The Wolves we Feed
The corruption in the United States is bringing me down. I rage tweet almost every hour and cannot believe what my country has become.
Today it is worse than most days because of what is happening in Haiti. I just returned from Haiti and the vibrancy, the love and the culture is still fresh in my mind.
However, their government is in chaos and the people are rising up in anger and disappointment. Her people wanted change; demanded change, and they voted for someone who they thought would be different. Someone who would provide the people with resources and jobs. But what they got was more corruption, greed and inaction. This doesn't mean that Haiti is a "shithole" country. On the contrary, she is mirroring the same conditions that brought us our own president.
There are few options for a people who are sick and hungry and poor. Venezuela is another country facing their own crisis where people are uprising against a corrupt government. They are starving while their president eats crumpets and tells his citizens they needed to lose weight anyway. Venezuela is the supplier of fuel to Haiti and when the USA puts sanctions on them, there is a ripple effect that compounded the disasters both political and natural that have affected the small Caribbean nation over the course of hundreds of years. When you cannot afford gas, you cannot get to work and if you cannot work, you cannot feed your family. When starvation is upon you, and hopes and prayers aren't working, oftentimes it manifests itself in rage and riots.
I know I look just like the missionaries who arrive by the plane-full and disperse like flies once we get our luggage and head off into the moist heat to begin our proselyting in an attempt to save our souls.
There are huge swaths of white Christians who go to Haiti to volunteer in the orphanages, paint houses and dig latrines. There is an entire industry of "Poverty Tourism" that takes place in Haiti - which is more at risk than most because of its proximity to the United States. It is a billion dollar industry and it is fueled by churches across America in the name of Christ and salvation.
In Haiti, there are orphanages in every town and along every highway where the white saviors flock to take pictures with black and brown kids to post on their Facebook pages where they discretely proclaim their lack of racism and proof they are deserving of adulation and Christ's love. We bring our bags of medicine and toys and we weep when we see children living on dirt floors and subsisting on small cups of rice.
And then we go home.
What is especially horrifying is most of the kids in the orphanages have parents and relatives. It is the lack of food, medicine and resources which keep the families apart and generations of children separated from the love of their mothers and fathers while another group of white Christians show up monthly to take a picture, paint a picture and leave a toy.
In the United States, it has always been my hope that our president would succeed. In doing so he would help us and our allies. I would never have dreamed he would demonize entire peoples or put children in internment camps. I never conceived that something like this could happen in my lifetime. But our president continues to bathe in ignorance which irreparably damages our relationships with countries like Haiti and those at our Southern border.
Many of you know that I live in the Ozarks. We live in one of the poorest areas of the United States. I drive by houses everyday with collapsing roofs and missing walls. If I put up photos of our homes side by side with those in Haiti, you might not be able to tell the difference between the two. We are not much different from our Haitian brothers and sisters. In the Ozarks, the people are hungry, and homeless and hurting too.
If I told you about a country where the president is corrupt and profiting from the government and taking money from the people, where would you think of first?
If I told you that pollution and plastics were choking the waterways and filling the oceans - what country would you name?
If big oil had a grip on the economy and ran roughshod over the environment in direct opposition to the needs of the people, what country comes to mind?
What president is decimating healthcare, cuts food stamps for children, has millions of homeless people living on the streets, forty thousand deaths a year from opioid overdoses and 22 veteran suicides a day?
Which country allows the rich to get richer while the rest live paycheck to paycheck?
Is it our country?
Or is it Haiti?
Every year my state votes Republican. My senator doesn't even have to campaign to get re-elected. The people are fed a steady diet of hate and disinformation via their churches, schools, Sinclair Broadcasting, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. There are no alternative views. Guns and abortion are the only issues that seem to matter even when the people are tired poor and hungry. They live on minimum wage with jobs at Walmart and the Kum and Go. They have no healthcare and few safety nets. They are fearful of Mexicans, Haitians, The Other, and people like me.
Our government has become complicit in feeding their fear.
My neighbors truly believe that anyone who isn't like them is trying to take what little they have. It's a terrible thing to live in fear and distrust. It's terrifying to worry about feeding your children and knowing that having to take just one sick day or getting one traffic ticket could destroy everything.
The people where I live are a lot like Haitians. They are afraid and angry and they put their hopes and dreams into the hands of a newly elected president. To give up on him, would be admitting defeat and the idea of admitting failure, creating a new path and starting over is overwhelming.
I often think of the story about the Cherokee grandfather who told his grandson that there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humanity, kindness, empathy and truth.
The boy thinks about what his grandfather said and asks, "Grandfather, which wolf wins?"
"The one you feed," the grandfather replies.
My sons and I are going to Haiti in June. We will go diving, play soccer and break bread with our friends who call Haiti their home. We will teach kids how to swim and help start a recycling program. We will be on vacation. Our mission will be the promotion of tourism and to create jobs just by being there. We are going to go hiking, ride in Tap Taps, and our pictures will be ones of joy and fellowship.
Haiti is an amazing country with a history of strength and morality. Her people are resilient and they will beat this.
I have faith my country will too. But we all need to feed the right wolf.