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A Haitian Blogger on the Next American President

Pascale, a Haitian living in Abu Dhabi who blogs at Natifnatal, writes about the American presidential election from a “Third World” perspective. Given America's impact, the outcome of this election matters not just for U.S. voters, but people around the world.

And while America certainly needs hope, she writes, campaign promises have a way of evaporating as soon as the contest is over. Can politicians like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton help the US write a new chapter?

Jusqu'ici je n'ai prêté qu'une attention vague aux joutes électorales américaines. Mes priorités ont monopolisé chaque minute de mon temps, et j'ai trouvé que les mêmes promesses revenaient comme un refrain de mauvais aloi ponctuer les discours des démocrates et républicains—des promesses qui impressionnent mais qui ont en général une vie assez courte une fois le nouveau président investi dans ses fonctions.

Up until now, I haven't lent any more than vague attention to the American electoral contests. My priorities have monopolized each minute of my time, and I have found the same promises returning like a bad refrain—impressive promises that are generally short-lived once the new president is sworn in office.

Je suis sceptique pour plusieurs raisons. Je viens du tiers-monde et il y a toute une panoplie de mises en garde qui régissent les réserves du citoyen haïtien moyen à la veille de toute élection—des mises en garde du genre « l'homme aux abords du pouvoir n'est pas l'homme au pouvoir », « la parole a été donnée à l'homme pour masquer sa pensée », « read my lips », etc…Mais aussi en tant que tiers-mondiste, j'ai toujours pensé qu'il y a en fait peu de différences entre les hommes politiques américains, que tous ces efforts à séparer d'un coté les démocrates des républicains d'un autre coté sont des atteintes superficielles pour camoufler les vrais problèmes qui rongent l'Amérique, et par ricochet le monde…

I am skeptical for many reasons. I come from the Third World and here there have been a panoply of warnings responsible for the reservations of the average Haitian citizen on the eve of all elections—warnings of the sort “those surrounding power are not the ones in power,” “speech was given to man to mask his thoughts,” “read my lips,” etc…But also as a Third World-er, I have always thought that there is little difference between American politicians, that all their efforts to separate Democrats on the one hand from Republicans on the other are superficial attempts to camouflage the real problems that are eating away at America, and by extension, the world…

Pascale is particularly concerned about Americans’ desire to be the exemplar, often through force, of ideals they have failed to master at home.

…l'Amérique aura beau se faire l'avocat des droits de l'individu et aura beau prôner l'égalité pour tous, les questions de discriminations et de d'inégalité restent encore entières. Je ne me suis jamais sentie plus ségrégée qu'aux E.U. Chez moi en Haïti, la musique, l'art, et la science du monde sont accessible à tous. Il est assez normal qu'un (e) jeune haïtien(ne) soit un(e) passionné(e) de Céline Dion, de Bocelli, de Monet ou du génome humain ; qu'il/elle discute du bec et des ongles l'Illiade, l'Odysée, et le surréalisme ; qu'il/elle analyse David Copperfield tout en fantasmant sur Beyoncé et Brad Pitt. Ce qu'est qu'aux E.U. que j'ai appris que si tu es noir(e) et que tu écoute de la musique de Georges Michael par exemple, tu es considéré(e) « a black with white taste », qu'il y a un cinéma pour blancs et un autre pour noirs, une musique pour blancs et une autre pour noirs, etc…

…America has tried to style itself the arbiter of individual rights, to champion equality for all, [but] issues of discrimination and inequality remain intact. I have never felt more segregated than when I was in the United States. Here in Haiti world music, art, and science are accessible to all. There's nothing out of the ordinary about a young Haitian to be mad about Celine Dion, Bocelli, Monet or the human genome; or for him or her to discuss inside out the Ilyad, the Odyssey and surrealism; for he or she to analyze David Copperfield while fantasizing about Beyonce and Brad Pitt. What I learned is that in the United States, if you are Black and you listen to George Michael, for example, you are considered “black with white taste,” that there are movies for Whites and movies for Blacks, music for Whites and music for Blacks, etc.

