A huge part of my childhood memories involve witnessing my dad and his male friends discuss and debate Haitian politics. To be clear, woman are sometimes involved in these discussions as well, but from what I can tell, it was primarily a male pastime. In fact, I’d venture to guess that Haitian Politics probably made up about 90% of what Haitian men discuss among themselves (I’m guessing, of course — I’m a woman). It doesn’t matter that they’ve been out of Haiti for decades — the topic of Haitian politics is always current and heated.
If you were upstairs during one of my dad’s domino games in the basement with his friends, and you didn’t know better, you’d think there was some huge argument going on downstairs or that a few of the guys were going to come to blows — but that was standard fair. That’s just how politics was discussed at my house: loudly and passionately. But it wasn’t just discussed at home — politics was discussed everywhere: at first communion parties, baptisms, funerals, you name it — wherever they got together was fertile ground for a political discussion.
And if they weren’t discussing and debating Haitian politics, they were listening to a discussion about politics direct from Haiti (or sometimes from a studio in New York or Miami) on the very loud, and perpetually staticky shortwave radio. (Oh, how I dreaded the noise that comes out of that thing.) When they couldn’t take “just listening” any more, they’d have no choice but to call in to the radio show to give their two-cents, and the heated discussion will ensue.
As a child, I didn’t really get it. What’s the big deal? Why are these men getting all worked up about whatever is going on in Haiti when they live in the States now? As I matured, I learned that although you can take the man out of Haiti — you cannot take Haiti out of the man. Despite the fact that these men have emigrated decades ago — and swear that Haiti will never get better — they all hold on to a hope that maybe, just maybe, it will. They dissect what they think needs to happen to make it so; what players should have done what, etc. They try to make sense of what has happened and is happening to the homeland they left…the one that many of them had planned to leave only temporarily, oftentimes for political reasons, yet find themselves still away two decades later. I realize now that a Haitian man’s obsession with Haitian politics is a byproduct of their love for Haiti…and how can you deny them that?
How have YOU viewed the relationship between Haitians and their politics?