Haiti, Mon Amour

It’s been almost a year since the vicious earthquake devastated Haiti and nearly two months since Hurricane Tomas brought floods and a cholera epidemic that threatened to destroy the tenuous hold the survivors had on life. I’ve saved Madison Smartt Bell’s “Sampler” as a way to celebrate the beauty and to expiate with the pain. The “sampler” shows the country to be richer in heritage than our sterile monochrome Starbucks-McDonalds-Walmart world.

As I noted in “Answer to a Prayer,” Edwidge Danticat has been one of my heroes for some time. Her brief contribution, “Tenacity,” best evokes the contradictions that govern existence “We are ugly but we are here.” Our appearance doesn’t matter, she writes, our presence does. A total statement about the women who have survived in this horror. Except that these women are not ugly, they are beautiful in their strength, their resilience, and their sheer survival.

The most startling entry comes from In the Parish of the Poor, by the country’s controversial former leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who watched poor “loungers” push a disabled car containing a woman in labor to a hospital before she and the baby died. I wondered if he was watching on foot or could perhaps have given the woman a ride in his car? limousine?

My final surprise hit close to home. Dr. Joseph Bentivegna is a Connecticut ophthalmologist whom I interviewed when he ran for United States Senate. I was impressed because he was the first anti-abortion candidate who also opposed the death penalty. The others took inconsistent positions. Bentivegna has spent months and moths in Haiti providing medical care. His vignette about one man, given a brief reprieve, sees all hope destroyed in a matter of two days made me cry.

One can only hope that 2011 will be a better year for Haiti and her beautiful, tragic people.

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