Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti, Hell, and Devils

A day before the January 13 Earth flyby of 2010 AL30, some tectonic rebalancing was happening beneath the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. The nation of Haiti occupies the western part of this island, and the quake occurred 25 km from the capital city, Port Au Prince at a depth of 13 kilometers. The consequence of that geological twitch was a Richter 7 earthquake, and the human devastation has been unimaginable -- current estimates place the death toll as high as 100,000 people. If that is indeed the case, that is nearly three times the total number of Canadians killed in World War Two. Or 40 times the number of people killed in New York City on 9/11.

Relief efforts began mobilizing as soon as the news got out. Both the Canadian Red Cross and the International Red Cross have been accepting donations, and three days later, there are groups on the ground delivering aid. Much more is needed.

Pat Robertson, an American televangelist, on the religious television program The 700 Club stated that Haiti and Haitians were "cursed by one thing after another" since they "swore a pact to the devil", a reference to the slave revolt which began in 1791. Robertson, as one of America's privileged elites, potentially descended from slaveholders, would of course have little sympathy for a populist uprising, particularly one where, in the words of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide
To free themselves from the bonds of slavery,
our forefathers turned to the Ancestors in the
ceremony of Bois Caïman, in August 1791. In
other words, to become free, the slaves prayed
not to the God of his master but to the God
of Ancestors.

Any rejection of the god of Pat Robertson seems like a good idea to me, so it must have been a no-brainer for men and women desperate to throw off the shackles of real oppression and slavery for which someone like Robertson would have no understanding, and clearly even less sympathy.

Robertson's statement was described as "stupid" by the American government, and viewed with contempt and amusement in France.

In the blogosphere, P. Z. Meyers (who is much admired in these parts) said it best in his own post on the subject of Robertson's "pact with the devil" remarks: "If it makes you angry, turn your outrage into something constructive and use it to motivate you to donate to Haitian relief first. Deal with the evil scumbag Robertson later."

There is no need to believe in a devil, but there is ample reason to believe in Pat Robertson, and to take a stand against all that he represents. Haiti will be hell for months and years to come, but donations to the relief effort will be our way to help the Haitian people despite Robertson and those devils like him who seek to exploit this little bit of hell on Earth.

To Haitian friends and colleagues, we hope that your families and loved ones are safe. We wish we could do more.

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