It’s getting to me folks.
Really, really rubbing me the wrong way and getting this Confused and Befuddled Foreigner all up in arms and ready to kick some Duvalier ass.
Oops! Did I just say that with my outside voice, my typing voice, my public, face-to-the-world voice? Did I just threaten to kick ex-dictator-dying-to-be-dictator-again ass?
I’m what my grandmother would call “all riled up,” and “in a tizzy” over some Haitian’s seemingly laissez-faire attitude toward Baby Doc–
The attitude of at least two upper-middle class Haitian’s I talked with this week.
But what strikes me as odd is that both of these acquaintances shared a frighteningly similar perspective—one that scared the pro-democracy socks off of my oh-so middle-class American sensibilities.
Obviously it’s important not to generalize from this small sample, but what amazed me was that both said the same thing—something I thought I wouldn’t hear—especially from well-informed and well-educated Haitians.
Both were pro-Duvalier.
I encountered a Duvalierist, two of them.
Both were not just neutral, both clearly supported someone who makes Saddam Hussein look like a Sunday school teacher.
Both said life was better during the Duvalier Era. The streets were safer. There was better infrastructure, more electricity, the lights stayed on longer at night.
“Okay,” I said, “but what about the oppression, the arrests, the torture, the killings?”
“That’s exaggerated,” both claimed, both in separate conversations. Neither knew the other.
“Okay?” I said, half rhetorical question, half affirmation that I had heard them—heard the words at least.
I was dumb-founded. I literally couldn’t come up with something to say.
I still don’t know what to say, how to write about this, how to think.
But the stunned silence I’ve felt inside myself since those conversations has been telling. I’m thinking, as I suspect most well-informed North Americans like me might, “So the numbers are inflated. Then what’s a more accurate estimate? Some say 30,000 Haitians lost their lives. What would have been an okay number to have imprisoned, tortured, killed?”
Quite frankly I’m more than just confused. I’m irritated.
Yes, I’m angered that people think this way. But I’m more angered by my own ignorance, my own naivety, my own not knowing how to talk or write about it.
How could I assume so wrongly?
Am I wrong to believe democracy is always best? Are there indeed places on the planet where it won’t work?
I’ve long thought the Bush mandate to “export democracy” expressed many of the faulty assumptions Americans have toward the rest of the world. I’ve known that Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s founding fathers, insisted Democracy depended on an educated citizenry—that the uneducated and ill-informed are poorly equipped to think about, let alone make decisions about good government.
But how does that apply here in a country where so few have gone to school, so many remain illiterate? If education is the key—then which education, what kind, who decides?
I beginning to believe I am indeed in a place where other rules apply. Life’s lived differently, and I don’t have the How-To Manual.
For so long Europeans and Americans have imposed their perspectives on Port-au-Prince. Since the days of Columbus and the original “colonizing,” the conquerors have been wrong—
Who’s the real dictator here?
Which are the true atrocities?