Wednesday, January 13, 2010

When Keeping it "Real" Goes Wrong

Ok...normally I don't get political (or even very serious) on my blog...but something I saw today really irritated me to the point that, if nothing else, I needed to vent. So sorry, but this is a somewhat long post tonight...

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last 18hrs or so, you know that Haiti has suffered a major blow over the last 24hrs with a series of gigantic earthquakes and aftershocks that not only rocked the capitol of Port-au-Prince, but will also seriously take a toll on their governmental structure, etc. as well. And unless you have a heart of stone, your heart can't help but go out to the country and its people, as well as a need to want to do something. Clearly, now wouldn't be the time to be a douche and do (or say) something inflammatory just to gain ratings...

Unless of course your name is Pat Robertson. Let me preface this rant by saying 1. I was a US Civil War History minor in college (which included the study of slavery in the Caribbean because no study of slavery in the US is complete without studying the islands too) and 2. I'm a Christian but I have NEVER been a fan of Pat Robertson as I find him obnoxious, archaic and someone who is far too in love with the sound of his own voice.

As I was Twittering for info this afternoon, I came across this link of Pat Robertson, giving his "thoughts" on the earthquake and the reasoning for it.

**In case you're too lazy to watch the clip above, Pat basically says that because early Haitians made a pact with the Devil to root the French of out Haiti in the late 1700s, they are now being dealt a path of wrath and destruction as a result**

Now, whether or not you believe that the early Haitians made a pact with the Devil is really irrelevant, as you're probably never going to find a true historical book that will mention that little bit of cultural lore. What IS relevant here, is the fact that Pat manages to totally gloss over the serious historical context surrounding the liberation of Haiti, the devastation that is currently happening in Haiti & the fact that the majority of Haitians today identify themselves as Catholics.

First of's not like the African descendants in Haiti asked to be brought to Hispanola. Pat manages to totally ignore the fact that slaves in the Caribbean were by far treated worse than slaves in the Americas. Whereas in the Americas slaves were actually encouraged to create community ties and build families (a form of control enacted by Southern slave owners - more on that on a later date), this wasn't encouraged in the islands. Slaves in the islands were worked much harder than in other regions (Google "Black Code in Haiti" for more details on the treatment of island slaves).

And because all the slave ships stopped off at the islands, those driving the slave trade (the French in Haiti) didn't concern themselves about the longevity of their slaves' lives. If someone died, it was no big deal to them because there was a steady supply of fresh labor coming into the islands. Families and/or entire villages who were brought from Africa were split up and sold to the highest bidder either to work in the Caribbean or to continue their journey to the Americas where they would once again be sold to the highest bidder.

To hear Pat tell the story, the slaves suddenly just woke up one day and no longer wanted to be slaves - "just because". Pat...where was your back story to put your one liner statement into context?!!! Real truth: the slaves went through generations of degradation and marginalization before finally having the opportunity to take their chance at gaining their freedom.

But what is really irritating to me about Pat's highly snap response to this situation, is that he claims that the Haitians have brought this current natural disaster on themselves by dabbling in the dark magic/etc. So, then are the French being punished for the exploitation and unnecessary deaths of so many people? What about the Dutch, Spanish, Portugese and British? They too had a hand in the slave trade. The Spanish were known for encouraging indigenous Indians in the islands, North and South America to convert to Catholicism only to burn them at the stake later. Or how about President Andrew Jackson who believed that the only good American Indian was a dead one? Where is the wrath and retribution for that?

And to use his vein of thinking that "you get what you give" does that mean that America is in a deep recession and has all these crazy things happening because our founding fathers (and not just during the inception of the Constitution or our country in 1796) thought that anyone who wasn't of European descent didn't deserve rights? Are we as a country of people who are bred from generations of past wrongs done by our forefathers now facing all these problems because of the Trail of Tears, Manifest Destiny, the Mexican American War, the inscription of Irish immigrants into the Union military and the subjegation and exploitation of African slaves?! According to his form of thinking, America should be a hell hole - our currency has Masonic imagery all over it, there are rumors of a Presidential secret society and the prosperity that we enjoy as a nation was definitely built on the blood, sweat, tears and abuse of various groups over the course of our nation's history.

The problem I have with Pat Robertson's argument is that he speaks based off of a series of half truths. He glosses over the injustices of one group perpetuated against another just so he can make a point and hopefully receive more ratings. And sadly, because his audience is more than likely an older set of Americans who aren't going to fact check his statements (but rather take it at face value), or probably know as little about their own Christian faith as some random joe on the street claiming they're not terribly religious will possibly go around spewing insanity based on half truths because "Rev. Pat Robertson" said it. At a time when what the people of Haiti need most is assistance and positivity, we have loons like Pat Robertson creating a new "excuse" for hatred and bias.

Bottom line - one thing I learned after all my years of schooling was, if you make an argument, make it complete. And if you can't examine both sides of the coin and produce references for your claims, maybe you had best let that coin lay in the dirt. I really hope the media picks this sound bite of his up and rakes him in the mud for it. He's doing a huge dis-service to Americans, Christians and anyone's potential perception of the Haitian culture who might have an impressionable mind. Haiti needs help right now, not your lunacy.

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