By Jean H Charles
I took recently the red-eye flight from New York’s Kennedy Airport, not to Los Angeles but the other way around to Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, en route to Haiti. The flight was uneventful. There were few passengers on the plane; as such I could take a whole row of seats to make a comfortable bed for myself to sleep over the entire journey until we landed in sleeping Santiago at the dawn of the day.
The time to make friends with a travelling companion on arrival at the gate who was also making a detour to get into Haiti, it was almost five in the morning. This companion, a former American marine, will prove very useful later against the strangely corrupt Dominican custom agents. We hopped into a cab to the bus station towards Dajabond, the frontier town linking Haiti with the Dominican Republic via the sister city of Ouanaminthe.
A pleasant journey, the six o’clock bus picks up the earlier workers; it seems they know each other by engaging into the same routine every day. It is a two-hour drive; the kids in their blue shirts and khaki pant suniform all along the road depict a confident Dominican Republic facing the future in spite of the international commotion against the racist ruling depriving the Haitian Dominicans of their national identity.
At the border, in spite of paying the $20 exit fee in addition to the $10 tourist visa entrance (albeit I was only in transit in the DR), some enterprising Dominican custom agents were trying to shake us down for some more pesos as we were entering into Haiti. My new friend, like a true marine, refused the corruption whip and threatened to denounce and vituperate. The officials bowed down, surprised there are still gallant and valiant Haitian people that do not back down when facing bandits in uniform.
In spite of the corruption index against Haiti, the Haitian border agents were nice and correct. There was neither demand for, nor exchange of money for the privilege of entering into or exiting from Haiti. The only harassment was the many young Haitian workers bargaining to help us with our bags to our waiting car.
From Ouanaminthe to Cape Haitian it was another ride, pleasant and soothing, dreaming of a Haiti that could transform all this waste land of vast plain of fields into organic products for the consumption of its national citizens and also for its Diaspora, as well as all the aficionados of excellent and healthy food.
The shock and the surprise were upon entering the city of Cape Haitian, when the concept of chaos takes all its proportion. The bus station serving the different towns of the north of Haiti is a complete mess. Centered on a gas station, where the security guard keeps chasing the trucks that stay too long on its perimeter, you find a tail wagging the dog, producing chaos without end.
Crossing the small bridge that leads to the town center, Cape Haitian, a jewel of real estate properties that belong to a museum, is chaotic, like a nest of ants. Yet amidst the chaos there is an elegant dance of fair play, where everyone is busy about his own business not contravening his fellow citizen.
It was as such until an ill intentioned leader took upon himself the task of haranguing the mass to take up arms and uproot the social order for an alleged better order. Haiti has been sinking into the abyss of chaos for the past fifty six years (1957-2013) under the doctrine of my agenda is better than your agenda. The legitimacy of the present government is being challenged by an opposition that wants nothing but to control the spoils of the last frontier of the Western Hemisphere.
One week before my passing through Cape Haitian, the venerable Lyceum of the city was the scene of a violent uprising, pitting different leaders who want control of the student voice and the student vote. Several students were hurt by either tear gas by the police or violence by one of the group factions.
My final destination was the capital city of Port au Prince, on a journey that took me a full week to complete. The stop over included the privilege of attending the ritual of the Day of the Dead on November 1 in my hometown of Grand River. I was amused to watch public officials with cigars well lighted in their mouth giving into the voodoo ceremony of praying to the Baron Samedi (the Master) of the cemetery to maintain their official positions.
I was not so amused when the traditional November 1 Day of the Dead Ball in plain air with Tropicana was punctuated by constant gunshots into the air to express the virile station of men in search of ejaculation or surrounded by strong emotion. I have learned later that Baron Samedi worship includes lewd and lascivious practice that explains the debauchery of gunshots similar to fireworks celebration.
My trip to Port au Prince early in the morning saved me from the chaos of demonstration in City Soleil, one of the famous slums of the city where again competing political forces are fighting to take control of the meager benefit of overseeing a mass in complete misery but still living in resilience and in dignity.
I failed to take a peek of the myriad demonstrations by the barristers for alleged rights violations of one of their own by the district attorney. A militant attorney caught in a police roadblock refused to have his car inspected, he was arrested and all hell broke loose by the politicians to condemn the misdeeds of a government that by all account is the best one that Haiti has known for the past 56 years.
The slow fire is ignited by a political group whose agenda is to ignite the explosive germ of social dissension between blacks and mulattoes of the same nation, creating a chaos that almost exploded the country a decade ago.
I was present, though, at the annual meeting of the Haitian Studies Association, a group from the Diaspora with a mission to promote the value and the knowledge of Haitian history, culture and patrimony. It awarded its prize to Frank Etienne, the notable Haitian screenwriter.
I was surprised to find out that Frank Etienne created some 20 years ago the concept of Haiti as a chaos. In his speech to accept the honor, he related the futurist notion that Haiti will be the venue for all those in the world who are escaping a world in chaos. According to Frank Etienne, the rest of the world is experiencing a chaotic situation where Haiti will play a leading role in stewarding escape and solace with its resilience in and from chaos.
I beg to demur, Frank Etienne, Haiti should instead escape from its chaotic situation and teach the world order, justice, stability, harmony and prosperity. Its aborted illuminating revolution 200 years ago that failed to create a better world not only for Haiti but also for the rest of the world is not completely buried and incinerated.
With its natural beauty and its resilience through chaos, Haiti could possibly become the venue where order and radiance could emerge for this world where the concept of chaos is the preferred solution for the control of the market forces in the production and the sale of goods and ideas.
Already, Bill Clinton, Sean Penn and Donna Karan are regular refugees from the chaotic world to immerse into the esoteric Haiti as described by Frank Etienne. Yet, I am still longing for a Haiti that should become hospitable to all; as such, chaos and Haiti will cease to be Siamese twins