Haiti is not what you say, Mr. Tèt-Mato*

Boston-based Haitian writer Tontongi (left) responds to Donald Trump: “Haiti is not what you say, Mr. Tèt-Mato; Haiti is the country of the once enslaved who dared to resist oppression...”

Haiti is the island nation born
from the cross-Atlantic blood
of people sold to the Traders.

Haiti actualizes the meaning
of both being and living
and has invented a new path
to freedom and a new way
to detect its perversion
even in the dark of the night.

Haitians shed blood for the United States
on the battlefield of Savannah
these valorous fighters held the lines
against British onslaught
to save the birth of the Republic
and help this nation into being.

Haiti is the country that stood
to her own peril and harm
against almighty France,
Spain, and England
over the inalienability of being.

Haiti is the foundation of our modernity,
Haiti is the unsung mother of Latin America;
Haiti is where Francisco de Miranda and Simon Bolivar
came to acquire the fervor of brotherhood
and resources to liberate their lands.

Haiti has made hers
countless other countries’ causes
for human freedom and independence,
the most Hellenic nation of Greece among them.

Haiti is not what you say, Mr. Tèt-Mato;
Haiti is the country of the once enslaved
who dared to resist oppression
and whose bravura in defeating Napoleon’s forces
compelled him to sell the Louisiana territories,
doubling the size of US possessions of the time;
a favor that is now honored with insults.

Haiti is the land of the arts
where writers, poets, storytellers,
musicians, painters, sculptors wrought
the infinitesimal inner souls of our Universe.

Haiti is among the richest countries in the world
by measure of intellectual and philosophical
achievement of her people’s genius
and for the beauty of this mountainous land
despite the human-made pollution aided and abetted
by U.S. support of corrupt dictators.

Haiti is not what you say, Mr. Tèt-Mato;
Haiti has sent to North America’s shores
thousands of doctors, researchers, intellectuals
and teachers who instill values
that enliven and enrich the children’s fortitude;
some of her migrants scrub your floors
and take care of your sick and feeble;
Haiti has been good to the United States.

Haiti is the country forced to pay
in billions of French francs
and National City Bank bonds
for having won her freedom;
the people’s sweat was made
to sweeten many a Western high life
while the first Black republic
languished in impoverishing debt.

This descent into the abyss of darkness,
the degrading remarks that demean
hurt like a sword that penetrates the heart;
we shall not mince words; we shall see it plain,
naked in its nature, representing a deeper ill,
a more widely-shared sentiment.

The menace of hate coming from the voice
of the highest symbol of U.S. power
today targets the Haitians
today targets the Africans
today targets the Muslims
today targets the Mexicans
today targets the Salvadorans
today targets the Iranians
today targets the Palestinians
is the same that targeted the Jews,
the Socialists, the Communists,
the Gypsies, the Homosexuals.
the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the mentally
and physically handicapped,
and we know what happened then.
The menace will tomorrow target you
and all people who don’t look Norwegian…**

O Africa! Cradle of the civilization
of men and women inventing humanity!
O Africa! The land of the Mandé Charter
where human rights were first made sacred
on a day in thirteenth-century Mali,
today demeaned by a knuckle-head!

The immigrants come to the land of immigrants
where Christian pilgrims, vagabonds, ex-cons,
persecuted of all stripes come to find refuge;
the land where defeated Ottoman subjects,
and pre-Nazi German nationals
came to become rich,
some leaving behind the values
of common human bonds;
the land where Jews, Christians, Muslims,
Buddhists, Taoists, Vodouists,
Irish, Japanese, Somalians,
and all kinds of disadvantaged
come to find their peace
although not always in welcoming fuss.

You have no right to deny others
that which serves your family well
and makes you a successful,
arrogant nouveau riche;
you have no right, however large
your ill-acquired fortune may be,
to debase whole continents of diverse nations;
you are a disgrace to mankind.

What we are seeing today
and experiencing in real time
is no longer an innocent joke
when real men, women, and children
are paying the heaviest price.
We must take to the streets
the fight for human integrity,
if we want to hold on to our dreams;
the tragic comedy already lasts too long.

A lone white supremacist at the White House
I would dismiss without much ado, but a system
that lets a lunatic destroy its ideals, my friend,
this is the problem we all should condemn.

I hold the whole system of government,
endowed to foster harmony and well-being
and to guide our children to higher pursuit,
responsible for letting this barbarian into the gate.
It’s time to stop the power of greed
and the corruption of our institutions!

The world will never forget
this affront to human decency,
nor will the masses of the United States
forgive endurance of such shame.

Haiti is not what you say;
Your Haiti is a reflection
of your twisted phantasms;
our Haiti is the guardian of our light
that which makes us all human;
your Haiti is a black hole
ours is a Deleuzian structure
a place where many dimensions join
in the pursuit of elevation
a place where many splendors coalesce.

Tontongi is the editor of the journal Tanbou. Written in Boston on Jan. 13, 2018.

* This poem was written in response to Donald Trump’s insults in calling Haiti and the whole continent of Africa “shithole countries.” The term “Tèt-Mato” means “Hammer-Head” in Haitian Creole and generally refers to a dabbler, a crude person.
** An allusion to Donald Trump’s remark that only people from countries like Norway should be allowed to immigrate to the United States.
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