Monday, January 18, 2010


Haiti collapsed again yesterday. Ravaged, it seems. This time not by the Duvaliers, the Americans, the French, or their own street gangs, but by something even greater and more indiscriminate than all these. Nature. The same nature that ravished New Orleans in Katrina, Sri Linka in the tsunami, and the Philippines in recent monsoons again reared her ugly head to remind us that no one is immune.

I couldn’t sleep well last night after I got the news. Too many images invaded my head and wouldn’t let go. Images of the broken presidential palace, just blocks from my old house. Images of poverty and decrepitude, but that was there long before this earthquake hit. We think it is a terrible shame when these things happen, and it unites humanity in such an odd way. Maybe it’s because we genuinely feel it could have been one of us, and that no one is fully immune from such forces of nature, as wealthy as we might be.

It frustrates me because I know there will be an overwhelming outpouring of aid. People will come forward now to give money, but what about every other day of the year when Haitians are starving? This year, 24,000 more people will die of hunger throughout the world. Are we saddened and shaken by these sudden deaths in Haiti that hit too close to home, as though the dice of chance just missed me this time, but not my Haitian neighbors Gustav, Izetta, Catelyn and Lovelyn? Are we less saddened by the 24,000 deaths from hunger this year because they are expected?

What angers me most is realizing that just as no one chose to live ten miles from the epicenter of an earthquake, no one chose the country, America or Haiti, the race and color, white middle-class or black poverty-stricken, or the educational and work opportunities available in the country where you are born. It’s as much to chance that Gustav is Haitian that I am American, and that he will have to fight twice as hard for everything he has in his meager life than I’ve ever fought. I was born into so much, don’t I owe something to those who did not have such good fortune? We are sadly not all born equal, but we could start by making more efforts to recognize this reality, how relatively wealthy we are compared to the rest of the world. Ideally it shouldn’t have to take tsunamis, hurricanes, and now earthquakes to highlight the poverty and inequality that is becoming increasing accepted throughout the world.

I should take a moment to add, before I offend half my friends and family, that my anger is not as much directed at working-class America. It’s the ultra-rich upper crusts of society that infuriate me most. The insidious Kardashians, Hiltons, Enron executives or the other obliviously wealthy who don’t seem to have questioned how they got so rich, or what effect their consumerism has on those who are toiling away to make all that they buy, or those poor who have to live on the land exploited for the natural resources used to make such extravagant lifestyles possible. And I’m not worried about offending those people—they’re not reading my blog anyway.

I’m quietly stepping down from my soap box now. Thanks for letting me vent.


Lisa McKeon said...

you hit the nail on the head with this one. You voice many of my feelings perfectly. I feel a lot of anger right now too and I can't put all of the feelings into words.
I hope that your friends in Haiti are ok. So many are not and it's not going to get better anytime soon.
Haiti's in our hearts!

Tia said...

Great post, Kate.. I've had all of the same thoughts but I don't think I could so elegantly express them. It bothers me that so many people around me in SC don't even mention Haiti anymore.. as if the tragedy happened a while back and now the country has gone back to the routine state of poverty they were in before (and are now ignorable again).

I've offered 2 of my prints for sale (the day of the quake) as Haiti contributions but I haven't even gotten an inquiry about it. It makes me sad when I honestly don't have enough money to pay off my credit card bills this month and I want to help so desperately. I have about 15 prints in my room for an art sale early next month and can afford to lose a couple.. but no one seems to think the $20 is worth a donation to Haiti. It breaks my heart.

Keep doing good work! I've been following your blog on and off since DC. Glad to see you're still living your dreams!

Bill Colwell Jr said...

Vent away. It would be great to see the "christmas spirit" all year long.

Zenon said...

I hope all the good people you met in Haiti are being helped. Fun adventures in Cameroon! Take care.

JKurz2008 said...

Thought you might like to know that Gustav and family are okay and hanging in there...

Kate Fleurange said...

Gustav and family are ok?? Can I ask who this is? I accidentally lost the e-mail addresses of all my former neighbors there so haven't had any news! Thanks :)