17 January 2010

"Building a New Country"

*Note: Obviously, first and foremost, when talking about Haiti today, we need to think first about what we can do to help. Please go to www.clintonbushhaitifund.org or the American Red Cross to help...

In an interview this morning on Meet the Press, Bill Clinton (alongside W.) stated that what our project (or perhaps 'their project') in Haiti really is, is not so much "rebuilding their nation" after this most recent disaster, but more about "building a new nation". This distinction gets washed out in parsing out the term 'nation-building'. Given Haiti's unique history, from its founding, its early isolation, the crippling "debt" it incurred for revolting against French Slavery the idea of the United States imposing on Haiti any kind of political plan for moving forward is at best problematic. I'm not sure Haiti can fit into traditional models of 'development', 'democratizing', or 'nation-building' and attempts to apply cookie-cutter methods have resulted in (and will continue to result in) an undermining (an erosion, I suppose) of what is essentially Haitian.

It seems what's troubling, perhaps moreso in Haiti than elsewhere, is the familiar post-colonial critique of developing determinism, that is, the idea of a developed nation helping a less developed nation become more like the developed nation. With critiques of Haiti's very culture (from both the certifiably insane & purportedly credible) coming swiftly on the heels of unimaginable devastation,

During the interview, Bush was smiling way too much. And he used the word "Scheister"... He said that the advice that he'd pass on to the Obama is to not be discouraged by the fact that you can't always get aid moving quickly.

Meet the Press' historical setup of the U.S.' relationship with Haiti started in 1934, at the end of the U.S. occupation. It then goes on to 1994 when Clinton sent troops in to Haiti to re-instate Jean Bertrand-Aristide to power, skipping over 60 years of intentional ignorance - most of which involved the Pop & Jr. Duvalier regimes, which the US allowed to exist because it generally allowed us to institute our contemporary agricultural bill, which created favorable tariffs (for us, not them, natch) and convinced Haiti that its future was in 1) tourism 2) sugar cane (i.e. rum) 3) coffee or cotton or some crop that the US doesn't want to grow and sell you and heavily inflated prices (i.e. rice).

No comments: