Tuesday, October 04, 2016
They're called slurries. Sounds innocuous enough, but they aren't. Not at all. Slurries can wipe out entire neighborhoods, entire towns, killing hundreds in the poorest nation in the northern hemisphere, bar none.
At this moment, the island nation of Haiti is being devastated by a brutish storm that threatens the entire region. All of Florida and much of this nation's southeast coastline is on alert from Hurricane Matthew, a monster that has Americans worried from the Keys to Washington DC. Where he goes is as yet to be determined, but there's no question about where he is now because he's in Haiti, a country still suffering from a massive earthquake six years ago, not to mention a cholera epidemic that's killed 10,000 people and still hasn't been beaten.
Haiti is mountainous and, more importantly, largely treeless. Twenty inches of rainfall--in some places as much as forty inches--will fall on those bald slopes, then rush down in what's called a slurry, an obscene mixture of mud and rocks and whatever else the avalanche picks up on its course to the sea. What it doesn't wipe out it will fill up. Weather officials have no crystal balls, but predictions of slurries in Haiti aren't nightmares. They're worse. They're real.
Bill Clinton is not greatly admired in Haiti, and neither is the Clinton Foundation. Clinton believed that if he could fill a bathtub with money, he could clean the place up, do something no one else had--something lasting and foundational in a country many people call, graciously, "a failed state." Did he? That question has more than one answer, but most Haitians don't think he delivered on the glory he promised.
Want to get in a fight? Propose a solution to the Haiti's woes. Go ahead--give it a try. So far, nothing has worked. Even Clinton proved a failure.
People try. Oh, how they try. I remember sitting in the airport at Port au Prince, waiting for the flight out with only two kinds of people--Haitians looking to visit relatives in Florida and church groups in matching colorful, bible versed t-shirts. Hundreds, thousands of stateside do-gooders flock to Haiti; some say--many say--way, way too many.
And soon, more. More devastation is almost certain, and it's happening at this moment, as I'm typing these words. "Staggering impacts," storm experts say, from a storm that's right now the size of Arizona. Drowning rains.
It's cloudy outside right now at this lake home where we're staying. A northwest wind is blowing hard--started yesterday late afternoon after we finished a bike ride through a northwoods trail so colorful we were enclosed in stained glass. It was--and I couldn't help thinking of it then--at peak color, the reds and russets almost cartoonish. This morning, that peak color is behind us. The clouds mean there'll be no sunrise.
It's a metaphor, but we use it, don't we? Haiti, right at this moment, is getting punished by Hurricane Matthew, whose winds will blow thatched roofs off makeshift houses, pick up tin like cardboard. The people there don't deserve what they're getting any more than we do.
Go easy, Lord almighty. There are good people in Haiti, millions of them. Hold back the slurries. Go easy, please. . .
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 7:41 AM