I haven’t written much on my blog this year. Part of the reason for that might be that I usually write from an American perspective in a Haitian environment and context, but this past year it was often hard to tell the difference between Haiti and the USA judging from the news and current events, so I was confused about what to write about. So now, in review of this crazy year, I’m sharing my top 10 most Haitian things to happen to the United States in 2016. I’m gonna try to hit the blog hard now over the next few days to make up for my lack of posting over the rest of the year. Several year-end list coming up, but this is the first. Sometimes it seems like my purpose as a writer is to write about how crazy and chaotic life in Haiti is, ruled by the ideology of making decisions based on whatever makes the least sense, but this past year, up was down, and right was left, and the USA was making Haitian levels of senselessness. So here’s to putting 2016 behind us and moving on to see what we can create for 2017.
10. Citizens Believed in Revolution Again
Haitians are a people who have Revolution in their DNA. The idea of revolution is central to their very identity as Haitians and to this day it permeates all they do in their daily lives. As USAmericans we don’t cling to such a revolutionary identity. We’ve learned about “the Revolution” in history and maintain it as something that happened it the past but doesn’t define our modern life. This year, however, the word “revolution” started to take on new meaning as it was specifically used in political movements like Bernie Sanders’ whose campaign inspired voters young and old to believe in a completely different approach to politics and public life. Although that particular revolution was unsuccessful it did energize many to embrace the idea of radical change.
9. People were Late to Things
From Hillary making it back on the debate stage late after a bathroom break, to Frank Ocean’s new album finally coming out after multiple postponed release dates, this year seemed to be the year where USAmericans started to embrace the fluidity of time that Haitians have always allowed to guide their schedules. Life’s too short to be chained down to our schedules. In Haiti, any appointment you make always comes with a “give or take an hour or so” assumption. We may not have relaxed our chains quite that much in the USA, but we’ve accepted that sometimes a bathroom break takes a little longer than expected, traffic just doesn’t flow like it should, and the creative process can’t be rushed.
8. The Water Was Undrinkable
As someone who has worked on multiple projects to improve access to clean water here in Haiti, I look upon so much of the news from the US in disbelief as it seems we have made water into a privilege rather than a right. It’s been over two years, and the people of Flint, Michigan, still don’t have clean drinking water and have to use individual bottles of water for bathing and cooking. And politics continue to impede progress despite the heroic work of many local individual’s in their communities there. When I read the stories of Flint mothers having to fill their bathtubs one 16-oz bottle of water at a time for their children to bathe, I have to count myself lucky here in the rural mountains of the hemisphere’s poorest country that I have a cistern full of pure rain water to bathe with and 5-gallon jugs of Culligan water for drinking. The situation in Flint is indefensible and the sad part is that, although it is the most notable, it’s not even the only place in the States with poisonous tap water. As certain people of power begin to be held accountable for the atrocity, hopefully 2017 doesn’t go by without comprehensive change.
7. Natural Disasters Drove People from their Homes
This has been a reality that continues to affect more people in the USA every year and it’s only going to get worse the more that we allow climate change deniers and environmental enemies into positions of power. Any more when I read a news story of cities being evacuated because of hurricanes or floods I have to double check whether it’s in the States or in Haiti. Of course, I know, that if people actually have the infrastructure to safely evacuate before a disaster, then it’s clearly the States, whereas in Haiti, we just read the death tolls that occur in the aftermath the disaster. That’s the difference.
6. Everyone Blamed Everyone Else for their Problems
It was Comey. It was Russia. It was uneducated white men. It was Hamilton. It was SNL. It was the media. It was some 400-pound guy in a bed somewhere. No puppet, you’re the puppet! I think maybe USAmerican politicians this year all participated in a collective workshop led by some Haitians on how to never take responsibility for anything and find someone else to always blame for your problems. Because Haitians are experts at this.
5. People Drowned their Disappointments in Alcohol
The only thing left to do once you’ve blamed everyone else for your problems is drink until you can’t remember that it was actually your fault in the first place. Alcoholism in Haiti isn’t really regarded as an illness or an addiction, but rather as the only logical response for someone whose difficulties in life have left them with no other options. In the USA this year there were at least 2.8 million people who were left disappointed and disillusioned with the fact that they lived in and were represented by a system that overruled their voice. And many of them turned to alcohol because there was no human way to make sense of it all sober. A very Haitian response.
