In my last post I mentioned Pat Robertson's stupid comment about how the Haitian earthquake can be explained because the Haitians made a pact with the devil to free themselves of French colonial rule (I'm not making this up - C.L.R. James is spinning in his grave - I'm pretty sure the deal with the devil isn't in his The Black Jacobins but it's been a while). We all know that the Haitians have this voodoo/devil thing going, despite the fact that there was a Roman Catholic cathedral in Port au Prince and there was a Bishop who died in the earthquake, and despite the fact that the Diocese of Montreal in the Anglican Church of Canada has strong ties to Haiti and its seminary and forty something Anglican parishes, but we'll let that pass.
Since this got a lot of comment on this blog's Facebook feed viz my last post, here's the Robertson quote as repeated in the Globe and Mail:
‘They were under the heel of the French, you know, Napoleon III and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.' True story. And so the devil said, ‘Okay, it's a deal.' And they kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed …”
I'm with fellow CF blogger Flit, who called PR "a miserable ignorant moron". However, I give full marks for sarcasm to the ethereal Tabatha Southey, who had a lovely piece in last Friday's G&M. Here's a big chunk of Southey's column:
"Also by Mr. Robertson's understanding of history, the Haitians were “under the heel of Napoleon III” even though Napoleon III hadn't even been born when the Haitians revolted in 1791. That kind of pre-fetal domination could be humiliating for any people, I imagine.
Perhaps, as the death toll in Haiti mounts, a few more questions about Mr. Robertson's story need to be asked.
First of all, didn't just about everyone kick out the French at one point or another? Didn't we pretty much kick out the French? Aren't the French basically the most kicked-out nation in the world, having been kicked out of nearly every country but France? Did all of those countries deal directly with the devil, and if so why did the devil insist that the Haitians alone pay this ghastly price?
When Hurricane Katrina came along, Mr. Robertson and others on the Christian right speculated that God had sent it to punish New Orleans for decadent ways. But Louisiana also effectively kicked out the French, so why curse them for decadence instead? God's being arbitrary about the French thing.
(Also, I'm hardly a biblical scholar, but I'm pretty sure the devil went down to Georgia, not Louisiana.) When you go to a country and the bread's good, you know the French were there. And yet there are parts of the world that have both great bread and very few French people, but are not cursed for having made the French leave. Again, it seems unlikely to me that the devil would have driven such a hard bargain only with Haiti.
Possibly, the devil, eternal as he is, shuffling through history, brokering all these deals, was just bored at the time. He had no “forbear to trifle longer with thy grief” rhetoric left in him when it came to ridding another country of the French. Hence the “okay, it's a deal” that Mr. Robertson insists is in the historical record.
Maybe in Haiti the devil just shrugged and said, “Oh yeah, right, you want the French gone. Okay, it's a deal. I'll have my people send over the standard contract. Now I gotta fly, kids. I'm wanted in Vietnam.”
In which case, I hardly think the deal would have involved Haitians cursing themselves in the crushing-poverty-major-fault-line way that Mr. Robertson insists they collectively signed off on.
I imagine that where the French were concerned, the devil sighed and said, “Really, are you sure you want them gone? Have you tried the pastries? The pastries are good. The little round cookies with the filling? Really? Not interested? Freedom, right?
“Well, okay, the French will be gone. But you're going to have to rake the leaves for me. That's the deal. And bag them,” he might have added as he was leaving, but only if no one was arguing with him about the raking part.
Mr. Robertson, who also called the Haitian earthquake “a blessing in disguise,” might want to check his sources on this “true story.” That's pretty heavily disguised.
Besides, everyone knows that the devil mostly makes deals over music lessons."
Thanks, Tabatha, we needed that.
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