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Liberté, égalité … perfidité

15 July 2010

Two A fine examples on this year’s Bastille Day:

The best the opponents were able to muster was a slogan “Every child deserves a mother and father,” which may be true, but rather misses the point. Argentina joins Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Iceland, Belgium, South Africa, Portugal and Canada in permitting same-gender marriages nationwide.   Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay may join Argentina in updating their marriage laws later this year.

In the Americas, besides Canada (and Argentina as soon as the new law is printed in the Gazette), in countries where marriage is a state matter,  same gender marriage is  permitted in  San Pedro Sul in Brazil and the U.S. states of  Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont as well as the District of Colombia (Washington).

And, of course, the Federal District (Mexico City).  Having discovered in Mexico that the sky does not fall when people of the same gender marry, reforms may be on the agenda for state legislatures in Michoacán, Morelos,  Puebla, Sonora, Tabasco, and Tamaulipas.

Several European countries, and a handful of places in the Americas (like Montevideo, Uruguay and the state of Coahuila) give legal protection to same-gender couples under free union (domestic partnership) agreements.

  • And a hoax:  in France… probably the best Bastille Day gesture ever… the government decided to correct one of the great injustices of European colonialism, paying back (with INTEREST) the 90 million gold francs extorted from Haiti in return for its independence. A fake email allegedly from the French Foreign Ministry announced plans to return the 90 million gold francs Haiti was forced to pony up for it’s independence. Having begun life hopelessly in debt, Haiti never recovered, and there is no way to undo the past, but €17 billion goes a long way to at least overcoming some of the most pressing needs of that most unfortunate nation.  Structually Maladjusted was pulled in by this hoax too… which he seems to think was useful in highlighting the Haitian debt issue.  I do’t.  That seems a rationalization for what is, at bottom, a cruel trick… not so much on people like myself (who picked up the tale), but on the very people meant to be “assisted” by this hoax.

    From what I can tell, the hoaxers are a U.S. group, preaching to the French about a historic injustice, which — I suppose could be (and should have been) the basis for some unrestricted aid now.  But, U.S. groups should, if they do need to preach (which seems to be the style of U.S. political discourse) might do better to stick to their own country’s sorry history of intervention and expropriation in Haiti and elsewhere in the Americas.  This seems typical of U.S. “progressives”… not to really have any concern with their fellow Americans as people, but only to use them as “lessons” for domestic consumption.

    While that may pique a few consciences in France, the effect is only to use Haiti as a foil for their own social and political games.   And a cruel trick upon any Haitian who might have read the original report.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jakob permalink
    16 July 2010 2:42 pm

    In retrospect I do regret posting the statement without full disclosure (I guess most people don’t check tags, and 20 hours was probably too long to wait to break the bad news). But I do think that stunts like these can serve a purpose. That said, it was an error in judgment on my part, it would have been best just not to say anything. Also, seeing how it has played out, I think it was largely unsuccessful.

    Here is a statement from the group that took responsibility for the hoax, via the NYT:

    The French government has stated that it is considering legal recourse against us.

    This is very fitting, as it is our concern with crimes that led us to make this false announcement. We are the Committee for the Reimbursement of the Indemnity Money Extorted from Haiti (in French, le Comité pour le Remboursement Immédiat des Montants Envolés d’Haïti, and in both languages spelling CRIME).

    We, a group of activists from France, Canada and the United States, fess up to issuing false statements on behalf of the French foreign ministry.

    But is a spoof website such a grave crime, compared to is what the French government has done in Haiti:

    -The forcible capture, commerce, brutalization, torture, murder and enslavement of millions of Africans over more than two centuries.

    -Expropriating 90 million gold francs from Haiti as an indemnity for lost French slave-trade profits following Haiti’s independence, and saddling Haitians with an illegitimate debt that Haiti paid France for 122 years.

    -Actively helping to overthrow Haiti’s democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, on Feb. 29, 2004, in large measure because he had the temerity to demand that France reimburse Haiti the “independence debt” with interest amounting to about $21 billion. This was the first time a former slave colony officially requested reparations from a former colonial and slave-owning nation.

    -Promising to Haiti through pledged contributions to U.N. agencies, NGOS and the Red Cross some $180 million, but six months later, not one centime has been delivered to Haiti, according to the U.N.’s humanitarian aid tracking site Relief Web. Meanwhile the French secretary of state for overseas development traveled via private jet to a conference on aid for Haiti at a cost of $143,000.

    CRIME takes full responsibility for the July 14 reparations announcement. It was indeed a complete hoax. But we did it to draw public attention to a far bigger hoax: How little France, as well as the U.S. and Canada, have offered Haiti in earthquake relief, relative to what Haitians are owed in reparations.

    It was never our intention to create false hopes, though we have perhaps done so in attributing to the French government such a courageous, just and admirable action. However, we feel the French government must also be held accountable for its disappointing failure to do the right thing.

    We leave it to the court of world public opinion to judge: Who are the real criminals?


  2. 16 July 2010 7:03 pm

    I think you were as much a victim as the rest of us, Jakob — I saved my ire for “CRIME” who seem to think a historic wrong (which cannot be undone) justifies using a people who are still in shock from a recent tragedy as comic foils for a propaganda stunt.

    France, the United States and Canada may indeed have promised aid to Haiti, and have yet to deliver. This doesn’t give some self-annointed group the right to abuse the Haitians — The only thing “CRIME” has drawn attention to is the continual meddling of the imperialist powers in the Americas… and the self-justification for that meddling given even by First World “progressives” who still think they have some God-given right to appoint themselves the arbiters of what is, and what is not, needed or wanted by others. And to impose their values on us.

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