Saturday, January 16, 2010

America's Pact With the Devil

After the devastating earthquake that crushed Haiti on January 12, 2010 religious zealot Pat Robertson commented on The 700 Club that Haitians had sworn “a pact to the devil” to get “free from the French” and that “ever since, they have been cursed”:

“. . . [S]omething happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.’ True story. And so, the devil said, ‘OK, it's a deal.’

This so-called “reverend” sits atop a billion-dollar tax-exempt (“church”) enterprise, exploiting and robbing vulnerable people desperate for religious meaning in their lives. Robertson’s empire, funded by donations from victims who can ill afford to hand over their meager funds to his mobsters-for-Jesus, is an affront to every legitimate Christian church and organization on Earth.

Rev. Paul Raushenbush, the religion editor for the Huffington Post, echoed the outrage of many Christians when he wrote: “Go to Hell, Pat Robertson -- and the sooner the better. Your ‘theological’ nonsense is revolting. Don't speak for Haiti, and don't speak for God. Haiti is suffering a catastrophe and you offer silliness at best, and racism at the worst.”

When a hatemonger like Pat Robertson uses history to justify the depredations of a cruel interventionist deity that resides in his sick mind, he’d better get his history straight. For as corrected by the erudite Haitian Ambassador, Robertson’s perverted logic has turned in on himself. If ever there were an example of fire and brimstone looming over Pat Robertson’s diseased brain like the Sword of Damocles, turning his hate speech into a cudgel to smite him with the measured tones of the truth, this is it:

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What would Jesus say? He had Robertson down pat:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”

“Whatever you neglected to do unto one of these least of these, you neglected to do unto Me.”
By Robertson’s “logic” it is poor, tiny, suffering Haiti that rests in the palm of a compassionate God and not the wealthy, prosperous American states that surround it. Haiti was the first post-colonial independent black-led nation in the world and the only nation whose independence was gained through a slave revolt. The Haitian Revolution set the conditions for America’s territorial expansion under President Thomas Jefferson –- his bargain basement Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon’s France -- that transformed the United States into a dominant continental power. Along the way “manifest destiny” unleashed westward expansion to justify the genocide of native Americans, culminating in the “Trail of Tears.”

The Haitian slaves who gained their freedom through revolution were not greeted as fraternal brothers by the young American republic also born of revolution against colonial oppressors. To the contrary, Southern slaveholders feared a similar fate would befall their profitable human cargo. And so Congress imposed a trade embargo on Haiti. (Note how history really does repeat itself.) Historically, it seems, black people and communists/socialists are interchangeable. Therein lies the source of Pat Robertson’s hideous statement about Haiti: the black man as “devil” is the white man’s most primordial racist fear.

There was no official U.S. recognition of Haiti until 1862. By then the War Between the States was underway. The bloodiest conflict in American history, which was to claim more than 600,000 lives, rendered Haitian recognition the politically correct thing to do. There is rich historical irony in this. Thomas Jefferson could have emancipated America’s slaves and spared this nation the horrors of Civil War and assassination, followed by the humiliation of Reconstruction, followed by racist KKK violence, apartheid, and the civil rights struggles that continue to this day.

Had Thomas Jefferson embraced the precepts of those famous words he wrote on parchment, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” . . .

This would have been a different and better nation.

But Jefferson’s judgment was clouded by the guilty sexual pleasures of Sally Hemings, his captive slave-girl mistress with whom he bore several illegitimate mulatto children. In the height of passion was Jefferson thinking his lofty words could not possibly apply to African slaves because, well, the fringe benefits were just too irresistible? Did he ever confront his immoral behavior, his hypocrisy? If he did, they remained buried in the deepest recesses of his brain.

The public Thomas Jefferson was a master of deception and dissimulation. Jefferson was the most prominent American politician to compartmentalize his revolutionary legacy -- one he knew would live on in American legend –- from his steamy sexual trysts in Monticello’s slave quarters. Despite the rumors and whispers that dogged his existence, Jefferson himself was the best guardian of his sanitized historical legacy. It lasted more than 200 years, protected by a loyal battalion of historians dedicated to preserving the lily-white purity of Jefferson’s standing as one of the great icons of American history.

As Fawn Brodie was to discover, woe to the historian who dared challenge the party line and explore the master-slave liaisons of Thomas Jefferson. With the advent of DNA testing, the issue for many was finally laid to rest.

The charismatic Toussaint L’Ouverture, a Haitian-born black slave, was the first leader of a revolution in the Americas to defeat the armies of three imperial powers: Spain, France, and Great Britain. After the American Revolution, his was the first to break the yoke of colonialism and presage the subsequent liberation of all of the Americas from the colonial European powers. One would think that Toussaint L’Ouverture’s Haitian Revolution would find a friendly ally among the revolutionists who then governed the fledgling independent republic of the United States of America.

