Essential reads on Haiti

The past week and half has been incredibly frustrating for me. I want to stop everything and focus entirely on Haiti. It’s become an obsession. Both of my Twitter accounts have been saturated with Tweets about Haiti. Sorry if this is bothering anyone, but it’s what I have to do. If outlets on the Web like blogs and social networking sites are a reflection of the outpourings of one’s mind, then mine lately are an accurate representation of mine. Probably conservative, actually, as I still have to work, still have to pay rent, and still have to do the whole social butterfly thing. I wish I had more time. Or one of those time-stopping watches that the Harry Potter chick has.

With all that’s on my mind about Haiti, the frustrating part  is that I’m not learning enough, not writing enough — or as lucidly as I want to —  and not doing enough about Haiti. But lots of people are. Also though, lots of people are writing myopic crap about Haiti, which adds to the frustration. I’m a very “Fine, I’ll just do it myself” kind of person, which is what motivated me to go into journalism in the first place, and seeing the kind of propagandized regurgitated bullshit that some media outlets are turning out makes me want to fucking walk to Miami and swim to Haiti.

Anyway, here are the pieces of journalism I’ve read over the past week that alleviated my frustration.

1) Why Did We Focus on Securing Haiti Rather Than Helping Haitians? (By Ben Ehrenreich, on Slate)

The single most important read about the situation in Haiti, in my opinion. Via a Haitian list serve my mother is on, I have been getting about 20 emails a day with incredibly valuable yet underrepresented perspectives about what is happening on the ground in Haiti from people who are intimately familiar with the history of Haiti and the extent of the corruption that has occurred there — corruption to which the U.S. has been a frequent contributor. This article brilliantly synthesizes information about the U.S. efforts in Haiti and points a very critical eye at the decision of the U.S. to prioritize military operations over delivering humanitarian aid.

2) Country Without a Net (By Tracy Kidder, on The New York Times)

For a country that is so close in proximity to us, the average American knows very little about its history and its current state. Even being half Haitian, I only really started to learn about it in the past few years (despite, or maybe as a result of, numerous forced attempts by my mother to educate me about Haiti’s history and culture). Furthermore, my concept wasn’t really solidified until I traveled there in June of 2009. This article does an excellent job of highlighting the historical events in Haiti that contributed to its status as one of the most corrupt nations in the world.

3) Aid Makes it to Haiti But Not Onto the Streets (On CNN World)

This relates to the priority of the U.S. military operation over the relief effort, and is one of the most infuriating things about the current situation. With 11,000 troops and counting on the ground, one would think they would find a way to overcome the infrastructure deficiencies and get the supplies out to those who need them.

4) Haiti: My Experience on the Ground (By Richard Morse, on The Huffington Post)

When the first quake hit Tuesday evening, there was a lack of information about what was going on on the ground. That’s why I was very grateful for the Twitter stream of Richard Morse, manager of The Olofson Hotel and a personal friend of my mother. My mom has a history at the Olofson, as she used to frequent the place when she lived there in the early ’80s. She met Richard when she last visited Haiti in October of 2008 and stayed at the Olofson hotel. Richard is not a reporter, or a trained journalist, but he is a writer and has a unique perspective about the situation in Haiti. I met him when his band played at S.O.B. in Manhattan last fall. This essay provides insight into the corruption that occurs in Haiti.

5) Haiti’s Elite Hold Nation’s Future In Their Hands (By Tracy Wilkinson, on the LA Times)

One of the concepts that is largely alien to Americans is regarding the wealth and class divides in Haiti, which are immense. This is one of those things I wouldn’t quite get if I didn’t see it with my own eyes, but after visiting Haiti and driving through the slums and also going to parties at massive mansions that contain riches unlike anything I have ever seen in the U.S., I get it. This article focuses on a member of the Haitian elite, Gregory Mevs, and explains how the actions of the elite will very likely determine the future of the country.

I’ll stop at five for now. But yeah… this is why the world needs journalists. I will leave you with a video my mom sent me this morning about Haiti made in 1942.

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