Robertson’s little speech about Haiti was so appalling on so many levels that I imagine it’s a bit like looking up and seeing that you’re about to get hit by a dozen water balloons filled with mud–you just close your eyes and wait for it to be over, because it’s not going to be just a little dirty.
There’s the disgusting aspect of equating voodoo with selling your soul to the Christian devil. This has been a long-held and historical slander against African-derived beliefs, with real consequences, even now. That a man can get on national television and start spouting off about how a group of people deserves and has brought upon themselves suffering because of their religious beliefs… Here’s the thing. I don’t believe that Pat Robertson is stupid. He must know the historical precedents–what happens when Christians get it in their heads that God has willed terrible things against some other religious group. And yet, he still says shit like that. Which means that’s the position he’s advocating.
There’s the equating fighting for your freedom with being on the side of the Devil. This is an argument that all our American ancestors heard all the time–that the desire for freedom (and the actions one might take to get it) was Satanic. But it is still shocking to hear a person saying that same thing in 2010–that slaves fighting for freedom were on the side of the Devil.
And speaking of old-timey beliefs, of course, underlying the above paragraph is the old-timey belief that black people are demonic and of the devil in the first place.
But he’s got all these old-timey beliefs coupled with the extreme privilege of being able to spout off a fairy tale about the history of Haiti and passing it off like truth. It’s not as if things were just magically bad for Haiti from the start. Some country–the US–has been meddling in Haitian affairs from the get-go, with embargoes and CIA-led coupes and treating Haitian refugees differently than Cuban refugees, etc., etc., etc. Haiti is not where it is because God and the Devil have interfered in Haitian history. Haiti is where it is because other nations have interfered in Haitian history.
But that’s one of the things I loved about the Haitian ambassador’s response on Maddow last night, when he talked about this Devil’s deal and reminded viewers that, if there was a bargain, we got the Louisiana purchase out of it. I think Robertson already believes God might destroy us at any minute for sins supposed and real, so I doubt the point made sense to him. But I hope it made others think.
That brings me to my last point, and the point that kept me up last night. If there were a being who waited long after you were dead, long after you’d been dead so long that most of your descendants didn’t even know your name, who then visited his anger at you on the people who lived in your country, who killed small children with impunity, who stood back and watched while people cried for help in the dark while other people cried because they couldn’t get to them and was satisfied because his vengeance had been meted out, wouldn’t that being be monstrous? Demonic, even? If you knew a man like that, who waited long after the person he was angry at was dead and snuck up on that person’s extended family and friends and people with the bad fortune of being tangentially connected to the dead person and killed them, even the children born long after the person he was angry at was dead, you’d think that man was some kind of psychopath.
And this is the god Pat Robertson worships? This is the god he expects non-evil people to turn to? To open their hearts to?
I don’t mean to be flippant, but if the got Pat Robertson worships would do this to the people of Haiti, and that’s what he’s claiming, that his god actively did this–not just sat back and let it happen or that it’s all part of some plan or we just don’t understand or whatever stuff we tell ourselves to try to reconcile these kinds of tragedies–but actively and deliberately did this, how can you tell the difference between that god and the Devil?