An Open Letter to Pat Robertson:

>> Saturday, January 16, 2010

(written by Matthew T. Boulanger and sent to Pat Robertson)

[Editorial Note: Still no word from Mr. Robertson. Please feel free to distribute this as you see fit in an attempt to reach him.]

Dear Mr. Robertson(1):

On the January 13, 2010 broadcast of “The 700 Club”, you made the following statement concerning the past and current condition of the Haitian people:

…and you know, Christy, something happened a long time ago in Haiti.and, uh,people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French…ah…You know, Napoleon the third 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 “Okay, it’s a deal.” And, uh, they kicked the French out, you know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor. That island of Hispaniola, is one island, is cut down the middle on one side is Haiti and on the other side is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etcetera. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. Uh, they need to have, and we need to pray for them, a great turning to God. And out of this tragedy, I’m optimistic something good may come, but right now we’re helping the suffering people and the suffering is unimaginable(2)…

You appear to have received a substantial response from various media outlets and public figures concerning this statement, and most of these have been either condemning of your statement or of you personally. However, few commentators have actually examined your statement to assess the veracity of claims you made in it. Many individuals immediately attributed your statements to stupidity(3), ignorance(4), and moronitude(5); however, few of these people ever bothered to provide a coherent statement supporting these positions. Here, I attempt to do so.

Your first allegation, that people may not want to talk about the Haitian revolution, does not appear to be true. Plenty of scholarly works have studied this event, and several have attempted to make sense of Haiti’s current economic woes as having stemmed from this revolution. Perhaps a brief review of leading journals discussing the history of the Caribbean in general or Haiti in particular would have helped you know this.

The second allegation, that the Haitians were “under the heel of…Napoleon the third” reveals a profound lack of knowledge concerning this subject. Napoleon the third, or more properly Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, was born on April 20, 1808. The Haitian revolution of which you are speaking began in 1791 and ended around 1804. While I admit that some French emperors assumed power at young ages, I find it difficult to accept that this Charles Louis was in power a full 13 years before he was conceived. I believe that you mean Haiti was subject to Napoleon the first, more commonly known as Napoleon Bonaparte. However, even this wouldn’t be correct, because he did not assume the role Emperor until May 18, 1804. Although he did serve as the First Consul of France beginning in 1799, nobody in Haiti appears to have been “under his heel” until at least the latter half of the Haitian revolution.

The proper statement would have been that the Haitians were “under the heel” of Louis XVI, who as we all know from grade school history classes, was the monarch of France until he was executed (along with his wife of “let them eat cake” fame) in 1792 during the French Revolution. I am curious if you believe that the French Revolution was also spawned by a clandestine pact with supernatural forces, as it too was led primarily by an impoverished and oppressed under class.

I will choose not to question your quotations of the precise dialogue between the Haitians and “the Devil”. I can only assume that you have some hitherto unknown transcript of this exchange, and I will concede to you the right to quote from it without having to produce it for peer review. I would, however, encourage you to donate this transcript to a museum as it appears to have a high degree of historical, political, and religious significance for all of humanity.

One statement in your editorial that does seem to have some truth to it is: “ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor”. But this too is not entirely true, and it glosses over two-hundred years of history. You see, one of the major problems in Haiti over the past two centuries has not been the absence of wealth, but the extreme disparities in how this wealth is distributed among Haitian people. That is, there have traditionally been very few individuals who controlled virtually all of the wealth, and virtually all of the people who have very little of the wealth. When coupled with constant interference from Western nations, this severe imbalance of wealth and power has led to multiple changes of regimes.

Despite your caricature of rampant poverty and disorder, it is important to note there have been brief periods of stability and hope in Haiti. For example, the election of Jean-Bertrand Aristide (himself a Roman Catholic priest[6]) in 1990. Sadly, Aristide was forced into exile during a military coup that many in the international community (including Aristide) believe was supported—or at least tacitly approved—by our own United States government under former president George H.W. Bush. If this is the case, then our own government may have been involved in perpetuating this “curse” on the Haitian people. According to the logic of your statement, this implies that our government may have been acting as an agent of the devil. Does this concern you? If so, perhaps a similar statement concerning the influence of the devil on the George H.W. Bush administration is appropriate at this juncture so that we may better understand the origins of the various calamities that have befallen our own nation. Though, I remain curious as to why you have not made this connection before.

I agree with you that the island of Hispaniola is an island, and that one side of it is Haiti, and that the other is the Dominican Republic, and I commend you on your command of Caribbean geography. I do, however, dispute with you the pronounciation of “Hispaniola”. It should more probably be pronounced as in “Ee-span-yola”, perhaps with a slight aspiration at the beginning, but definitely not as “Hizpen-olah” as you stated during the broadcast.

