One of the most moving pieces of writing on the recent disaster is from the perspective of a Haitian expat. Régine Chassagne of the band Canadian band Arcade Fire describes her impotence at watching the horror unfold from the safety of the diaspora:
When it happened I was at home in Montreal, safe and cosy, surfing the internet, half randomly, like millions of westerners. Breaking news: 7.0 earthquake hits Haiti near Port-au-Prince. Such emotion came over me. My breath stopped. My heart sank and went straight into panic mode. I knew right away that the whole city is in no way built to resist this kind of assault and that this meant that thousands were under rubble. I saw it straight away …
I grew up with parents who escaped during the brutal years of the Papa Doc regime. My grandfather was taken by the Tonton Macoutes and it was 10 years before my father finally learnt he had been killed. My mother and her sister returned home from the market to find their cousins and friends murdered. She found herself on her knees in front of the Dominican embassy begging for her life in broken Spanish. Growing up, I absorbed those stories, heard a new version every year; adults around the dinner table speaking in creole about poor Haiti …
Many Haitians expect to be let down. History shows they are right to feel that way. Haitians know that they have been wronged many, many times … That we must respond with a substantial emergency effort is beyond argument, but in the aftermath, Haiti must be rebuilt.
There are better Arcade Fire songs, but the lyrics to “Haiti” nevertheless take on new meaning:
Tous les morts-nés forment une armée,
soon we will reclaim the earth.
All the tears and all the bodies
bring about our second birth.
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Hat-tip: Steve Cockburn