This is a story that I believe offers France a historic opportunity to become the example to the world to demonstrate what a country should do to correct the wrongs it has inflicted towards another by doing right by Haiti.
If you consider the role France and Haiti played in the geographical composition of the United States you would recognize the significance of this visit to Haiti by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Despite the obvious, but typical ignorance of history by a certain American Conservative televangelist, American Conservative radio talk show hosts and a Republican U.S. Congressman demonstrated by their comments towards Haiti. Those who appreciate history, culture and reconciliation must acknowledge the relationship the United States has with Haiti and how France is related to all of this.
Without going into to a full blown world history lesson allow me to summarize the two hundred nineteen year history of the Haitian-French relationship for those who may not know.
The Haitian Revolution occurred during the years of 1791 to 1803 in Saint Domingue, a French colony in Haiti. During this time France was like the U.S. and other countries who subscribe to man’s inhumanity to man by enslaving people. The successful slave revolt in Haiti that began in 1791 ultimately won permanent freedom to the people of Haiti.
Like the U.S. in it’s racial history and lack of moral leadership during the years of Jim Crow, so was a similar situation in Haiti. The society may have been free, but it was affected by the systemic governance under French colonial rule. Opposite to Jim Crow, but still similar in practice, the French established a system of minority rule (the French were the minority) where they could still control the illiterate, poor and disadvantaged by means of violence and intimidation.
Now how the U.S. is related to these two is simple. During this time the geographical composition of the United States was not as we know it to be today. There was this transaction called the Louisiana Purchase. Briefly, the Louisiana Territory was owned by France. The territory encompass what we know today as Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, a portion of Minnesota, most of North Dakota, practically all of South Dakota, the northeastern portion of New Mexico, parts of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and of course Louisiana. Which includes another city that didn’t experience an earthquake, but another natural disaster. This may give some light to the suspicion of President Bush having anything to do with any sort of recovery effort, but that’s another story.
Now that’s a nice piece of property France sold to the U.S. for approximately 11 million dollars in addition to some other financial concessions. This was all due to France feeling that it was becoming over-extended in ‘The New World’ by way of the Haitian Revolution. Now there is far more to this than what I’ve tried to briefly explain here, but I encourage you to research Haiti, France and U.S. history during this time to get a context of the relationship. You will also learn about how foolish the comments were by the people mentioned at the beginning of this post.
It will be interesting to observe how each country moves forward given this being the first time any French President visited Haiti since it won its independence in 1803. So far it appears to be good and it was a great point I think should not be overshadowed made by President Sarkozy when he said that “lets not hide the fact that our presence here has not left just good memories.”
What needs to be understood that it’s not about turning your back on the past but towards the future doesn’t mean it is acceptable to not acknowledge the mistakes of the past, but embrace it as a tool to move forward to a better future. This is a lesson so many in the U.S. should learn in terms of its racist past. This is an excellent example of reconciliation, redemption, humility and forgiveness by both countries. I just hope the rest of the world is watching and taking notes.References & Inspirations Yahoo/Associated Press – 02/17/10 “French President Sarkozy Arrives in Haiti” Wikipedia – “Map of Louisiana Purchase”