Dear Family and Friends,
The year was 1963. The name of the horse was Black Jack.
Even for a 10 year old, it was both moving and troubling to see the horse with no rider following the coffin of President John Kennedy- with a spirited strut, yet not easily controlled.
The horse with the empty saddle is an ancient symbol of poignant absence:
The horse without a master, the nation without a leader, the body without a soul.
We are living the painful and dangerous days after the brutal killing of Haitian President Jovenel Moise.
The horse has no rider, and does not know where to turn.
The aftershock we were all waiting for with great anxiety, didn’t happen: widespread retaliation, the breaking open of the prisons, rioting and looting, and for the gangs to take over police stations and government offices.
This is a relief, but still no one knows what will happen next.
The violence that killed the President has been the daily lived experience for all levels of Haitian citizens for many years now.
It had become, each year, more terrible and more overt.
We have picked up many of the dead for burial over these last years, including those of the La Saline massacre.
Countless wounded have been rushed to our hospital over the years.
This ugliness and pathos is also our lived experience (even though we have not yet suffered any direct attack), and drives our work and our prayers.
The reign of terror now has reached even the residence of the President, in a most hateful way.
The final anguish of the President as he died is to be pitied and abhorred, and the brutality totally condemned.
But equally so, the death of the countless victims, anonymous or well known, over these years, should also call for worldwide rage, and not fall into the shadows (as they have here, until now).
Even though there has been no widespread violent reaction to the death of President Moise, the usual list of problems persists:
the newest COVID wave,
thousands of internal refugees from gang attacks on their neighborhoods,
flight from the country,
hunger and food insecurity,
a disastrous economy, joblessness and mounting levels of frustration,
the advance of the gangs taking over the country,
the ineffectiveness of the Government.
Related to the advance of the gangs, the infamous 400 Marozo (who recently made international news by kidnapping 10 priests, nuns and Church members), now have our area of Tabarre surrounded.
They have taken over Croix des Bouquets and Torcelle.
Some of their “soldiers” are 11 years old, with guns as big as they are.
To give an idea of the insecurity, yesterday our team and I crossed the dreaded stretch of road through Martissant, to go to Carrefour.
Here are the visuals: full of mud and garbage, the road broken and sunken, with bullet ridden buildings to the right and left, empty streets, gunmen in the shadows,
shells of burned vehicles on the road, a rotting headless corpse.
All of this is the total opposite of the well being and dignity all people strive for, the total opposite of the dream of God for humankind: life, life fully, life always.
It is barbarism. It is hell.
Anyone in Haiti will cringe at this name- Martissant.
We crossed to take some elderly Sisters who had been under our care for COVID, home to their convent at Riviere Froide.
Of the four Sisters who came two us from this convent, two died within hours. But these Sisters thankfully recovered.
I was also going there to retrieve another Sister who fell and badly broke her arm two days earlier, for orthopedic care back at our hospital in Tabarre.
Life has to go on. Goodness has to proceed, un-coweringly, before evil.
And you can believe me that goodness is lived out here ever day, in most heroic ways, by the vast majority of the Haitian people.
I wish that were headline news.
Someone asked me why it was, since Haitians around the world have been so successful and have make remarkable contributions in the countries where they have settled,
why they can’t do the same in Haiti.
The answer is simple. There are no level playing fields in Haiti. All opportunities are conditional, and the conditions are often illegal, degrading and dangerous.
Political leaders have unbridled influence, and this influence is most often self serving.
In better functioning democracies where Haitians have settled, and which have accountability and punishment built into the national laws and codes, leaders are not (at least for long) unbridled.
With hard work and sacrifice, even after some battle scars because of racism, sexual discrimination or abuse, abuse of power, and other social plagues, people can evolve and advance.
Both the Ten Commandments and the Federalist Papers, the former being the blueprint for Judeo-Christian civilization and the latter being the blueprint for American Democracy, have as a premise the danger of the unbridled human will.