4. A Foreign Country Interfered with the Election to Install their Chosen Candidate
It’s hard to look back overtime and pinpoint an election in Haiti’s history that wasn’t tampered with by foreign influence. Sometimes more blatantly than others like in 2010 when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actually had to show up and have a sit-down big-boy talk with the exiting president to convince him to convince his party’s candidate to concede to the other leading candidate, cross-dressing konpa singer, Michel Martelly. All of this after a series of very controversial votes with accusations of widespread fraud. The US knew Martelly would be more in their interest so they waved their privilege around as the Western Hemisphere’s most notorious bully and pulled the necessary strings to get the result they wanted. Even before that, though, the US has been meddling in Haiti’s presidential politics almost nonstop from electing leaders, to deposing leaders, to reinstating them again. So when news broke, and was ignored, then broke again, that Russia had meddled in our election in the US, not only Haiti, but all of Latin America found the hypocrisy of the USA’s outrage a bit absurd.
3. Protests Actually Made a Difference
Haitian’s are professionals at protesting. It’s part of their revolutionary DNA. When they see a violation of justice, they know how to interrupt life in such a way as to get changes made. Roads blocked with rocks and downed trees, burning tires, crowds of people gathering to make their grievances known, Haitians will not allow their protests to be ignored. And often times this results in changes being made whether it has to do with the payment of public school teachers, or violence gone unpunished, or roads and bridges in need of repair, Haitian protests frequently put the wheels of justice in motion relatively quickly. In the USA, our protests usually go about with no official response. They’re regarded as a simple nuisance, or often times as a reprehensible crime. Because of our militarized police forces we are able to weaken protests and prove that people do not truly have any power in our society. But this year, the water protectors at Standing Rock maintained their protest with diligence and bravery until action was actually taken at the highest levels and the pipeline construction was halted. Even though it is, indeed, a temporary and partial victory, it is a victory nonetheless for people in our country who very seldom see action in response to protests.
2. A Rich Misogynistic Inexperienced Celebrity was Elected President.
Hey USA, you think you’re being original by electing someone different, an outsider, to the presidency. Haiti’s way ahead of you. Haiti elected a politically incorrect chauvinist because of his fame and manipulation of the media years ago. Long before Trump was saying blood was coming out of Megan Kelly’s whatever or we all heard him on tape saying that he could grab women by the p***ies, Michel Martelly was telling female journalists to come on stage so he could have sex with them in front of crowds and was waving his genitals around in front of thousands during concerts. That’s right, Haiti gets to be hipster about this one, because they elected that kind of guy way before it was cool. (And by the way, they also survived his time in office.) The whole time that the USA was enjoying economic growth, a decline in unemployment, heath care expansion, and a new wave of rights for all people, all under the first black president, Haiti was like, “nah, we’re gonna put this guy who knows how to sing and make us laugh in charge of our country.” Of course, referring to #4 on this list, it’s debatable whether it was actually the Haitians who made that decision or not. Regardless, when they look at Trump, Haitians can be like, “yep, been there, done that.”
1. Black Lives Didn’t Matter
Most people might think that the election would be the biggest news, at the top of the list from the year. But I put this one in the #1 spot because I believe that it is the most important to keep talking about. Certainly, 2016 wasn’t the first year that black Americans were shown how little their lives matter, in fact it was the 240th year that they were reminded of this reality. They saw another string of their black brothers and sisters killed by police brutality, more convicted and abused by a criminal justice system that disproportionately targets them, their children poisoned in Flint and elsewhere, their family driven from their homes in Baton Rouge, and across the country an education system and an employment system that continues to discriminate and segregate. There are endless examples. And they are still criticized for even daring to believe that their lives matter, for daring to say it out loud or typing it in a hashtag. Why this is on my list as the most Haitian thing, is because that revolutionary identity I’ve mentioned goes back to the very fight for black lives to matter. The Haitian revolution was carried out by slaves who were prepared to sacrifice everything to live their lives as human beings with value and freedom. It’s that same fight that is carried on through the Black Lives Matter movement to this day in the US. And it still is a fight in Haiti for them to convince the world that their lives, as independent black humans, matter. They are still viewed by the world as less then, inferior, charity dumps of pity, through the media and nonprofit messaging that define things. If their lives as black people really mattered, then when thousands of those lives get wiped out by a natural disaster, it would make a bigger difference to the rest of the world. If their lives really mattered, then more would be done to protect those lives in the future and set up a system for them to actually thrive in. The same fight that Black Lives Matter is engaged in on a national scale, the people of Haiti have been fighting for centuries on a global scale. A place at the table, a voice in the conversation, a share in the freedom, a life that matters.