For the past 2 months Haiti has been wracked by massive protests and street unrest. Little by little I felt the noose around my neck get tighter and tighter. The space to move became smaller and smaller until I was mostly restricted to my house, and each step outside was an adventure of courage whose return was never assured. These things creep up on you in ways that you do not even register. It took my daughter to tell me that the way I had to live was not normal. And I had to admit that she was right. For the first time in Haiti I felt the weight of not being “free”, of not being able to travel from point A to point B. It was just too dangerous. Traveling in a car, one is stopped and questioned, sometimes robbed, depending on who is stopping you. Often times one has to turn around and cannot get through, because of burning tires and barricades.
Even in Jeremie, a town that has had the reputation as being very peaceful, gunshots are heard all night, preventing sleep, and at times people are seen in broad daylight parading with their weapons. The local market has been attacked almost every morning with rocks and bottles being thrown, preventing the market women to eke out a little bit of a living. The void left by the government is filled by gangs. The incidents of rape and assault against young girls has gone up dramatically. Who hears their cries?
The political situation is complicated, and nobody on either side is willing to give. In the mean time, Haiti descends into chaos, and the little people are suffering. The opposition has no effective leader, no plan and no strategy. People live in fear of violence, children are not going to school, which is a loss, especially in country like Haiti where education is so important. These are future leaders that will have no chance of survival in the 21st century without knowledge and the possibility of reflective thinking.
All of this made me return to the US, but I am plagued by survivor’s guilt. To deal with that I am doubling my efforts for Haiti, raising funds, spreading awareness. I love Haiti and its people, and we just cannot give up. Usefulness is hard to measure, but for our own sanity we need to continue our work and show our solidarity.