Thursday, December 09, 2010

Pri Manifestasyon

Yesterday there weren't many merchants out on the street, but the guy who is usually selling sugar cane right by our gate was there, and my husband asked him if there was anyone around selling fruit. He disappeared and was back a few minutes later with a lady with a box, and in the box were some tangerines and avocados.

The gate guard let the merchant on campus and my husband started to haggle with her. He is very good at this; I have to admit that he is better at it than I am. This is a bit of a shame for me since I grew up in a developing country and he did not, and bargaining is supposed to be something women are better at than men. Also, my Kreyol skills are better than his, so I would be expected to bargain more effectively. But I accepted a long time ago that in this, as in so many other things, he just surpasses my abilities.

However, this time his haggling didn't work at all. The marchann wasn't budging on her prices. These, she said, were pri manifestasyon, demonstration prices. My husband laughed and paid up. She was right. Where else was he going to go to find better bargains? He ended up paying 100 gourdes for eight tangerines and 25 gourdes for an enormous, beautiful avocado. Normally he would pay ten to fifteen gourdes for an avocado and about 50 gourdes for six tangerines. (The exchange rate is about 40 gourdes to a US dollar.)

Of course, paying pri manifestasyon is something we can afford. But I started wondering about the other prices of this season of protest. How many children didn't eat at all yesterday or this morning because their parents weren't able to get out to sell on the street? How many people with cholera, or any other sickness, couldn't make it to the doctor? How many women gave birth by themselves because the midwife couldn't make it? How many people didn't get their AIDS or TB drugs, which have to be taken properly and on time if they are to be effective? How much aid didn't get where it was supposed to be going? How many people who might have invested in providing employment for Haiti decided to go elsewhere? How many children missed out on learning (remember, those children fortunate enough to be going to Haitian schools at all lost four months earlier this year due to the earthquake)?

How many people lost hope of Haiti ever being different?

And for what? Whichever candidate ends up being president, will he or she really make such a huge difference? We can always hope so, but based on what we've seen in the past, it's hard to believe.

Can't we have an election where people go and vote and their voices are respected? Can't Haitians be treated with respect and dignity? I read in people's comments online that a common opinion is that Haitians are acting "like animals" by demonstrating and protesting. Of course violence is never helpful, but tell me what other way the majority of people in this country have to express their point of view, other than getting out on the streets and demonstrating? (Or manifesting, as people here often say when they are speaking English.)

A Facebook friend posted this quote today from Herman Melville: ‎"Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed." Really, how do we have the nerve to criticize how Haitians respond to the political crises of their nation? What do we (Americans like myself) know about being voiceless?

It reminds me of the advice people give to tent-dwellers to prevent cholera. Wash your hands with clean water. Great, where am I going to get that? Boil your drinking water. Where am I going to get charcoal to do that? And how will I store it so that it stays clean? Use latrines. OK, except that there aren't nearly enough and lots of them are out of order and not clean anyway.

What do we really know of how difficult life is in Haiti, even those of us who live here and see it all around us? We haven't earned the right to criticize Haitians. Go live in a tent for for eleven months without enough to eat and with no hope for anything better, and then vote in a corrupt election and have the powers that be decide how things are going to turn out without paying attention to the votes, and then talk to me about how you would react.

But even though I know that people have no other way to speak out, I'm tired of all of it. I'm tired of the constant crises. I'm tired of the disrespect for the people's voices. I'm tired of injustice and violence and the burning up of what people have worked so hard to have. It's too much. Haiti has paid enough of these outrageous prices. Enough now.

Heather quoted yesterday from the Advent hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. (Caution: link plays music.) That is the cry of my heart. Emmanuel, God with us. We can't take any more. We have paid the pri manifestasyon and now we can't pay them any more. Deliver us.


Kathie said...

This is why I believe the Haitian people are among the strongest in the world. How do they do it? To daily live with such discouragement and get up each day, dreaming of a different future. God bless them. I think it is a miracle. Hang in there, Ruth!

Talie Ayiti said...

beautiful post.

Jessica Stock said...

great post.

Tricia said...

Very powerful words.

Sarah SSM said...

Thank you for this.