Generous Orthodoxy  

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Haitian dilemma and America's malign influence (it's not what you think)

On the Times op-ed page today, a writer named Ben Fountain opens his column with this eye-opening disclosure:

IN 1999 I made a day trip from the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, up to the wanly charming town of Kenscoff, a couple of hours drive into the mountains. I’d done this journey before, but not in several years, and as the road wound upward I couldn’t help being astonished by the sprawling mansions that had taken over the hillsides.

Where this road had once offered peaceful views of terraced fields, patches of forest, clusters of modest farmhouses, there now hulked villa after mind-boggling villa, as if the McMansions from Dallas’s flat-as-a-pancake suburbs had been transplanted to the mountains overlooking Port-au-Prince. Had oil been discovered in Haiti? As every turn revealed new vistas of architectural bombast, my Haitian friend in the passenger seat was shaking his head, muttering the same word over and over:

Drogue. Drugs.

This is just the beginning of what he tells us. He continues with a capsule history of the drug trade in Haiti. As he comes to his climactic paragraphs he gives us this:

At present, there is no lack of debate on how best to go about remaking Haiti. Plan better. Build better. Push for institutional reform. Pour in many billions of dollars in international aid, with stronger oversight, firmer resolve, greater involvement of the Haitian public and private sectors. An opposing school of thought says that aid should be cut off completely, forcing Haitians to take ownership of their country’s fate; only shock therapy can break the enduring cycle of dependence, dysfunction and self-inflicted poverty.

Whichever way you lean, chances are that the power and profits of drug trafficking will doom your prescription to irrelevance. Yes, Americans have shown tremendous generosity toward Haiti since Jan. 12 — more than $20 million in text donations to the Red Cross, $57 million and counting raised by the Hope for Haiti Now telethon, the private planes stacked up at airports in southern Florida, waiting for a landing slot in Port-au-Prince. That’s the part of the story that makes us feel good.

Then there’s the other part. The United States leads the world in cocaine consumption, which means there is a line that goes straight from our stupendous drug habit back to the conditions in Haiti, all those years of toxic governance that set the stage for so much destruction, so much death and injury.

So it’s come to this: the richest country in the hemisphere and the poorest, the first republic and the second, trapped together in the New World’s most glaring modern failure, the war on drugs. It would be naïve to hope that Americans will quit their cocaine any time soon for Haiti’s sake. But it would be equally naïve not to recognize this huge obstacle standing in Haiti’s way, and the role we’ve played in creating it. Our aspirations for Haiti lead straight through our addictions.

Shouldn't we as Christians be doing everything we can to stand against the use of "recreational drugs," not just because they are bad for us but because they arrive in this country at the end of a long chain of corruption, coercion, oppression, violence, and murder?

To read the rest of this excellent article, click here