The centennial, on July 28, of the start in 1915 of the 19-year occupation of Haiti by the U.S. brings back to Haitians everywhere feelings of frustration and revolt. We just can’t come to terms with the disgrace of the violation by hostile foreign troops of the land our ancestors had won heroically from France 111 years prior to the invasion.
Moreover, the fact that such remembrance occurs on the backdrop of humiliating deportations to Haiti, by the Dominican Republic (DR), of waves of Dominican citizens of Haitian descent doesn’t help assuage these feelings. Our Quisqueya neighbors’ behavior is all the more outrageous that Haitians have significantly contributed to DR’s prosperity, through their hard labor over decades on Dominican soil and, in Haiti, through the consumption of billions of dollars of Dominican products every year.
Arguably, a valid Dominican economy is inconceivable without Haitian buyers.
This said, we Haitians must admit that regarding both calamities, we’ve failed to learn lessons from the past. Foreign troops returned in the country 21 years ago and they are still in operation. Also, bouts of rejection by the DR have occurred repeatedly over time, as early as in 1937 when DR’s anti-Haitian sentiments became murderous, resulting in the barbaric slaughter of tens of thousands of Haitian residents, mostly darker-skin ones.
We tend to neglect planning for the long term and react emotionally to urgencies as they arise, even predictable ones. Dominicans did warn about the deportations after their Constitutional Court had issued its infamous September 23, 2013, decree. It’s time we, Haitians, engage in the strategic thinking of planning the outlook for our country’s long-term future.
Questions facing the Haitian polity –the civil society inside and outside of Haiti, and the politicians– are simple:
• How do we regain our sovereignty, and make the presence of foreign troops a thing of the past, once and for all?
• What have we learned from the way Haitian authorities have managed (or mismanaged) the various episodes of crisis with the DR, both in 1937 and currently, and in-between?
• Beyond daily analyses and protests on the blogosphere, how do we ensure that, on both sides of the Haiti-DR border, elites who understand the common destiny of the two people cooperate with mutual respect and a constructive spirit, and overcome the lethal impact of binational “elites” that, historically, have colluded to exploit the Haitian people?
• How do we reclaim our dignity and self-respect in dealing with Americans, Dominicans, and all other nations?
• How do we ensure that political and economic power in Haiti is exercised by leaders working in the best interest of Haiti, that is, by compatriots endowed with collective vison, patriotism, ethics, national pride, as well as a sense of compassion for and solidarity towards their less fortunate countrymen?
Haiti is condemned to relive painful moments like the remembrance of the U.S. invasion and deportations from the DR, if not from other Caribbean nations, as long as the Haitian polity maintain a short-term perspective, exhibit the inability to collaborate in order to think of and plan for the collective success, and fail to envision and bring about a new citizenry as a prerequisite for the emergence of a new Haiti.
Ludovic Comeau Jr is an associate professor of Economics at DePaul University in Chicago, and president of GRAHN-USA, the U.S. branch of Canada-based GRAHN-World (Group for Reflection and Action for a New Haiti, www.grahn-monde.org).