Finally, we come to your statement comparing Haiti with the Dominican Republic. Your exact statement is that “Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etcetera [while] Haiti is in desperate poverty.” You seem to be blissfully unaware that the Dominican Republic is most definitely NOT prosperous and healthy. Consider these facts:

  • Over 30% of Dominicans live in poverty;
  • Although many multinational corporations have operations in the Dominican Republic, there are frequent and recurring instances of human-rights violations against Dominican workers, and most profits of these companies are exported to larger Western nations where the companies are based;
  • It is currently estimated that more than 50,000 people are employed in the hotel/resort industry in the Dominican Republic, and more than 100,000 individuals are employed indirectly by tourism (e.g., taxi drivers, tour guides, and tourist-retail).
Let me be clear: Most of these jobs are low paying, offer little in the way of advancement, and require little in the way of education. I challenge you, Mr. Robertson, to divest your assets and to begin working on the monthly salary of a Dominican taxi driver. If this is your idea of health and prosperity, I see no reason why you would hesitate to do so.

The public brouhaha resulting from your statement resulted in your broadcast company the Christian Broadcast Network (CBN) issuing a formal statement clarifying your words(7). Chris Roslan, an undefined spokesman for your company, stated that:

…On today’s The 700 Club, during a segment about the devastation, suffering and humanitarian effort that is needed in Haiti, Dr. Robertson also spoke about Haiti’s history. His comments were based on the widely-discussed 1791 slave rebellion led by Boukman Dutty at Bois Caiman, where the slaves allegedly made a famous pact with the devil in exchange for victory over the French. This history, combined with the horrible state of the country, has led countless scholars and religious figures over the centuries to believe the country is cursed. Dr. Robertson never stated that the earthquake was God’s wrath. If you watch the entire video segment, Dr. Robertson’s compassion for the people of Haiti is clear. He called for prayer for them. His humanitarian arm has been working to help thousands of people in Haiti over the last year, and they are currently launching a major relief and recovery effort to help the victims of this disaster. They have sent a shipment of millions of dollars worth of medications that is now in Haiti, and their disaster team leaders are expected to arrive tomorrow and begin operations to ease the suffering…

Relatively little public comment has been made about this statement. However, as it is intended to clarify and support your position, it is directly relevant to this letter and therefore deserves comment.

First, your statements were not “during a segment,” they were added as an editorial by you after a segment discussing the efforts of Operation Blessing International led by Bill Horan. During that segment, you suggested that the earthquake could be considered a “blessing in disguise,” to which Mr. Horan appeared to agree. Perhaps all of those employees working for Operation Blessing, and all of those people donating to this charity should be made aware of your feelings, as well as those of the organization’s COO (i.e., Mr. Horan).

Second, the historical incident to which you were referring was not a “slave rebellion” but a total revolution akin to the United States’ own revolution against colonial powers. The Haitian revolution was in fact led by many prominent freedmen, not solely slaves, and to refer to this event as a slave rebellion diminishes the importance of a group of oppressed people freely deciding their destiny and fighting for their collective rights as humans against an oppressive regime. Do you consider the American Revolution to be a slave rebellion? Why is it that the oppressed lower class of (mostly) Afro-Caribbean descent needed a pact with the devil to overthrow their (mostly) Caucasian oppressors, whereas the (mostly) Caucasian inhabitants of the British colonies did not? Do you believe that Caucasian people do not need supernatural collaboration to succeed, whereas non-Caucasian people must seek out satanic cohorts?

Third, the supposed incident involving Boukman Dutty and a “pact with the devil” likely did not occur at all. I will set aside, for the moment, your unverifiable assertion that an entity such as “the devil” actually exists, and your assertion that individuals can somehow bargain with such an entity. Here, historical facts will suffice. There is no evidence to confirm that a ceremony led by (or participated in by) Boukman Dutty ever actually occurred. This is NOT historical fact, it is historical fiction that has been romanticized and fictionalized over time. To be clear, this would be the same as you stating that George Washington actually chopped down a cherry tree, or that Paul Bunyan actually carved the Grand Canyon. If you would like a refresher course on Fact versus Fiction, please contact me.

Fourth, Roslan states that “countless scholars and religious figures over the centuries to believe the country is cursed.” Though I am no expert on Haiti or on any ongoing scholarly debate concerning curses on specific countries, I can find absolutely no scholarly dialogue concerning a curse on Haiti. No doubt Mr. Roslan can provide some examples from the “countless” figures who believe this? Personally, I would like to know what peer-reviewed journal would publish an article professing that an entire country has been cursed after a three-hundred year old pact with Satan. I have several articles concerning space aliens making large trianguloid stone structures in northern Africa and equatorial America that I would like to have published.

Fifth, nobody ever said that you made the statement that the earthquake was God’s wrath. But, I would guess that most people were simply appalled at your statement that this humanitarian catastrophe might be a “blessing in disguise”.

Sixth, I did watch the whole video segment (in fact, I transcribed it for you above), and I detect absolutely no compassion for the people of Haiti…unless by compassion, you mean your own self-serving desire for them to convert to Christianity and build lots of spiffy keen resorts like those in the Dominican Republic.

