Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Straightforward Account

If you've ever wondered why Haiti seems to be such as desperately poor nation, Laurent Dubois' history, Haiti:  The Aftershocks of History, will tell you why.  Dubois is clearly a sympathetic chronicler of Haiti's long, tortured road from slavery to free republic.  He fully recognizes the significance of black slaves overthrowing their French colonial masters even as he acknowledges the class divide between a small elite and the largely uneducated masses, divide that retarded progress for much of the nation's history.  He explains how Haiti came to owe a crushing foreign debt France and the US that profited few Haitians and many international bankers. 

Dubois is especially cognizant of the extent to which the former slaves, who were largely denigrated by elite, were able to create a sustainable economic system based on independent land ownership that strongly resisted any attempt to coerce them into any form of wage slavery.  At least until the US Marines occupied Haiti from 1914 to  1934.  The Americans managed to weaken and dismantle this system--something generations of Haitian leaders could never accomplish--and make Haiti, if not safe for foreign capital, certainly far more vulnerable than during its first hundred years of nationhood.  By the 1950's Haiti was ripe for the cult of personality created by Francois Duvalier.  And we all know how that turned out.

Dubois' keen understanding of Haitian culture is especially evident in his description of Americans' view of zombies:
...[M]aking zombies into generic horror-film monsters...obscured the fact that in Haitian folklore, the zonbi is a powerful symbol with a specific, haunting point of reference.  It is a person devoid of all agency, under the complete control of a master:  that is, a slave.  Sometimes the term is used as an insult--to this day, independent farmers in Haiti might call wage workers zonbi, insisting that to sell your labor is to sell your freedom... [T]he American zombie cliches...have function[ed] as a kind of intellectual sorcery.  They took a religion developed in order to survive and resist slavery--one that had served as a central pillar in the counter-plantation system--and transformed it into nothing more than a sign of barbarism, further proof that he country would never progress unless it was guided and controlled by foreign whites.
That pretty much says it all.

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Spent Sunday through Tuesday in Roslyn, Washington on a quick getaway with Maggie who found a good deal at the Huckleberry House B&B there.  Roslyn is known for being the location for Northern Exposure back in the 1990's and looks pretty much like it did for what I remember of the show.

Mainly, Roslyn is a very small town tucked against the eastern flank of the Cascade Mountains.  We spent the better part of our full day driving up the Salmon le Sac road along Lake Kachess.

 Then we hiked a few miles up the Cooper River which was running strong and loud all along our route.

Then back to town for dinner and beer.  Not a bad way to spend three days in Washington State.

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Thank You for Your Service

This is the Army and assignment in which I rendered that service:
According to the Washington Peace Center: "During the Vietnam War, the military ranks carried out mass resistance on bases and ships in Southeast Asia, the Pacific, U.S. and Europe. Military resistance was instrumental in ending the war by making the ranks politically unreliable. This history is well documented in 'Soldiers in Revolt' by David Cortright and the recent film 'Sir! No Sir!'"
One of the key reports on GI resistance was written by Col. Robert D. Heinl Jr. and published in the Armed Forces Journal of June 7, 1971. He began: "The morale, discipline and battle worthiness of the U.S. Armed Forces are, with a few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at anytime in this century and possibly in the history of the United States.
"By every conceivable indicator, our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and non-commissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited where not near mutinous. Elsewhere than Vietnam, the situation is nearly as serious.
"Intolerably clobbered and buffeted from without and within by social turbulence, pandemic drug addiction, race war, sedition, civilian scapegoatise, draftee recalcitrance and malevolence, barracks theft and common crime, unsupported in their travail by the general government, in Congress as well as the executive branch, distrusted, disliked, and often reviled by the public, the uniformed services today are places of agony for the loyal, silent professions who doggedly hang on and try to keep the ship afloat."
According to the 2003 book by Christian Appy, "Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides," Gen. Creighton Abrams — the U.S. military commander in Vietnam — made this comment in 1971 after an investigation: "Is this a god-damned army or a mental hospital? Officers are afraid to lead their men into battle, and the men won’t follow. Jesus Christ! What happened?
You're welcome.