The night after the earthquake, Haitians who had lost their homes, or who feared that their houses might collapse, slept outdoors, in the streets and parks of Port-au-Prince. In Place Saint-Pierre, across the street from the Kinam Hotel, in the suburb of Pétionville, hundreds of people lay under the sky, and many of them sang hymns: “God, you are the one who gave me life. Why are we suffering?” In Jacmel, a coastal town south of the capital, where the destruction was also great, a woman who had already seen the body of one of her children removed from a building learned that her second child was dead, too, and wailed, “God! I can't take this anymore!” A man named Lionel Gaedi went to the Port-au-Prince morgue in search of his brother, Josef, but was unable to find his body among the piles of corpses that had been left there. “I don't see him—it's a catastrophe,” Gaedi said. “God gives, God takes.” Chris Rolling, an American missionary and aid worker, tried to extricate a girl named Jacqueline from a collapsed school using nothing more than a hammer. He urged her to be calm and pray, and as night fell he promised that he would return with help. When he came back the next morning, Jacqueline was dead. “The bodies stopped bothering me after a while, but I think what I will always carry with me is the conversation I had with Jacqueline before I left her,” Rolling wrote afterward on his blog. “How could I leave someone who was dying, trapped in a building! . . . She seemed so brave when I left! I told her I was going to get help, but I didn't tell her I would be gone until morning. I think this is going to trouble me for a long time.” Dozens of readers wrote to comfort Rolling with the view that his story was evidence of divine wisdom and mercy.
The earthquake seemed to follow a malignant design. It struck the metropolitan area where almost a third of Haiti's nine million people live. It flattened the headquarters of the United Nations mission, which would have taken the lead in coördinating relief, and killed dozens of U.N. employees, including, reportedly, the mission chief, Hédi Annabi. In a country without a building code, it wiped out whole neighborhoods of shoddy concrete structures, took down hospitals, wrecked the port, put the airport's control tower out of action, damaged key institutions from the Presidential Palace to the National Cathedral, killed the archbishop and senior politicians, cut off power and phone service, and blocked passage through the streets. There was almost no heavy equipment in the capital that could be used to move debris off trapped survivors, or even to dig mass graves. “Everything is going wrong,” Guy LaRoche, a hospital manager, said.
Haitian history is a chronicle of suffering so Job-like that it inevitably inspires arguments with God, and about God. Slavery, revolt, oppression, color caste, despoliation, American occupation alternating with American neglect, extreme poverty, political violence, coups, gangs, hurricanes, floods—and now an earthquake that exploits all the weaknesses created by this legacy to kill tens of thousands of people. “If God exists, he's really got it in for Haiti,” Pooja Bhatia, a journalist who lives in Haiti, wrote in the Times. “Haitians think so, too. Zed, a housekeeper in my apartment complex, said God was angry at sinners around the world, but especially in Haiti. Zed said the quake had fortified her faith, and that she understood it as divine retribution.”
This was also Pat Robertson's view. The conservative televangelist appeared on “The 700 Club” and blamed Haitians for a pact they supposedly signed with the Devil two hundred years ago (“true story”), advising people in one of the most intensely religious countries on earth to turn to God. (Similarly, he had laid the blame for the September 11th attacks and Hurricane Katrina on Americans' wickedness.) In Robertsonian theodicy—the justification of the ways of God in the face of evil—there's no such thing as undeserved suffering: people struck by disaster always had it coming.
At the White House, President Obama, too, was thinking about divine motivation, and he asked the same question implied in the hymn sung by Haitian survivors under the night sky: “After suffering so much for so long, to face this new horror must cause some to look up and ask, Have we somehow been forsaken?” But Obama's answer was the opposite of Zed's and Robertson's: rather than claiming to know the mind of God, he vowed that America would not forsake Haiti, because its tragedy reminds us of “our common humanity.”
Choosing the humanistic approach to other people's misery brings certain obligations. The first is humanitarian: the generous response of ordinary Americans, along with the quick dispatch of troops and supplies by the U.S. government, met this responsibility, though it couldn't answer the overwhelming needs of people in Haiti. But beyond rescue and relief lies the harder task of figuring out what the United States and other countries can and ought to do for Haiti over the long term, and what Haiti is capable of doing for itself. Before the earthquake, Hédi Annabi declared that the U.N. had stabilized Haiti to the point where its future was beginning to look a little less bleak. Bill Clinton, the U.N. special envoy to Haiti, has sounded even more optimistic about investment and growth, and after the earthquake he pointed to Haiti's new national economic plan as a sound basis for rebuilding.
Yet Haitian political culture has a long history of insularity, corruption, and violence, which partly explains why Port-au-Prince lies in ruins. If, after an earthquake that devastated rich and poor neighborhoods alike, Haiti's political and business élites resurrect the old way of fratricidal self-seeking, they will find nothing but debris for spoils. Disasters on this scale reveal something about the character of the societies in which they occur. The aftermath of the 2008 cyclone in Burma not only betrayed the callous indifference of the ruling junta but demonstrated the vibrancy of civil society there. Haiti's earthquake shows that, whatever the communal spirit of its people at the moment of crisis, the government was not functioning, unable even to bury the dead, much less rescue the living. This vacuum, which had been temporarily filled by the U.N., now poses the threat of chaos.
But if Haiti is to change, the involvement of outside countries must also change. Rather than administering aid almost entirely through the slow drip of private organizations, international agencies and foreign powers should put their money and their effort into the more ambitious project of building a functional Haitian state. It would be the work of years, and billions of dollars. If this isn't a burden that nations want to take on, so be it. But to patch up a dying country and call it a rescue would leave Haiti forsaken indeed, and not by God.
2010-01-24 21:52 编辑：kuaileyingyu
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