Seventh, thank you for the humanitarian relief that you claim to have directed to Haiti. I would hope in your compassion that you would make this freely available to all individuals, regardless of faith. Such a gesture is far beyond what I could personally hope to accomplish with my own meager means. Yet, I wonder if you would be willing to notify all Haitians of your thoughts on their country and their tragedy before offering them any food, clothing, or medicine. I would be interested to see how welcoming they were of your charity. Perhaps, you might consider travelling to Haiti to assist with the dispersing of the food and medicine in person? I suspect that each and every Haitian would be very interested in hearing your thoughts on why their country suffers so greatly, and I suspect that each of them would like to thank you in their own special manner.

I look forward to your answers to my questions, as well as to a public addressing of the various inaccuracies contained in these two statements. Please feel free to contact me in the future if you would like me to review the factual data in any other statements.

Regards,
Matthew T. Boulanger
Concerned Citizen

P.S. I am primarily a North American archaeologist/anthropologist by training, but I profess to having little to no command of the history of Haiti, voodoo, Caribbean revolutions, or satanic pacts made in rainy swamps. However, I do have access to “the internet.” A short time spent on this “the internet” provided me with sufficient knowledge to address the shortcomings in your editorial statement and in the CBN’s official press release attempting to absolve you of your indecency. I strongly recommend that you investigate whether “the internet” is available in your town, as you may find it an useful tool prior to your next broadcast.

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1. Please note that I am aware of your receipt of a juris doctor (J.D.) degree from Yale, and that some people believe this should result in use of the honorific “Doctor”. However, I hold to current U.S. government policy that the J.D. is equivalent only to an M.A., and that the term “Doctor” should be retained for those holding a medical degree or those completing a Ph.D.

2. Transcribed by me from http://www.cbn.com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/archive/club/700club011310_ws, [Start: 00:06:20s; End: 00:07:35s/00:59:30s]. Accessed January 14, 2010, 12:00 CST

3. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/01/14/white-house-robertson-remark-haiti-earthquake-utterly-stupid/

4. http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/151746/TV-preacher-Pat-Robertson-sparks-internet-fury-over-Haiti-earthquake-comments

5. http://indyposted.com/8969/pat-robertson-haiti-comments/

6. I note Aristide’s affiliation with the Christian God to highlight the paradox that your position reveals: If Aristide was God’s servant (as he must be to have been ordained), then God clearly had a hand in Aristide’s coming to power. AND, if God is all powerful, he could have easily defeated the devil’s curse on Haiti at this time. Indeed, why else would he have helped his servant come to power? The question, then, is why God allowed himself to be defeated. Truly a ponderous dilemma. I sincerely look forward to your answer to this conundrum.

7. Statement Regarding Pat Robertson's Comments on Haiti, available at http://www.cbn.com/about/pressrelease_patrobertson_haiti.aspx. Accessed January 14, 2010, 12:00 CST

5 comments:

FalkFamily January 16, 2010 at 10:43 PM  

Thank you for posting that. It was very well written and that gentleman deserves a standing ovation :)

tarzan January 16, 2010 at 10:53 PM  

Heather...... Thank you for posting this, I had not seen it before..... Yea! Mr. Boulanger! Thank YOU!

heather January 17, 2010 at 12:49 AM  

we have had our tv unplugged for a week or so. it's been refreshing. and it has also kept us from viewing a lot of the devastation and heartache in haiti. and kept me blissfully unaware of some of the hurtful things that have been said. this and unfortunately others.

when i finally heard about what pat robertson said, i was completely stunned. why would he say such things? how could he say such things? just completely unbelievable. i had no words.

a friend shared this letter on facebook. these are the words that i could not find. and are words far better than i could ever put together. i knew i had to share it.

i hope that i don't upset anyone by posting this, really. it is not my intention. i also know that we all make mistakes and say the wrong things at the wrong times. but this...i was in tears. and reposting the letter felt like the "right" thing to do. to bring awareness.

this is not what Jesus would do...

Sylv January 17, 2010 at 5:00 PM  

Letter to the Editor in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
It's a letter from Satan to Pat Robertson, I found it very reflective of my view of Pat Robertson:
Included in this diary at Daily Kos:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/1/15/825634/-Who-needs-journalists-when-LTEs-are-like-this!

Copy and paste if the link isn't active, the piece also contains a link to the original letter.

Anonymous,  January 17, 2010 at 6:55 PM  

The truth is that they did make a pact with the devil.

Now the significance you put on that pact I guess has to do with whether you believe the devil is real or not.

But it is one of Haiti's founding myths.

http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journals/small_axe/v009/9.2laroche.html

According to Haitian national history, the revolutionary war was launched on the eve of a religious ceremony at a place in the north called Bwa Kayiman (Bois Caiman, in French). At that ceremony on August 14, 1791, an African slave named Boukman sacrificed a pig, and both Kongo and Creole spirits descended to possess the bodies of the participants, encouraging them and fortifying them for the upcoming revolutionary war. Despite deep ambivalence on the part of intellectuals, Catholics, and the moneyed classes, Vodou has always been linked with militarism and the war of independence and, through it, the pride of national sovereignty.

So, yeah if there is a devil, Haiti made a pact with it. Might explain why even though Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island, the Dominican Republic has been far more successful.

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