Haiti is inexplicably and deeply beautiful. A country whose people are bright and bold, and proud of their nation's vibrant culture and atypical history.
Yet, tumultuous waves of instability and poverty continue to beat against a fragile and nearly non-existent infrastructure, wreaking unmentionable havoc.
Most days I try to focus on the beauty. I try to shut out the darkness and only see the light. But then, there are days when the darkness is so overwhelming, and too immense to ignore.
Surprisingly enough, a large majority of the darkness I speak of is not allotted to the consistent stream of inconsistencies and inconveniences of living in a developing country. Yet, to the mass amount of mismanagement, and outright corruption facilitated by foreign aid that maintains total control over this country and her functions.
The United States of America, and most westernized countries, if we're being honest, became a nation as a result of mass colonization.
While we have been led to believe that colonization means nice little pilgrims building homes and communities for themselves, living off the land and singing around the fire at night, what it REALLY means is:
the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.
And here we are. 396 years after the pilgrims first landed at Plymouth Rock, and we still have the mindset that all land is ours to take, and any country who doesn't maintain the same socioeconomic status as us, must need our aid.
But aid rarely comes in ways that invoke true and lasting change, which uplifts and empowers.
It comes in the form of surplus clothing, rice, and now, peanuts, that destroy local markets and essentially tell places like Haiti - you are the toilet of the United States. A place to flush our unwanted rubbish.
Throughout the streets of Port au Prince, the signs, "Kite Peyi M Mache," can be found on street corners, and even some t-shirts. The phrase translates from Haitian Kreyòl to, "Let my country walk."
Haiti has hardly, if ever, been left to walk on her own. With centuries worth of interventions from various countries coming to exploit her natural beauty and wealth, and terrorize her people, she is more often that not told what to do, how and when to do it, without ever seeking her opinion, thoughts or concerns.
In the mid-1990s, the Haitian government was highly pressured by the Clinton Administration to lower its tax on imported rice to nearly zero. This allowed for the U.S. to flood Haiti's markets with surplus rice that benefitted none other than Arkansas farmers. Haiti had long before maintained a rich and profitable local rice production, but with the influx of cheap, "diri blan," or white rice as we know it, the natural, and native rice market was nearly destroyed.
But it doesn't end there.
Haiti could be a country who produces vibrant and colorful textiles that are handwoven or sewn into beautiful garments, and in turn create jobs and lucrative income for Haitians, yet, the only clothing you will ever find in Haiti comes from one or two places.
Goodwill rejects brought in daily by the shiploads, or cheap, easily worn and discarded clothing made in China and imported from the Dominican Republic.
Every small chance this country has to stand on her feet is crushed by the hand of those who wish to continue to profit from her impoverished conditions and unending misery.
If rice and clothing aren't enough, now it's Haiti's natural production of peanuts that is being threatened by the impending import of U.S. surplus peanuts.
Let me take a minute to exaggerate how this is an entirely unnecessary commodity that will soon flood Haitian with similar, and irreparable repercussions as the aforementioned items.
You see, in Haiti, peanuts or pistach, are a staple of the Creole diet. "Mamba," or Haitian peanut butter as we would know it to be, is a delectable treat with a hint of spice that comes from the addition of the Haitian "piman" pepper. Just the right amount of sweetness and kick of spice provides for a taste that stimulates an unusual array of taste buds and senses. It's quite unlike any peanut butter you'll ever have, and its absolutely divine.
In short. If there's anything Haitians need, North American peanuts are not it -- and I am quite certain the U.S. government is aware of this fact.
But this issue goes so much deeper than peanuts. So, so much deeper.
It traces back to the colonialism I mentioned at the start of this post. This mentality is so interwoven into our society, it seeps into just about every interaction we have with developing countries, or "the poor."
We think their problems can so easily be solved by supplying an item, rather than doing extensive research into exactly what the root cause of the issue is.
It's essentially the humanitarian way of attempting to use band-aids as a solution for bullet wounds.
In order for us to continue to build our own wealth and prosperity, we exploit the poor and stand on their shoulders in our arrogance and greed.
Fair opportunities are not offered in places like Haiti. The rich just get richer, and the poor just stay poor.
We continue to drown out the voices of the economically misfortunate and provide them the answers to problems they don't have, to questions they aren't asking.
Instead of clothing companies and garment factories, we send thousands and thousands of used, unwanted and tattered clothing.
Instead of agricultural initiatives to help improve the efforts of small farmers enhance their crops, we ship in rice and peanuts, which will literally destroy their livelihood.
Instead of empowering a single mother with a skill and vocation that gives her dignity and the ability to care for her family, we open more orphanages, and give her reasonable belief that this institution can take better care of her child than she ever could.
Instead of helping to improve the education system, we bring soccer balls, lollipops and cheaply made shoes to "give back," to the children in rural communities.
We act without thinking and make decisions without seeking counsel.
We never once stop to ask what actually would be useful, beneficial and empowering to a people and a culture that is frankly, NOTHING like our own.
Maybe we would grow less frustrated by the idiosyncratic nature of culture less hurried by life, less bothered by stocks and bonds, pavement and strip malls, if we would only learn to embrace the sheer beauty and uniqueness of the rhythms that move Haiti to her own glorious beat.
Maybe the best way to offer aid is to give a country, a nation, a people, back her own two feet to stand on. To set the right channels of aid in line to lift individuals out of the oppression that suffocates them in poverty, and allow them to find their voice, their strength, their freedom.
But, that won't happen anytime soon.
It won't happen until we stop thinking we are the answer to all of the world's problems. That our way of life, our culture, our religion, government and traditions should infiltrate and gentrify every facet of the world that isn't like us; and ultimately strip them of their identity, their character and individuality.
Haiti doesn't need your used underwear, your rice, peanuts, or even your million dollar institutions.
She needs to be free.
She needs her voice to be heard.
She needs to be allowed to walk on her own.
Kite peyi m mache.