A lament for Haiti


It’s about so much more than re-building, regardless of whatever building codes might be enforced or unseemly ‘Shock Doctrine’ proposed.

Those poor (literally) children. Thousands now orphaned in a country where too many already were. (How well, if not fondly, I remember the days when AIDS was first seen in ‘homosexuals, intravenous drug users and Haitians’.)

For many people who have been traumatized it does not take much to be sucked back into the vortex of terror. There will be so, so much of that in the years ahead.

As a personal example, so incredibly minor by comparison but hopefully illustrative, I was reading the Montreal Gazette online today when my eyes were drawn to the headline “Pedestrian, 17, critically hurt by taxi”. Flashback! In this case it happened at St. Louis Square, a beautiful park and neighbourhood in Le Plateau which I love to photograph. “Critical” tells me that there was probably at least a fracture or two involved. (I was listed as critical for my busted femur and wrist.) I also thought of Craig (and the terror I imagine he felt), however instantaneously, as he headed for the pavement. I hardly ever visited him in Montreal without walking around, across or through St. Louis Square and it happens to be on a diagonal route between the home Craig and Claude once owned and the condo they bought just before Craig’s death.

All of this from a newspaper headline!

Children, the aid agency people tell us, are more resilient to traumas such as what has been unfolding in Haiti. Let us hope so. But when I can momentarily get drawn back emotionally to an accident, nearly seven years ago, upon reading a headline I still have only a small sense of what life will be like for anyone in Haiti who experienced the earthquake, first of all, and survived it only to have limbs amputated with little more than ibuprofen or local anesthetic.

To the politicos gathering in Montreal tomorrow, remember that the relief efforts and rebuilding of Haiti are about so much more than housing and infrastructure – though it is that – it’s about people who, while praised as ‘resilient’, will be mourning in the short-term, grieving longer, and recovering for years from injuries of body and mind in a country, in our hemisphere, which is so poor that even the United Nations sees fit to pay just a couple of bucks a day for Haitians to begin clearing away rubble.

It is striking, as analogies go, that Haiti is on an island; also that its neighbour nation, Dominican Republic, is the destination of choice for so many seeking a cheap, but more-than-comfortable, winter vacation.

From Canada, find ways to help here. In the United States, links can be found here.

If giving hurts, think about what lies ahead for Haitian amputees and other survivors.