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Adlai E. Stevenson Jr.

A Library in Your Pocket

January 15, 2010

What A Surprise: Pat Roberston Exploits Haitian Tragedy To Make Money

On a recent episode of his 700 Club TV program,  as a preface to asking for donations, Pat Robertson  claimed  that God was punishing Haiti by sending it a 7.0 earthquake on Tuesday,  January 12th. Robertson then went on to explain why God did this.  Here is verbatim transcript of what Robertson said:
"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people may not want to talk about it.  They were under the heel of the French, you know, Napolean the third or whatever.  And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said we will serve you if you'll get us free from the French. True story. And so the devil said ok its a deal and they kicked the French out, you know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free,  but ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor.  That island of Hispainola is one island.  Its cut down the middle, on one side is Haiti the other side is the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc.  Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. They need to have and we need to pray for them a great turning to God and out of this tragedy I'm optimistic something good may come."
What Pat Robertson knows about Haitian history could fit easily in the eye of a needle if 1000 angels were not already camped out there laughing their celestial butts off at the crap that comes out of his mouth.  Here are true facts about Haiti.

Christopher Columbus discovered the island of Hispaniola on behalf of Spain in 1492, the same trip on which he bumped into America and also claimed it for Spain. The native population of the island -- which was then called Kiskeya -- were Taino Indians.

In his Captain's Log, Columbus described his initial encounter with the Taino populations: "They brought us barrels of cotton thread and parrots and other little things... I kept my eyes open and tried to find out if there was any gold, and I saw that some of them had a little piece hanging from a hole in their nose. I gathered from their signs that if one goes south, or around the south side of the island, there is a king with great jars full of it, enormous amounts. I tried to persuade them to go there, but I saw that the idea was not to their liking... They would make fine servants... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."   (Seems to me, this was the beginning of cursed bad luck for the island of Hispaniola and it had nothing to do with the devil, except perhaps, the one whose descendants would one day wear Prada.)

The Spanish settlers proceeded to enslave the native population, force their labor in gold mines, claim their women and their gold and spread diseases including small pox. As the Taino were driven to the brink of extinction, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, grandson of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, the sponsors of Columbus' 1492 voyage, authorized importing slaves from Africa to fill the labor needs of Hispaniola. 

Not surprisingly, the Haitians do not celebrate Columbus Day.
By the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697, Spain and France ended their Nine Years War and one the terms of their peace divided Hispaniola between them, with France taking a western third of the island and Spain the rest.

Thereafter, tens of thousands of French colonists settled in western Hispaniola (Not entirely unlike, one might argue if so inclined,  modern day China's movement of Han people into the Tibetan province of the People's Republic of China or the colonization of what was to become the United States beginning with the Britain's original thirteen colonies.)

In Hispaniola, the French established highly profitable sugar cane and cotton plantations based on what has been described as the world's most brutally efficient slave colony.

During that period  life span of one-third of the adult African slave population in Hispaniola was only  three years. This necessitated constantly importing more and more slaves. It is estimated that by the late 1700's, France, which had taken control of all the island, enslaved more than three quarters of a million Africans on Hispaniola and imported more than 40,000 slaves a year, mostly from Africa, just to keep up with the numbers of slaves being tortured to death year in, year out.

The French slave owners frequently mated with African slaves and under the French system,  their mixed race offspring were free people who could inherit property. This class of "mulattoes" became a middle class between the French colonists and the African slaves.  Through inheritance and property rights, by the close of the 1700's, this mixed race class owned a substantial number of African slaves themselves.

The catalyst for the slave uprising which became the Haitian revolution is said by at least one scholar to  have been a religious ceremony conducted by slave and voo dou priest Dutty Boukman.  This ceremony incorporated both Catholic and voo dou prayer and included the sacrifice of a pig.  In the course of the ceremony, Boukman prophesized that the slaves would succeed in their uprising and achieve freedom.

Within days of this religious  ceremony. the French captured Boukman, beheaded him and put his head on parade in hopes of quashing the rebellious spirit of the slaves. Instead, the barbaric acts of the French further motivated the slaves to  continue to fight for freedom.

Pat Robertson's denigration of this religious ceremony as making a deal with the devil reflects Pat Robertson's ignorance, his racism and his bigotry. Voo dou or voo doo, from the West African vodon,  simply means spirits. In the voo dou belief system. there is one supreme God and there are lesser or intermediate spirits. These aspects of the religion are similar in many ways to Catholicism's trinity, saints and angels.

Catholics pray to saints for them to intercede on their behalf and depending on what they need, direct their prayers to particular saints. For instance,  St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things so if you have lost your wallet, he is the saint to ask for help. St. George and St. Joan of Arc are patron saints of soldiers so going into battle, they would be likely saints to direct prayers for victory.  Similarly in the voo dou religion,  prayers and sacrifices are directed to different spirits depending on the subject of the prayer.

Devil worship is not part of the voo dou religion and there is not a single scholarly source to support even feebly Pat Robertson's claim that Haiti  ever made a pact with the devil.

Haiti was struck by a 7.0 earthquake because of shifting plate tectonics and its location relative to the shifting plates beneath it.

If you want to help the survivors, you can make a secure online donation by visiting www.redcross.org.

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