John Donne told us that no man is an island. And yet, there are times when the people around have to let someone go. Think of the drug addict who uses every penny given to him to buy more drugs. Call it tough love, if you must, or call it realism, but some persons, through a stubborn insistence in making bad choices, cannot be helped.
As it is with individuals, so it is with nations. Consider two countries: Haiti and the United States. Each had its founding around the end of the eighteenth century, and each had to fight for its independence. Each was isolated from the Old World. Each had a measure of natural resources. Given these facts, it would seem that the two ought to have developed along similar lines.
So what happened to Haiti? Its history is long and messy. In summary, it is a study of how revolution leads to dictatorship to revolution to dictatorship and on and on. Haiti is one of the first nations to come to mind when one thinks of corruption, environmental degradation, and government failure. Haiti isn’t alone in following this pattern. Many nations that go through civil upheaval experience the same results. It’s a good question to ask why America went the direction that we did, and in the future, I’ll discuss that. For now, though, let’s consider what to do about Haiti.
I have to say that seeing my fellow human beings in pain makes me want to help. This is a natural response and typically American. But many nations have been trying to help Haiti for a long time. Help in some of the cases may be the wrong word. The United States has been interfering with and helping Haiti for the better part of a century, and nothing has worked.
Lest it be said that foreign aid will always fail, contrast Haiti with another country that walked a similar path, Indonesia. That Asian nation went through the same pattern of revolution, dictatorship, and corruption for some time, but the Indonesian people finally pushed out their bad leaders, and now their nation is becoming one of the better democracies and economies in the world. We helped the Indonesians after the 2004 tsunami, and that aid was put to good use.
In Haiti, the aid that came in response to the 2010 earthquake has produced little, other than complaints that United Nations peacekeepers brought cholera with them. Perhaps those who came to help are to blame for that, although the evidence at the moment is inconclusive. That’s as may be, and one might suggest that someone who is in desperate need ought to say “thank you” to those who are willing to help.
Here’s my suggestion with regard to Haiti: Let it be an island. Pull out our people; stop sending money. Tell Haiti that we’ve tried, we’ve done our best, and it’s obvious that we’re not doing any good. Tell the Haitians that when they’re ready to pull themselves together, we’ll be here to receive them as productive citizens of the world. Until then, we wish them good luck. What else can we do?