Thursday, January 14, 2010
Stephen Jones: A Moral Outrage
This is a post by contributing writer, Stephen Jones, who is a progressive political activist and a resident of Las Cruces, New Mexico.
“Couté la liberté li palé coeurs nous tous.”
“Listen to the voice of liberty which speaks in the heart of all of us.”
--Boukman, August 22, 1791
On Wednesday, Pat Robertson, the founder and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and several other commercial corporations, and a national leader of the Republican Party, pronounced on his 700-Club television show that Tuesday’s earthquake that devastated Haiti and has cost an estimated 100,000 lives was a “blessing in disguise.”
Robertson went on to blame the people of Haiti for their own tragedy. “Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it,” Robertson said. “They were under the heel of the French. Napoleon the Third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you get us free from the prince.’ True story. And so the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ They kicked the French out, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor.”
This is yet another in an endless stream of outrageous statements by the televangelist and Republican leader over the past decade. Shortly after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell, his fellow Republican preacher, proclaimed that the “ACLU, abortionists, feminists, gays, and the People For the American Way” were somehow responsible for the attacks.
Chris Roslen, a spokesman for Robertson told Politico that Robertson’s “comments were based on the widely-discussed 1791 slave rebellion led by Boukman Dutty at Bois Caiman, where the slaves allegedly made a famous pact with the devil in exchange for victory over the French.”
Bois Caiman (the ceremony at the Alligator Woods) is considered by most Haitians as the beginning of their Revolution. On the night of August 22, 1791, a secret gathering of slaves in the backcountry wetlands of northern Haiti (then the French Colony of Saint-Domingue) swore an oath to one another to overthrow slavery and win for themselves the blessings of liberty.
At Bois Caiman, Boukman’s plead allegiance to “The god, who created the earth; who created the sun that gives us light. The god who holds up the ocean; who makes the thunder roar. Our God who has ears to hear. You who are hidden in the clouds; who watch us from where you are. You see all that the white has made us suffer. The white man’s god asks him to commit crimes. But the god within us wants to do good. Our god, who is so good, so just, He orders us to revenge the wrongs. It’s He who will direct our arms and bring us the victory. It’s He who will assist us. We all should throw away the image of the white men’s god who is so pitiless. Listen to the voice of liberty which speaks in the heart of all of us.”
Within hours of Boukman’s appeal, the sugar plantations of the north were in flames. Boukman was quickly captured and publicly beheaded by the French, but another escaped slave, Toussaint L’Ouverture, a coachman, quickly took his place as the leader of the uprising.
In a succession of genocidal wars between the colonial powers from 1791-1804, the former slaves of Haiti defeated, in succession, the French colonial slave masters, an imperial invasion force from Spain, an invasion and occupation by the British, and finally, the French army under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother-in-law, General Charles LeClerc. LeClerc had been given orders by Bonaparte to put down the rebellion and “exterminate every man, woman and child.” From there, according to Bonaparte’s instructions, LeClerc was to move on to New Orleans, and presumably capture the United States. Instead LeClerc perished in the war. His army devastated in Haiti, Napoleon sold Louisiana, a third of a continent, to Thomas Jefferson.
On January 1, 1804 independence was declared and the old French Colonial name abandoned in favor of the half-forgotten Native American name for the land once inhabited by the Taino people prior to their extermination by the European colonists, Ayiti, or Haiti. It was the first and the only successful slave revolution in human history, and its shockwaves set all of Latin America on the path to independence, and slavery in the Western Hemisphere on the path to abolition.
That Haiti has been cursed can hardly be denied, but it is hardly an act of any god. All of the European powers and the United States, with slaves of their own to worry about, placed an embargo on the new Republic, ending its international trade and driving it into isolation and poverty.
In order to accept the fact of Haitian independence and abandon its colonial claim, in 1848 the French government demanded reparations for its loss in slaves in treasure in the sum of 150 Million Francs, in gold. Eighty percent of Haiti’s treasury. Haiti paid the French in exchange for the promise of peace. To service the debt, Haiti was forced to borrow money from Britain, Germany and, later, the United States. To prevent Haiti from defaulting on its debt, the United States invaded and occupied Haiti from 1915-1934, absconding with the profits from Haiti’s international trade, and leaving the country even more impoverished.
The rest is just “history” as they say. Haiti is still a nation abandoned to grinding poverty with international trade organizations demanding payment. In the face of Tuesday’s earthquake, this debt needs to be canceled. All of it.
Individual Americans can help in the relief by donating to those organizations that are working to help the victims of this natural disaster, but we can do more. We can also demand our representatives work to deliver aid, assistance and relief to Haiti. This is a not only a humanitarian issue, but one of national security for both of our nations. We can also demand that those corporations that profit off of Haitian labor pay a living wage, starting with Major League Baseball, whose official baseballs are manufactured in Haiti.
Republican Pat Robertson’s spokesman claims that the preacher is leading a major effort to provide aid. It is, more than likely, just another one of Pat Robertson’s use of a natural disaster to milk the flock for money to enrich himself and his own corporations. At any rate, Haiti needs aid to rebuild and to care for the injured, not proselytizing by racist demagogues like Pat Robertson.
A pact with liberty is not a pact with the “devil.” Robertson’s statements are an outrage and we ought to call on all of our religious, civic and political leaders, from every creed and political stripe, to denounce them for what they are. And we, and they, need to do so, today.
To read more posts by contributing writer Stephen Jones, visit our archive.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Mt 7:1). Thanks for bringing us the true story of the slavery rebellion.
Posted by: Ellen Wedum | Jan 14, 2010 2:35:56 AM
Enjoyed reading this. I bet most Americans have no idea of this history. I only had a vague idea myself. Shame on Robertson.
Posted by: Bill | Jan 14, 2010 9:37:55 AM
The Haitian people have endured so much pain and suffering and most of it is due to the bad behavior of colonial and imperial nations. How dare Robertson make this slur on their character!
Posted by: Kate | Jan 14, 2010 11:52:34 AM
These superstitious declarations are meant to control and convert the ignorant using fear of a vengeful and wrathful Christian God. This is modern Evangelical Christian faith. There are tens of thousands of people that take 700 Club propaganda as the word and will of God. We need to take this degeneration of our culture seriously as this type of Christianity with it's "spiritual warrior" creed pervades our society everywhere. Actions and beliefs motivated by irrational emotion rather than reason poses a serious security threat to our modern civilization.
This ignorance is what is holding up progressive evolution of our society. For example, allowing Gay marriage will rain such natural disasters down upon our own heads. Catastrophe is caused by sin as designated by "the church" as opposed to actual sins perpetrated against nature as in Climate Change.
A bit of intolerance by the Left and intelligentsia should spur us to desperately educate our children in order to dispel this type of destructive ignorance.
Posted by: qofdisks | Jan 14, 2010 1:08:56 PM
Lets pray for preacher Pat Robertson So that he can come out from such mind.
We must pray for Haitian So that they over such a massive disaster.
Posted by: DrKeithCurrie | Jan 14, 2010 2:00:20 PM