This realistic pessimism of human nature allows the architects of the body-politic to set up the sociopolitical scaffolding to contain it.
Here is a better way to phrase it:
“The most identifying trait about our humanity, is our ability to be inhumane.”
We can start out with good will, and then we degenerate, and rot in the heart and soul:
“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
Those who have become soul sick, and then violent and barbaric, showing no evidence of even a trace of mercy, are often called in Kreol “po moun”.
They have the skin of human form, but nothing else is human about them.
Jesus used similar words, and very harshly, on how the whitewashed appearance of Pharisees covered an internal rotting graveyard.
We come now to an essential point.
What is it that makes a pessimistic view of a person’s will both necessary and practical?
It’s because the soul, the very center of humanity, dignity, and communion with God, can be diminished, destroyed, or take its leave.
The Holy Writings of many religious traditions confirm this.
There is no guarantee of ongoing soulfulness. Neither yours nor mine.
The soul has to be cultivated, it thrives under certain ways of living, and suffocates under others.
We know how the soul comes to us: Michelangelo best imaged it, as the touch of the fingers, God’s to Adam’s.
We know how the soul is spirited and strengthened, as seen in the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, or in the apocalyptic visions of St John.
But do you when know when the soul take its leave, and leaves us to our animal instincts? – or even worse, to demonic influences where behavior is Satanically cruel and hateful?
At what point to we become a horse without a rider?
Maybe this is something we all need to get good at, and really fast.
The waning of its powers and the sickness of the soul, calls for so very much attention in our modern world, and the spiritual skills to address it.
It starts with how you, or I, choose to think and act, in the face of what is really, really bad.
Do we continually choose life over death, as God instructed. Do we act out of sacrifice, goodness and reconciliation, in spite of our fears, in the face of what is really, really bad.
Only you can answer for you, only I can answer for me, but we both can encourage the young and the lost to do the same.
I have noticed over the years in dealing with gangs, that for every hundred members, about ninety are just following the only leader in town, and doing so out of need.
But they would rather, if they could, live a clean way, and be a pride and not a disgrace to their mothers and families. Given another practical way to live, and a leader who leads them to their good and not to their bad,
they will follow.
Of the remaining ten, eight are fence sitters. They can be swayed toward good or toward bad, or back and forth, depending on many things, including their alcohol or drug levels.
You might lose some, you might win some, but it will take a lot of patience, skill and work.
The remaining two will be “po moun”.
No light in their eyes to hook on to, with your penetrating gaze of healing.
They are gone.
But you just made them lonely, too. They now have no one to follow them.
In this time of notorious fake news, I was amazed to find a fake letter from Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda,
written to the youth of Haiti.
Imagine, fake news with a great message.
Learning from the disastrous genocide and civil war of his own country and against his own race, and wanting to avoid the Somalianization of Haiti, he tries to help young people see that they are quite expendable pawns, in the hands of the brokers of the big business of hatred.
Yes, hatred is enormously profitable. Just starting with guns, and even more, bullets.
The “po moun” leaders of this huge business of hatred need the frustrations and hunger of the 11 year old soldier, to crank up their profits.
In this letter of fake origin but true message, the author uses powerful real life examples to try to help the young seek peace, feel inner worth, and refuse to be the executioners for the haters.
Let us choose good and right, all the time, with courage. Not fearless (that’s impossible and imprudent), but also not paralyzed by fear.
To choose to do good today is food for the soul, and strengthening of it.
We lament when a person seems heartless, when a community seems to have lost its soul and “gone totally corporate”, or even worse, then it seems the soul of a nation is receding.
But we can hold soul-ground. Just by staying good people. It’s that simple, and that hard.
Let us pray for the family of President Moise, and for all the Haitian people who have had to drink from the most bitter cup of violence.
Let us be confident that people of good will (and they are many) will be blessed by God in all efforts toward national reconciliation and a future of peace.
Fr Rick Frechette CP DO
Port au Prince
July 16, 2021
Copyright © 2021 Fr. Rick, All rights reserved.