Saturday, January 16, 2010

Random Thoughts

Like all of you, the situation in Haiti has been on my mind. The news coverage, nearly unbearable to watch, evokes the same emotions that surfaced during 9-11. I admire those people who, in an instant, decided they need to go to Haiti to help, despite the possibility of danger, and the knowledge that the air will shortly fill with diseases because of poor sanitation and because well intended medical help and rescue teams simply cannot work fast enough. Just as quickly as some people assemble to help, the vultures assemble to swoop. I find it hard to believe that there are those who will capitalize upon human suffering, setting up phony charities. Warnings are everywhere for people like me, who want to help, but feel helpless.

I have strong memories of two books with Haitian themes. Because I read them years ago, details have faded, but, their impact remains. Breath, Eyes, Memory so affected me and a few friends that we loaded up the car and headed to an Edwidge Danticat reading in the middle of the work week, in a place far away. We coerced another friend, who was not at all interested in the book, to drive, anticipating we would all need to sleep on the way home. Danticat is a tiny, tiny woman, with exactly the musical voice everyone associates with her Haitain heritage. In addition to being mesmerizing, she was gracious, spending time talking with each of the individuals in line for her autograph. Yes, even our driver was taken with the power of this little lady.

Her book speaks of the haunting sadness, and resilient spirit of Haitian women. 12 year-old Sophia has been raised by an aunt in Haiti while her mother is in New York fighting to make a better life for them. When Sophia finally moves to be with her mother, she finds it impossible to shake the hold that her beloved Haiti has upon her. Despite years of oppression, poverty, racism, and sexism, she longs for the strength, color and magic that made her life so meaningful.

Connie May Fowler's magical realism novel, Sugar Cage, is told through the voice of several characters living in the south of Florida. Most profound among the voices is a Haitian woman named Inez Temple. Inez can "see" things in the sugar crystals at the bottom of people's beverages. Inez teaches us a lot about the meaning behind voodoo rituals, and in her telling, much of the mystery and fear associated with the religion fall away. She speaks with respect for her people and her culture with the same passion as Sophia. This book is lighter than Breath, Eyes, Memory, offering more than one laugh out loud moment.

Give these books a try if the recent events have made you at all curious about the Haitian culture.

If you watched The Golden Globe Awards last night, you saw how emphatically the entertainment community has risen to answer the cry for help in Haiti. Many award recipients prefaced their acceptance speeches with words putting the evenings events in perspective and encouraging viewers to help if we can. Meryl Streep's honest and eloquent words stood out for me. She spoke of the gift of talent she has been given, and the lifestyle her career has afforded her. She said she will give to the cause because she can. People who give to a charity and then tell us all about how great they are because they have done so annoy me. I don't think that was her motivation. I think that in her coy way, she was reminding her peers that they all have the means to help someone, and now would be a good time to stop worrying about designer dresses, $7000.00 hair extensions, or their private island in the Carribean, and start tending to himan issues.

Geogge Clooney has organized a benefit that will air on Friday night. Check TV listings for more details on that.

Before signing off...the Pat Robertson comment about this disaster being caused because the Haitian people made a "pact with the devil"...what do we do with a comment like that? My first reaction was to do a little name calling...Pat Robertson, you are an idiot...but what good will that do? I am confident that no one I know would buy into an insipid belief like that. I am grateful for the intelligent, kind people in my life. If you are so inclined, donate to the Haitian relief fund through the Red Cross, your church, or other organization you trust.

***On a lighter note, My friend, Ludmilla Bollow, just had one of her plays published by Sam French, one of the leading script publishers in the world. She is sending me a copy. Who knows, we may someday see this play produced in Manitwooc, and if we're lucky Luddy can be a the premier.

If you're reading this before noon on Monday, remember that this is Dr. Martin Luther King day. Wisconsin Public Radio always broadcasts a powerful ceremony from the rotunda in Madsion's capitol building hosted by Jonathan Overby. You won't hear better gospel music anywhere. This is a truely inspirational program. 12:00..88.1.

No comments:

Post a Comment