Sunday, February 07, 2010

Calling Dr. Phil & Oprah: What should happen next in Haiti?

After the telethon fund-raising is over, the baby-snatching fundamentalists have done their allotment of good deeds and gone home, "compassion fatigue" has set in here in America like it did after Katrina, and the Marines, hopefully, have gone back to Afghanistan where they may or may not belong, then what will happen to Haiti after that? With beach-front property in the Caribbean now selling for up to $5,000 an acre and Port au Prince's cheap labor pool, Haiti will probably never be lacking for new resort developers, more sweatshop owners, even more corrupt politicians and bigger and better neo-colonialists. That goes without saying of course. But what about the Haitian people themselves? What will happen to them?

I ran into a Haitian woman at the library a few weeks ago and she still hadn't yet heard from her parents back in Port au Prince -- whether they were safe, injured or even alive or not -- even though it had been ten days after the earthquake. So when I saw her again today, I asked, "Have you heard anything more?"

"Yes! Most of my family is safe!" Whew.

"So what do you think will happen next in Haiti," I asked her, "now that the major impact is over?"

"Now we are going to have to deal with psychological damage. After the immediate physical danger is over, people will now have time to remember their losses and their horrors."

"Yes," I agreed. "They don't call it POST-traumatic stress disorder for nothing." With human beings, whenever there is trauma or danger, our minds and bodies go into hyper-drive and we do what we need to do to survive. But after the immediate danger is over, only then does the psychological impact of what has actually happened finally hit us -- and then it hits us like a ton of bricks. That's what has happened to many of our servicemen returning from Iraq. Over there, they are all in good spirits and revved up to do their duty. But once they get back home, many of them go into psychological collapse. And the same thing will probably happen in Haiti.

So. What's to be done? I suggest that we send Dr. Phil and Oprah down there, to give good advice. If anyone can heal the psychological scars of a nation, it's them. They have spent years healing America's psychological scars. I bet they would be able to heal Haiti's.

And then it hit me. I know of someone who would be even better at healing Haiti's psychological scars. Me! I'm the queen of healing psychological scars. I know Jin Shin Jyutsu! Send me down there!

But then my daughter Ashley came up with a reality check. "Calm down, Mom. We know that you are the next Mother-Theresa-in-training but sheesh. You have bad knees. You live on Social Security and can't afford it. And besides, you can't even speak French."

Oh. Then who WOULD be best person at curing the poor Haitian people's psychological wounds (assuming that Oprah and Dr. Phil can't make it)? Then it came to me, right there in the stacks of the Claremont branch of the Berkeley Public Library while I was desperately searching for my granddaughter Mena's lost shoe. Brilliant! Let's call in President Jean-Bertrand Aristide!

Jean-Bertrand Aristide is the only man in the world for the job. If the Haitians knew that President Aristide was coming back from exile, it would fill all the poor Haitians' hearts with such joy and hope that it would be like a Balm in Gilead for their troubled and disaster-seared souls.

As I sat and watched the "Hope for Haiti" telethon in January, I was shocked and dismayed that President Aristide's name was not even mentioned even once. President Aristide represents the heart and soul of the Haitian people. And if ever there was a time -- in post-traumatic-stress Haiti -- that a people needed more heart and more soul, this is it.

President Obama needs to call up United Airlines right now and buy President Aristide a ticket from Johannesburg to Port au Prince right this moment -- or even send Air Force One over to pick him up.

If any of us truly care about the Haitian people and are not just mouthing platitudes or looking for cheap beach-front property, semi-slave labor or available babies, then THIS is the thing that we should do.

PS: Here's a video of me explaining all this stuff to my granddaughter Mena while eating take-out burritos and pupoosas from Rosy's El Salvadorian restaurant, located on Folsom Street in San Francisco's Mission district: