Originally: Remarks by James Morrell at book launch
Haiti?s fate today is, unfortunately for the Haitians, now inextricably tangled up with the capacity of American public opinion to divine the truth about what is happening in that country. American public opinion has been badly misled and that has contributed no little burden to the Haitians? effort to free themselves from the demons of the past.
That is the unique contribution of Dan?s book, in that it is the first to lift the veil over the true course of events in Haiti over the past few years, namely that the country was thrust back under undemocratic governance both by its own living history and by foreign connivance and neglect. No work besides Dan?s so far has captured this deadly combination, yet he shows in the epilogue how the Haitians themselves found their own way out of this blind alley, without foreign help. And he asks us to understand and accept what the Haitians have done.
Most Haitians currently regard the chaos and violence of 2004 as no source of pride and hardly an appropriate celebration of their glorious two-hundredth anniversary, two hundred years since the world?s only successful slave insurrection and foundation of the world?s first black republic. But if the current transition to elections halfway succeeds, we may begin to look at the events of 2004 in a different light, we may even begin to see in the broad civic movement and uprising worthy successors to the great insurrection two centuries ago.
Yet A Haiti Chronicle is not a dreary catalogue of violence and misgovernance. It begins in fact with no violence or misgovernance but rather a prose portrait of a boy sitting on a hill, weeping, we don?t know why. The book goes on to describe a city where two million live in despair, and yet ?a thousand acts of kindness occur at every street corner at every hour. In two years there, I never saw rivalry for passage at the impossibly clogged street corners, nor road rage, nor acts of rudeness (thievery and murder, yes). Haiti always awaited democratic rule despite distant condescending attitudes to the contrary.?
And here I felt that Dan grasped the paradox of Haiti, which has always been misgovernance by a few amidst public order by the many.
And it is this striving by the many that makes us believe that this time around Haiti will come closer to its goal of stable, accountable governance.