Add me to the list of people bristling over the recent words of the President of the United States of America.
I don’t consider myself an especially political person; I did not vote for Trump or Clinton.
My thoughts today are a discussion of human dignity and human rights as much as they are a response to an insensitive statement made by the leader of the free world.
The people of Haiti were brought to the Caribbean as slaves; it has been said that most Haitians are descendants of Guinea, West Africa. The slaves fought for their independence; in 1804 they became “free,” but then had to pay France for their freedom. I won’t share an entire history lesson here, but suffice it to say this tiny country has been through more than you can possibly imagine.
Eight years ago this week I was tossed back and forth as I ran to try and find my children during the catastrophic earthquake that took place in Haiti. The earthquake was a shock to everyone on the island. Nobody was prepared for what happened.
If I were to choose one event in my 45 years of life that absolutely changed my perspective on humanity, it was the January 12, 2010 earthquake. I saw the very best of humanity in those days, weeks, and months that followed one of the worst natural disasters of our time.
I watched how the materially poor love and serve one another without question. I saw individuals putting themselves at risk to help their neighbors. I saw men and women decide they would live and heal and keep going. Against all the odds I watched people learn to live without a limb, with massive facial injuries, without a home.
To get a sense for how heavy it was, please read what I wrote in the first 12 hours after the earthquake:
The Morning After – Earthquake Haiti 2010 (From the Livesay Haiti Blog)
The sun is about to come up. The aftershocks continue. Some more noticeable than others. There is no way to even begin to share the things we’ve heard and seen since 5pm yesterday. To do so would take hours that we don’t have to give right now. Some of them feel wrong to share – Like only God should know these personal horrible tragedies.
The few things we can confirm – yes the four story Caribbean Market building is completely demolished. Yes it was open. Yes the National Palace collapsed. Yes government buildings nearby the Palace collapsed. Yes St. Josephs Boys home is completely collapsed. Yes countless countless – countless other houses, churches, hospitals, schools, and businesses have collapsed. There are buildings that suffered almost no damage. Right next door will be a pile of rubble.
Thousands of people are currently trapped. To guess at a number would be like guessing at raindrops in the ocean. Precious lives hang in the balance. When pulled from the rubble there is no place to take them for care—Haiti has an almost non-existent medical care system for her people.
I cannot imagine what the next few weeks and months will be like. I am afraid for everyone. Never in my life have I seen people stronger than Haitian people. But I am afraid for them. For us.
When the quake hit it took many seconds to even process what was happening. The house was rocking back and forth in a way that I cannot even begin to describe. It felt fake. It felt like a movie. Things were crashing down all over the house. It felt like the world was ending. I do not know why my house stands and my children all lie sleeping in their beds right now. It defies logic that my babies were spared while thousands of others were not.
There are friends and co-workers that are missing. People whom no one can account for. People we work with and love. There are more than I can name.
The horror has only just begun and I beg you to get on your knees – I truly mean ON YOUR KNEES and pray for the people of this country. The news might forget in a few days – but people will still be trapped alive and people will still be suffering. Pray. Pray. Pray. After that – PLEASE PRAY.
Months after the earthquake I met a man named Sonson that had been searching for his daughter. He said he really did not know where she was on her path walking toward home when the quake happened. It was impossible for him to know where to begin looking on her two-mile route. On the second full day after the earthquake struck, he helped another family dig their son, still alive, out of heavy cement rubble.
I asked, “How did you find the kindness to dig their son out without knowing where your daughter was?”
He said, “I just imagined that when I find my daughter, I will need others to help me get to her and I couldn’t not help them. They knew where he was and time was running out for him.” He paused for a moment and added, “If I would have found my daughter, I would want everyone around me to help me get to her.”
For people of a country that has been robbed, raped, and diminished to be this kind, sacrificial, and generous to one another defies logic. Haven’t many of us been taught that poverty creates thugs, thieves, and selfishness?
When the media or the President or the man next door tell you that we don’t need the contributions of “those people” from “the shithole countries,” please remember the truth of the heart and spirit of the Haitian people before you nod or agree or simply let the comment slide.
MLK dreamed of a day people would not be “judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Today I am asking that President Trump and all who laugh at him dismissing Haitians would also judge Haitians by the content of their character.
This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on human rights from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.