities. Aid policies, trade policies, and political policies "move[d] people from
    the countryside to places like Martissant and the hills—hillsides that we’ve seen in those photos."

    2) Quigley: [Following Haiti's liberation,] "France put a military blockade around Haiti to force them to pay reparations for their own
    freedom, to recompense people for the slaves that were freed. And in the last century, the United States supported dictator after dictator, and the elected officials, we supported the coups that knocked them
    out. We have kept the country dependent. We have kept the country militarized. And we kept the country impoverished. We have dumped our
    excess rice, our excess farm produce and that stuff on the country, thereby undercutting the small farmers who would make up the backbone
    of the place."

    One would like to think that it doesn't matter why this happened as badly as it did, so long as the money, food, and supplies flow to the right places on the island nation.

    This would be wrong.

    It matters because, as these commentaries show, the real devil is in the details of the long-term implications attached to the "help".

    So when David Brooks of the NYT says that a new round of neoliberal policies--including a change in culture and "locally led paternalism" on the model of Harlem's Children's Zone (interesting parallel between Haiti and Harlem)-- will help Haiti, we have to ask: Whom is the help really intended to help?

    So, thank you, SSBTD, for posting this. The underlying reasons for Haiti's condition are being reduced to a policy numbers game. But when we take a wide perspective on the antiblackness of the last 500 years, we have to know better. Too much else has happened for us to really be asking "Why?" as though this nation doesn't have anything to do with it-- let alone considering spurious explanations about devils.