early 300,000 were already dead by the time I arrived in Haiti the first time. It was just after the January 2010 earthquake — the worst ever recorded there — had leveled the capital.
Before the dust had settled, Haiti was overtaken by U.S. governmental agencies and connected proxies of the U.S. government, including NGOs and well-connected consulting firms. I witnessed all of this firsthand, and I know where the bodies are buried, literally and figuratively. While the earthquake was a natural disaster of epic proportions, the greater tragedy is the willful misery inflicted upon the country through greed, mismanagement and high-minded biases.
The 2010 quake rendered nearly 2 million victims homeless, and the government toppled. Since then, I have frequently traveled to Haiti with two initiatives.
My primary goal is to provide dignity for Haiti’s dead (earthquake, murder victims and the poor) via the creation of a Haitian National Memorial and Peace Park. With the souls of the fallen so addressed, my second role is to provide hope and opportunity for the living. Projects include job creation programs, microfinancing, conflict resolution, psychiatric care and community development, to name a few. I’ve never accepted any donations toward these initiatives.
Though all of my trips are challenging, January’s sojourns are especially difficult, as my days are spent immersed in death and despair. From sunup until deep into the night, I map out and protect unmarked mass graves, grieving with displaced survivors in squalid resettlement camps and comforting guilt-ridden first responders who handled the dead bodies after the quake.
I have learned a lot in eight years of involvement there. From the moment Haitians won their independence, America’s impact on Haiti has been destructive. Since 1804, the United States has diplomatically isolated the republic to serve its geopolitical interests, looted the Haitian gold reserves, invaded and occupied the country on multiple occasions, propped up the dictatorships of Francis "Papa Doc" and "Baby Doc" Duvalier, influenced elections, participated in questionable paramilitary activities, cratered its tourism industry by spreading falsehoods regarding AIDS, implemented disastrous tariff programs and collapsed the rice industry.
I could list pages of inconvenient truths regarding the U.S. government’s policies in Haiti, but the basic point is this: Haitians deserve better. Then-candidate Donald Trump said as much when campaigning in 2016. And he was right. He was also right when he said millions of dollars had gone to waste. Which is why President Trump’s recent comments regarding Haiti were so misguided.
Trump allegedly referred to Haiti and other developing nations as "s---hole countries." His words could not have come at a more inopportune time as the following day would be the anniversary of the worst day in the country’s history.
To be fair, Donald Trump didn’t campaign to be Haiti’s president, nor did he receive a calling to provide dignity, hope and opportunity to the Haitian people. He did, however, willfully run to occupy an office that would call upon him to act as the leader of free world. Thus, the president, and every member of his administration, should be mindful of America’s history when discussing the Republic of Haiti.
Haiti is a proud country with honorable citizens who yearn for a better life. This much I know to be true. Whether or not President Trump actually asked "why do we need more Haitians in America?" is irrelevant. A better question is this: Since Haiti’s history of being a nanny state of the United States has left it poor and vulnerable for exploitation, would Haiti be better off with fewer Americans? After more than 200 years, the United States should step up or step away.
J. Kelly Lange is a Lutz-based business consultant, writer and humanitarian. His email address is [email protected]