Les Etats-Unis, c'est une société qui d'après moi doit se pencher sur ses malheurs avant de se faire les militaires du monde. Avec les classes moyennes s'appauvrissant, les familles enfoncées jusqu'au cou dans les dettes, des visions altérées et irréalistes de la notion de limite que tout homme sensé est supposé avoir pour pouvoir faire une bonne allocation de ses ressources, avec la crise de l'immobilier, les marchés boursiers s'effondrant sous le poids des signes avant-coureurs d'une récession, la hausse des prix des produits de première nécessité, et le sceptre du terrorisme hantant comme une épée de Damoclès le quotidien, le prochain président aura du pain sur la planche.

The US in my opinion is a society that ought to tend to its own problems before making itself the military of the world. With a middle class that's growing poorer, families up to their necks in debt, an altered and unrealistic sense of boundaries, which every sensible person is supposed to have in order to allocate resources properly, the rising prices of basic necessities, and the specter of terrorism haunting daily like the Sword of Damocles, the next president will have a lot on his [or her] plate.

Yet, Pascale recognizes there is something different about this election, something unprecedented:

Il est indéniable que et Hilary Clinton et Barack Obama veuillent secouer le status quo. Une femme et un noir portés par le même rêve de présidence de la nation la plus puissante du monde. Devant la défaite essuyée à New Hampshire un charismatique Obama scande trois petits mots qui galvanisent— « yes we can »— alors qu'une Hilary Clinton triomphante proclame que l'homme moyen ne sera pas invisible pour elle. Une Amérique encore à rebâtir veut encore croire que le changement est possible.

It is undeniable that Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama want to shake the status quo. A woman and a black carried by the same dream of presiding over the world's most powerful nation. In the face of defeat in New Hampshire, a charismatic Obama chants three little worlds that galvanize— « yes we can »— while a triumphant Hilary Clinton proclaims that the average man will never be invisible to her. An America that's to rebuild again needs to believe again that change is possible.

* * *

(Cross-posted on Global Voices’ “Voices Without Votes” project on the US presidential election.)

3 comments

  • Alice B.

    Jen and Pascale,
    Thanks for this!

  • Greg Wilson

    Your viewpoint is very interesting and I feel accurate. We sponsor a child in Haiti thru Compassion International and are interested in the living conditions and day-to-day existance she exists in.
    Thank you for your insite.

  • I appreciate Pascale’s skepticism about the role of the US throughout the world. One of the worst things the US did was in Pascale’s country, Haiti, when it organized and financed a brutal coup d’etat in 2004 that robbed Haitians of their democratically-elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. When the US pulled out its Marines a few months after the coup, a UN Peacekeeping Force (MINUSTAH) came in to occupy Haiti. Unfortunately, their approach to the Haitian people was no less brutal than the US, the former Haitian army, and the Haitian National Police.

    Video evidence of a UN massacre on July 6, 2005, on the poorest neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Cite Soleil, has just been released. The UN attack was conducted ostensibly to neutralize one gang member, but with close to 60 people dead and 23 of the 30 victims that arrived at the nearby Doctors without Borders Clinic being women and children, this was no gang busting – it was a massacre.

    Check out the footage of the UN massacre:

    http:///hcvanalysis.wordpress.com

    Also, no wonder the lives of several activists working on human rights abuses are in danger and one was kidnapped. Please see yesterday’s Women’s Global Strike press release where actress and activist, Vanessa Redgrave, calls for an investigation into the disappearance of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine who was kidnapped on August 12, 2007. When you see the atrocities in the UN massacre, you begin to understand why someone or some entity might want to silence Lovinsky. See the press release at:

    http://hcvanalysis.wordpress.com/2008/01/24/haiti-vanessa-redgrave-joins-appeal-for-kidnapped-human-rights-activist/

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