But it was not to be. Thomas Jefferson, who as author of the Declaration of Independence was the natural, undisputed leader of the American idea, spurned his progressive abolitionist anti-slavery allies in favor of a policy of isolation and embargo toward Haiti, even as he seized the opportunity to purchase the Louisiana Territory from the French while Toussaint L’Ouverture had Napoleon on his heels.

The rest, as they say, is history.

A history of which Pat Robertson is ignorant. Napoleaon III wouldn’t be born for another five years to the month after Toussaint L’Ouverture died in 1803. The Haitian Revolution led by Francois-Dominique Toussaint L’Ouverture was completed in 1804 when Napoleon Bonaparte ruled France, 44 years before his nephew Napoleon III came to power. If Pat Robertson’s fantasy of an interventionist, avenging God are true, it stands to reason that his hard dessicated soul will burn like dry twigs from a devastated Haitian landscape in the eternal fires of Hell.

The sin of slavery is America’s cross to bear, the dark stain on this nation’s soul. In this sense, for those who are true believers, it was not Haiti but America, perhaps even Thomas Jefferson himself in a moment of passion with Sally Hemings, that made a pact with the devil.


Anonymous said...

I don't think Pat Robertson needs to shut up. I feel he is 100% correct. GOD is not going to shake up land the way he did Haiti unless you have made him so angry that man has left him no choice. I do not know what they did but it was bad enough to enrage our creator.

drmagoo said...

Jefferson was certainly quite hypocritical when it came to slavery, but it doesn't quite ring true that he could have practically emancipated the slaves, not and manage to keep the country together. Passions were still inflamed, in large part because of the French Revolution and the aftermath, and I've never seen anything to suggest that in the first decade of the 1800's that the USA was firmly entrenched as an entity enough to survive the inevitable revolt. Also, I think that there were qualities that Lincoln had, dealing with people, that Jefferson clearly lacked. Jefferson was far less comfortable handling confrontations in person, and he didn't have the moral clarity internally that Lincoln clearly did regarding the wrong of slavery. He wasn't the right man to do that. As it turned out, neither were the next dozen guys in that office.

Carlos said...

Those are valid points, Doc. But there is debate among some Jeffersonian historians that had he carried his private and published views on slavery more forcefully, the Civil War might have been averted, even if emancipation were carried out incrementally, through compromise and negotiation at an earlier stage, so that Southern economies could adjust. I thought it was an interesting "what if"? Your comments illustrate just how complex and fascinating figure TJ was; which, together with his glorious prose, is why he's my favorite Founding Father.

Carlos said...

To anonymous:

You’re entitled to your opinion.(YAY for the First Amendment!) Do you also believe (because Robertson does):
-That 9/11 was attributed to “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians.”
-Hurricane Katrina and terrorist attacks are punishment to the U.S. for legalized abortion.
-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s stroke was punishment for “dividing God’s land” and “the same thing” for the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
-The sweat lodge death of two people in Sedona, Arizona was because they sought “enlightenment” in “new-age religion” instead of Bible and death was “the penalty” and the “severe price.”
-That Disney’s “Gay Days” Robertson predicts “will bring about the destruction of your nation. It'll bring about terrorist bombs, it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor.”
-That Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez should be assassinated.
I’m with the rational theologians who rightly condemn Robertson. He is a disgrace to any Christian faith. If you donate to this swindler’s operation I suggest you check very carefully where your money goes:

drmagoo said...

See, that's interesting, because despite his brilliant writing and obviously vital contributions, Jefferson is probably my least favorite of the founding fathers (at least of the biggest ones). I'm an Adams man myself. Jefferson was too inconsistent for me.

Carlos said...

Adams to me is the coin flip side of TJ. Solid, WISIWYG. And their friendship, falling out, friendship again, and death on the same day, July 4 -- you couldn't make this stuff up. I knew TJ from Dumas Malone, etc., but it was after reading Brodie and Gore Vidal's "Burr" that demythologized TJ also humanized him for me. Malone's stuffy dimissal of Brodie's biography of TJ, which I loved, as "dirty graffiti" on TJ's monument, made me like TJ even more. Never liked FFs as gods on a pedestal. TJ was a flawed but ultimately great man. Liked Adams too, their political differences and personal friendship. The Yin and Yang of American politics.

A favorite Adams exchange with TJ -:D

The subcommittee met. Jefferson proposed to me to make the draft. I said, 'I will not,' 'You should do it.' 'Oh! no.' 'Why will you not? You ought to do it.' 'I will not.' 'Why?' 'Reasons enough.' 'What can be your reasons?' 'Reason first, you are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second, I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third, you can write ten times better than I can.' 'Well,' said Jefferson, 'if you are decided, I will do as well as I can.' 'Very well. When you have drawn it up, we will have a meeting.'