Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July!

I will admit something to you, my loyal blog readers: my patriotism is at an all time high. This has something to do with whoever changed the name of the US Secretary of Defense on Wikipedia to Tim Howard after his stellar performance as goalie on Tuesday (thanks for the terrible present the week of our birthday, Belgium.) But it also has a lot to do with everything I have experienced this year.  

We take many, many things for granted in America. Anyone who has ever traveled to any 3rd world country will be quick to tell you that. But despite the occasional pork barrel project or Christmas tree bill, let’s go over some things that we (or at least I) take for granted that our government does for us.

1) Roads. In the USA, I can get to point A to point B on a paved road. If there is a pothole, I complain about it because it is an abnormality. In Port-au-Prince, there is a car-sized pothole on one road. Most roads aren’t paved. And those that are are not maintained.
2) Not only can I read, but almost everyone around me in the USA can. There are a few tragic exceptions to this in America, but I never quite realized how much I took for granted that everyone I associated with could read the words in front of them. This has provided difficulties for me in my work. Moreover, someone once posed me the question, can a true democracy exist if citizens cannot read? It is a question worth thinking about in a country where 53% of people are illiterate.  
3) Emergency services. Fire departments don’t exist in most of Haiti: if you have a fire, you better hope you have some good friends with some big buckets. The only functional ambulance I’ve seen in Leogane is owned by the mortuary, which seems like a definite conflict of interest to me. My personal favorite is a song from Karnaval that reminds us all that if you go to report a crime to the police, they will take care of it, as long as you give them “gas money.”
4) Social Safety Net. Say what you will about Obamacare or Welfare or Food Stamps or any other creation of the nanny state: it is terrifying to live in a country without a safety net. If you arrive at a hospital and are unconscious and alone, you might not be treated because they don’t know if you can pay. It is terrible to see severely malnourished children. It is trying to watch parents give their children up as orphans because they cannot feed them.
5) Effective courts. I have a friend here who is on his third try at trying to build a house because he has had two different contractors run away with over a thousand dollars each. And he has no way to prosecute them. 6) Staying out of electricity. I guess this one goes moreso to private industry for not letting the government handle it. But the State Electricity Company of Haiti can make electricity for about half of its paying customers at a time.

All in all, I am thankful to be an American, thankful to all of the people who helped us to establish and protect our freedom, and praying for everyone to someday know all of these freedoms.

I’ll see you in 10 days, America. Until then, there is quite a bit of adventure left to be had! 

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