By The Progressive on July 07, 2005
Edwidge Danticat, July 19, 2005

On July 28, 1915, U.S. forces invaded Haiti, launching an occupation that would last 19 years.
The U.S. invasion came in the wake of President Woodrow Wilson's professed commitment to make the world safe for democracy. However, as soon as the Marines landed in Haiti, Wilson’s administration remapped the country into policeable departments, shut down the press, installed a lame-duck government, rewrote the constitution to give foreigners land-owning rights, took charge of Haiti’s banks and customs and instituted a system of compulsory labor for poor Haitians.

Those who resisted the occupation -- among them a militant peasant-run group called Cacos -- were crushed. In 1919, U.S. Marines in blackface ambushed and killed the Cacos’ fearless leader Charlemagne Peralte, mutilated his corpse and displayed it in a public square for days.

By the end of the occupation, more than 15,000 Haitians had lost their lives. A Haitian gendarmerie was trained to replace the U.S. Marines, then proceeded to form juntas, organize coups and terrorize Haitians for decades. Although U.S. troops were officially withdrawn from Haiti in 1934, the U.S. government maintained economic control of the country until 1947.

Ninety years later, there are many, including some current foreign policy experts, who maintain that Haiti, like recently occupied Iraq, should be declared a failed state. This could make way for another lengthy takeover. After all, some of the conditions that existed in Haiti in 1915 are still present today: rampant insecurity, political uncertainty, proximity to U.S. shores and concern for American interests, no small part of which is the fear of an exodus of boat people headed for Miami.

However, while Haiti tantalized the West at the beginning of the 20th century with an entryway to the Panama Canal and mineral, fruit, coffee and sugar resources, it seems to have little left to currently exploit except the desperation of a people, whose most basic needs have often been neglected by its own leaders.

Few Americans are aware their country once occupied ours, and for such a long time. This is not surprising, for as one Haitian proverb suggests, while those who give the blows can easily forget, the ones who carry the scar have no choice but to remember.

While it takes American leaders and their armed enforcers just a few hours, days, weeks, months, to rewrite another sovereign nation’s history, it takes more than 90 years to overcome the devastations caused by such an operation, to replace the irreplaceable, the dead lost, the spirits quelled, to steer an entire generation out of the shadows of dependency, to meet fellow citizens across carefully constructed divides and become halfway whole again.

The 1915-1934 U.S. occupation is not the only problem Haiti has or has ever faced in the last nine decades. However, it is one more hurdle the country has had to overcome in a long and painful cycle of destruction and reconstruction, self-governance and subjugation.

Ninety years is a long span of time in the life of a woman or a man, but it is a short phase in the life of a country.

Iraq, take heed.

Edwidge Danticat, a native of Haiti, is the author of several novels, including, most recently, “Anacaona, Golden Flower” (Scholastic, April 2005), a young adult novel. She was a 2005 National Books Critics Circle finalist for her novel, “The Dew Breaker.” She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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