21 January, 2010

The Haitian earthquake- the human tragedy leaves me with more questions than answers

by Jorge Reyes

I don't know about you, but the Haitian earthquake is unlike anything I've seen in my lifetime.  Sure, I've seen the effects of earthquakes and hurricanes, but nothing like this. The closest thing I've been to surviving a natural disaster was during Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which I slept through, only to find the next day that a huge tree had crashed through the roof of the house and landed on the kitchen floor, pigeon nets and all.

Living in Miami there have been other incidents I consider tragic and momentous in nature, such as hearing about Cubans who have risked their own lives by jumping onto rafts in the hopes of making it to the good ol' United States, or "la yuma," never mind that so many of their brethens have drowned along the way.  Tragedy, in fact, seems to be part of human nature. After all, the untold suffering, the rapaciously bad ways we sometimes treat one another, the inequality that still exists in the world, are all tragic things we witness almost on a daily basis. At my age, I thought I'd seen everything. Again, I was wrong for the Haitian earthquake is unlike anything I've ever seen, heard or felt in my lifetime. 

If the numbers are correct, there are over 200,000 missing/dead people in Haiti and only about 70,000 who have been accounted for. But even in death, the dead don't seem to have any comfort. In a country which is missing so many things (even the most basic infrastructure), the dead seem to be as much a part of daily life, creating an inferno not fit for human eyes, as the living. As these corpses are picked up like animals and thrown in the back of trucks, they are simply disposed of in a dump. Some have no time for that, but can bury their dead in the most humane fashion possible: anywhere they find a piece of land, such as a public park. The dead, of course, don't care, but those who go on living do. How will they look back on these events? How will they judge God?

I don't know about you, but in my lifetime I have never seen anything so indecent, so ugly, so morally cruel. The misery is unwarranted. It can't be justified. If this earthquake had happened somewhere else, perhaps some of the buildings that now bury the hundreds of thousands may have saved them. The houses that sheltered them proved to be their catapult.

This is what's so sad: from now on as the days progress the muted whispers of those half-buried alive under the rubble will turn ever more silent. What a terrible way to die. Hopefully at the end of the tunnel, there is eternal love as some say and these victims accepted their deaths in peace, not once looking back at this curious world of ours.

But I'm realist and I consider this tragic. If there's a loving God out there, then this is not a tragedy for we go on living to a better world. Still, I can't reconcile these two ideas. Can you?

Am I picking an argument with God? I think I am. God has a lot to answer for, if such a thing exists for it is not only those who died in the slaughterhouse of January 12, 2010, but those who stayed alive, the broken families, the orphaned children, the displaced existential homelessness of the human spirit. Imagine the hundreds of thousands of children who have no place to go, no one to turn to, who are just wandering aimlessly through a hell they don't understand, a hell they don't deserve. These are the innocent children, remember. Sorry, God, you have a lot to answer for.

I began by saying I have never seen anything as bad as what happened to Haiti. I hope this is something I won't see again ever again in my lifetime. No matter how much I try to go on with my life (after all, I'm not affected except at an emotional level) I can't get used to what I see on TV. I can't get used to seen the rotting corpses lying in every street corner, some with their arms sticking out from under rags as if asking for divine intervention. I can't get used to hearing about the so-called “micracles” or those still alive who are pulled from under collapsed building, only to die a few minutes later from dehydration, physical strain and emotional shock. I can't get used to seeing the woman who, prostrating herself in the middle of a busy street, asks the trucks and cars passing by to run her over and kill her. Her entire family was dead. She had no one else to live for. Then there are some very touching moments, equally macabre though, like two sisters who rescued their dead sister's body and refusing to bury her were keeping her inside their house. As they told a local newspaper, they were dousing her decomposing body with salt and vinegar hoping that she would wake up and come back to life.

These are heartwrenching stories, as real and as full of horror and I'm sure they are to you. As I write this in the comfort of my room, they are stories that are still unfolding; each second ticking and turning into another minute filled with death, agony and pleas. I break out in chills thinking of them.

I would like to think that something good can come out of so much pain. The international community could come together and try to rebuild a country that seems to have been forgotten. Perhaps we could use the guilt we are currently experiencing in order to build in Haiti functioning schools, roads and infrastructure that are sorely lacking.  While the international community is at it, we could also end the political cronyism that has turned Haiti into a throwback of the eighteenth century instead of a twenty-first century country. But we must also do something equally important now, take care of those who go on living. That, perhaps, is the real miracle, that people's resiliency can be turned into the very thing that will save them. Why it takes something so destructive, so lacking to basic human understanding, before we make substantial changes to how we treat one another is still a puzzle to me.


Anonymous said...

God is in the details, Jorgito baby. This is a natural disaster. The question should be isn't God at least involved somehow in the natural catastrophes? Not even one tiny little bit?

Anonymous said...

The international community turned its nose up against Haiti for many years. It has put up with murderous dictators, poverty and immigration issues by simply treating Haitians as third-rate citizens.

The reasons for this are many:
1) No oil
2) No natural resources to exploit


Believe you me, no ever cared for Haiti. Am I an optimist about the future? Nah, all the money that will be poured into Haiti will most likely go towards corrupt Haitian politicians and their offshore bank accounts as it has always happened.

Anonymous said...

To the previous comment, what does he/she want the international community to do? Nothing? Whatever the problems Haiti has was caused by the Haitians themselves. The international community is providing humanitarian help, but that's not a mandatory thing to do. Granted Haiti seems to be at the bottom of the pit in underdevelopment, but that's not a thing other nations are responsible for.

Anonymous said...

Maybe in some way this is Gods way of getting help to a Country that needed it so badly even before the Earthquake!