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My Philosophy

God bless my fianc�e Louise. I�m going to start running these essays by her before I post them. (She�s a trained editor, don�t you know!) She pointed out some serious weaknesses in Saturday�s entry, including unsubstantiated claims and sweeping generalizations. Most of all she wants me to support the assertions that I make. (Imagine!)

Louise, baby, I will, I will, I will. But first I�m going to get a few things off my chest.

First of all, if I didn�t make it clear before, I�m writing these essays in-process, if you will, in reaction to my research on Haiti. Ultimately I�m more concerned with events that took place 200 years ago, but I felt that I had to know more about Haiti today, so I�m spending some time getting up to speed on the current situation in that country and on events in the intervening years. My normal pattern lately is to read emails or websites or a couple of chapters in a book, taking notes in my trusty PowerBook along the way, then to write a short essay encapsulating what I�ve discovered. I intend that these essays will be searchable records of my impressions as well as talking points for the occasional visitor to the site.

Still, the fact that these are more or less personal accounts of my process is no excuse for sloppy writing. I can certainly see Louise�s point about, for example, the third paragraph in yesterday�s post, where I kind of took off with a broad swipe at what I perceive to be the US�s hypocritical policies. While I feel justified in my point of view based on my reading and thinking about the issue, the unsupported assertions only distracted the reader from the point of the article. (I also think I can do a better job of explaining to what my essays are responding; such as, �I read the following chapter in Lib�te today, which was concerned with [so-and-so].�)

So, it would seem that I�m feeling the need to record my personal philosophies as well as the facts I uncover in my research. I intend that my writing will ultimately be fair and balanced (oh, that phrase!), but I can�t escape the fact of my bias, nor do I think it wise to try to hide it. Perhaps it�s best that I just declare my biases here and now. At least then the reader may be able to evaluate these posts with some perspective.

So, here goes. What follows are some of my personal feelings, snap judgments, and liberal and libertarian philosophies which undergird and inform my writing, and some of which have developed in my two months of research into Haitian history.

1) I believe in the radical and revolutionary notion of liberty and justice for all. I believe the ideas recorded in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights are some of the most beautiful, eloquent, and powerful statements ever crafted by man, and I believe that they should be applied unequivocally and equally to every human.

2) I don�t believe that Haiti is blameless for the situation she is in now. Far from it. Short-sighted self-interest seems to be a hallmark of Haitian decision making. If my comments, though, seem to focus more on US weaknesses, perhaps it�s because I don�t feel qualified to offer advice to Haiti on how to fix its problems. I do feel I have some insight at this point on what America�s mistakes have been and what we might do to make amends.

3) I believe that, as the most powerful nation in the world, the United States has a moral responsibility to assist Haiti in whatever way we can. We are wealthy and we have a responsibility to use that wealth wisely and compassionately.

4) Furthermore, Haiti is our sister in independence. She was forged in the same fire of revolutionary spirit that formed our democracy and the French republic. Her people fought for their independence and became the second free republic in the Western Hemisphere, and the first free black republic ever. We should have supported her from her birth. However…

5) As reported by organizations like the Council On Hemispheric Affairs, for 200 years, we have pursued an �unjust and mindless U.S. policy towards Haiti, a policy that began with Washington�s initial refusal to recognize the newly independent country until 1862, nearly six decades after its independence, continued through the often brutal U.S. military occupation of 1915-34, and culminated in the U.S.�s enthusiastic support of the corrupt dictatorships of the Duvaliers, both father and son, and their military successors.� (COHA Press Release 04/03)

6) While it is the right of the United States to support democracies which uphold the democratic ideals of human rights and freedom, and to withhold such aid from countries whose philosophies oppose those ideals, there has been no sustained effort by the US to assist Haitians in developing a political and economic climate which would nurture such ideals. Therefore, withholding our support at this point seems to me rather cruel, mean-spirited, and ultimately ineffective in producing real change.

7) Haiti�s defeat of the French forces so weakened Napoleon�s hand in the New World that he sold the land that today makes up a third of our country. For that, we owe Haiti a debt.

8) Almost 200 years before Rosa Parks, the people of Haiti demonstrated to the world the principles of civil rights. Though the actions of Dessalines and Christophe fostered racial tensions in that country, it should never be forgotten that Toussaint Louverture�s constitution declared all people free regardless of color, gender, or nationality. For setting such an example, we owe Haiti the respect and honor of a nation that took close to two centuries to put such assurances in place for its own people.

9) I�m fully aware that I�m incredibly naive about a lot of this stuff, but that�s why I�m researching it. I expect that by the end of the year my acquired knowledge will inform and mature my viewpoint. I�ll be interested to re-read this baseline philosophical statement at that time and see what has changed.

Whew! That was – you�ll pardon the pun – liberating. Starting today, I will maintain a separate category in the blog just for personal statements of philosophy like this. That way I can leave the biased speech out of my other essays and focus on more on presenting a judicious and encompassing view of the facts.

One Comment

  1. Baker wrote:

    Hello,
    It’s Jerrell again. Until I reached the end of your statments I was a bit curious as to some of the comments that you admit may be a naive. You mention the U.S. not recognizing Haiti as independent for 60 years. Slavery still existed and this country had beaten one of the western world’s greatest generals, not to mention two other western countries in the process. Africans! Til this day I personally Haiti is still paying the prices for even daring such.
    Concerning brutal dictatotships and military governments. These serve U.S. imperial and economic interests around the world and this is why they are supported by our wonderful country. If you briefly studied South America and U.S. imperialism, you might become rather depressed if this is new territory. For that matter, our contemporary “Free Trade” policies.
    Aristide didn’t open Haiti markets and privatize certain industries that he promised the U.S. in exchange for help getting back to Haiti. This angered the money men here and our government has gotten rid of him to institute yet more modern slavery.
    Much respect to you.
    Baker

    Monday, May 3, 2004 at 7:03 am | Permalink