Capitol commentary: A letter from Haiti

By Fred Benson

President Trump’s forceful assertion that he is “not a racist” quickly brings to mind the image of a scowling President Nixon claiming in 1973 that he was “not a crook.” It wasn’t long before it was proven that he was precisely that. While the exact profanities the current president uttered at the recent White House meeting with senators are now the subject of intense debate, there is little doubt that he is determined to keep Haitians and other nonwhites out of the United States.

The government shutdown was driven largely by the parties’ inability to agree on allowing more than 800,000 young unauthorized immigrants to remain in the U.S. Trump cancelled that program, formally known as DACA, effective this coming March, but indicated he would sign any bill to retain the status quo that was passed by Congress. Congressional negotiators actually had been close to an agreement when the president apparently reneged on his promise. The uncomfortable truth is that the president’s attempt to deport these “dreamers” has strong racial overtones, as most of the affected individuals are from Mexico, a country frequently targeted for presidential criticism.

There is no question that the leaders of other countries and most Americans reject and condemn the president’s discriminatory actions and words. In fact, a FOX News poll found that 86 percent of Americans support permanent legal status for DACA recipients. His apparent racial animus is harmful to this nation, and his daily harangues leave many Americans muttering in anger. It is, therefore, with great pleasure, and the writer’s permission, that I offer a beautiful and meaningful alternative to the hateful diatribes we continue to hear from our political leaders.

This letter to Trump was written by a 29-year-old Haitian woman named Marie-Claire Charles, who is thought by those who know her well to be an emerging leader in her home country. She earned a degree in international studies with a minor in business at Millersville University in Pennsylvania, and she now works at Institution Univers back home in Haiti as the missions coordinator. Founded by young people in the community, Institution Univers very successfully serves 2,500 students from preschool through high school. It also has a medical clinic, a technical school and a bakery.

“Mr. Trump, you are in a position of honor and of power. Be worthy of your title and of your role. Do not use your power to crush others’ dignity. Do not use your power to put people to shame. Do not use your power to disrespect others. Do not use your power to embarrass your people. Do not put your people in a position where they feel the need to apologize to others for your actions.

“Mr. Trump, be a good influence on people. Make Americans proud of you. Make Americans proud of their country. You see, although we Haitians are living a difficult life, although we are saddened and we disagree with some ways that our governments have ruled our country, although we know that our Haiti is underdeveloped, although we get tired of being referred to as a third world country or as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, we are proud and happy to be Haitians.

“We may go to your country for education, we may go to your country for better opportunities, we may go to your country to learn new ways, we may even go to your country to contribute to its prosperity, but by no means will we allow you to disrespect us or to dishonor the memories of those who fought so hard and gave their lives for this nation.

“There are no ‘shithole’ countries. There are countries with struggles, there are countries with needs of a better administrative system, there are countries with needs of more education, and there are countries with needs of more opportunities. We, as young Haitians, understand those needs and are working hard to fulfill them.

“You should know that we love your people. Many of your people love Haiti. Many of your people have seen a brighter side of Haiti. Many of your people have supported and inspired Haitians, and we thank them for that.

“Believe it or not, your words are also a call to action. We cannot deny that. So we will work even harder with even more passion to put Haiti in a better place. However, Mr. Trump, if those words were used towards Haiti just because it is a black nation, then we shall pray for you; pray that God opens your heart and your eyes to this new world.”

Fred Benson is a resident of Mount Desert and publishes Capitol Commentary, an independent political newsletter.

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