Sunday, January 17, 2010

By Way of Apocalypse
The day after Haiti’s earthquake I ran in Ravenna Park trying to clear my mind. I ran under the high bridge where I always run to avoid people. There in the ditch was a guy about my age in a gray jacket and dark pants just lying there like he was sleeping in a twisted wreck. There was a second bearded guy down there too, smoking a joint. I asked him what happened – he pointed up at the bridge and asked me if I wanted to smoke. I ran back up the hill into a girl with blond hair and a purple Huskies sweatshirt. She must not have had her headphones turned up too loud because when I told her she needs to run around the bridge on the other side since some guy jumped off the bridge and the police have it all blocked off down there, she said right away: “Oh, I don’t want to see that.” But when we got to the other side she wanted to stop and look, she said, “ They’re taking pictures of this guy, is he ok?” “No" I said "he’s dead” and I ran.
I didn’t want to see the pictures from Haiti this week either. I can’t wrap my head around the speed of these death falls. 50 seconds from the appearance of life as normal to just another corpse lying on the street, blocking the street, in the back of a truck, waiting to be dumped.
But the story in Haiti after the apocalypse of course is not that simple. There are people alive, pinned and wounded – twitching right now like animals trapped by god and human history. In 1989 only 63 people died in an earthquake the same size in San Francisco. Haiti since it’s invention has had a century of compensating France for its loss of a slave colony, nearly a century of American Jim Crow, and decades of dictatorships, ridiculous wealth distribution, and trade and emigration embargoes. We really have no excuse for what we have done to the least of us – we shouldn’t be able to look these strong and shining people in the eye. They still want to live and love their families, when we've so often given up in the shadow of our armaments. I hope the images of dump trucks filled with jumbled bodies lining up to dump their humans into the earth will be seared into our brains and give us strange dreams for a long time.

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Blogger Meredith said...

Darren, I'm sad you saw that man and I'm sad he felt he had to jump. I hope it comforts you a bit knowing I'm with you in it.It's been a traumatic week all around. I'm glad Jen's accident wasn't worse!~Edith/Mom

3:16 PM  
Blogger Vertigo360 said...

Strange dreams, indeed. And one can only hope that these dreams force us to awake, sweating and terrified, from our two centuries of imperialism and neglect.

Thanks for posting. I'll be saving that last line.

And, since you've tagged this post under Paul Farmer, am I correcting in assuming you've read Mountains Beyond Mountains?


6:09 AM  
Blogger darren-jenn said...

Thanks for reading. Trauma is probably always surreal depending on its speed and scale -- the trauma of seeing a dead guy is nothing compared to the trauma Haitian children are dealing with although both are sad and indicative of our world.

I think Paul Farmer has done a lot for Haiti. Not only is his organization the primary health-care provider of the country, but his books and biography: The Uses of Haiti and Mountains Beyond Mountains, are helping us to understand the conundrums of sustainable development and ethical living.

7:52 AM  

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