Opinion

To Haiti, with love | Nandell Palmer

The young father was patiently waiting his turn one Saturday at a Federal Way barbershop for his year-old son to get his first haircut. A prouder dad you could not find that afternoon.

No doubt his father did the same thing for him, too, years ago. He planned to keep the boy’s shaved locks for posterity.

He could have fooled anyone about his identity — the consummate American! Well, until he started talking to his wife on his cell phone in his native Haitian Creole dialect.

“How are you coping with this disaster of a lifetime?” I asked this stranger.

“Man, it is hard!” he said. “The hardest part of it for me is when I hear ignorant people spew their venom about the suffering Haitian people.”

A few days after the Jan. 12 earthquake that wiped out more than 250,000 lives, the man told me that one of his coworkers made the nastiest of insults.

“That’s the best thing that could ever happen to those wicked people. They deserve every bit of what came to them. They are evil, and that’s why God was showing them a sign.”

Not for a minute do I wish to come across as a narrow-minded zealot, as the right to free speech is mandated by our Constitution. But trying to wrap my brain around such hate is very difficult to fathom.

After all, somebody’s mother will not be coming home again. The dad who walked his daughter to school each day would not see her get married.

Where was the root of this man’s venom coming from? I heard sentiments akin to that one before. They were echoed during Hurricanes Katrina and Andrew. They were echoed when terrorists leveled the World Trade Center, killing thousands of innocent Americans.

My question of the day is, just who appoints these people to be “God Juniors”?

Shortly after the tremor, a renowned televangelist remarked that Haiti’s earthquake was a result of “a pact its people made with the devil."

Haiti has had its share of hardships and political upheavals over the centuries, but I doubt very much that the punishment should be tantamount to a massive earthquake. In that case, most countries of the world would have had earthquakes as their punishments.

Getting its independence from France in 1804, just 28 years after America’s independence from England, Haiti has paid its dues in blood, sweat and tears.

In the Royal Ordinance of 1825, French King Charles X demanded 90 million francs from Haiti over the course of decades as restitution for the loss of France's colony in exchange for diplomatic recognition.

Because Napoleon lost the battle with the Haitian militia, France hurriedly sold off its 16-state Louisiana Purchase to the U.S. for a paltry $15 million.

America has been very good to Haiti for a long time. Thank goodness to benevolent people and charities like the late Molly Hightower, Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, and countless thousands who have worked selflessly to better lives.

Like Jesus and the Good Samaritan, these people give aid to the needy without pointing the condemning finger.

Even elementary school children everywhere are creating drives of all sorts to make a difference in the lives of earthquake-ravaged victims.

I just cannot seem to shake the images of 22-year-old Molly Hightower from our area, holding orphaned babies throughout Port-au-Prince. But alas, the 2009 graduate of the University of Portland perished under a pile of rubble, along with thousands of Haitians.

This past Valentine’s Day, Richard Stearns addressed the Marine View Presbyterian Church in NE Tacoma, and spoke most poignantly about his recent trip to Haiti. He was also signing his new book, “The Hole in Our Gospel.” Talk about timely!

Haiti's treasured son, Alexandre Dumas, gave us The Three Musketeers. But that nation’s talent pool is copious.

Noted violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR), a young Haitian-American, has been creating international wave with his eclectic blends of classical violin, funk, rhythm and blues, and hip hop into a musical stew for everyone to enjoy.

What a joy it was for me to see him March 12 at the Moore Theatre. The NYC-based musical genius shared his talent with scores of Seattleites.

Looking at the man with dreadlocked hair nearing his knees, one would find it hard to believe that he holds a Ph.D. in music composition from the University of Michigan.

For me that observation brought back one cardinal rule: Don’t judge! I will postulate, however, that no barber will be cutting those golden locks any time soon unless he or she can outperform DBR in singing his homeland’s most revered song, “Haiti Cherie.”

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