The Métropolitain

Dévastation

Par Beryl Wajsman le 11 février 2010

La tragédie de l’Haïti continue à se déferler dans son ensemble. Les leçons qu’elle nous enseigne au quotidien vont au cœur de notre particularité. Si elle aura quelconque testament durable, ce sera de nous rappeler ce que signifie être humain.
A story in scripture tells of two men. One, cool and detached, always involved in his own affairs looking for ways to accumulate wealth and power. The other, emotional and engaged, constantly involved in the actions and passions of his time. They had known each other many years. Upon meeting after a long absence the former said to the latter, “Why are you so angry? Why do you care so much?” The latter replied, “Because I am human. That is what humans do.”
Plusieurs se sont émerveillés à l’effusion remarquable de bénévoles et aux collectes de fonds qui ont eu lieu. Est-ce bien qu'ils soient émerveillés? Nous devrions toujours être étonnés par les rencontres heureuses avec notre humanité quand elles surgissent.
In 1918, a young André Malraux was approached by a joyous friend of his father’s who invited him to come and celebrate the Armistice that ended the First World War. Malraux, the man who would pen the immortal “Man’s Fate” and “The Human Condition”, went with the family friend to the celebration. He wrote in his diary that night that as he looked around the merriment he felt strangely disconnected. While all around him were laughing and clinking glasses his thoughts turned ashen. They turned to the fields of war where the bodies of many of his friends lay. They turned to the loss of innocence. They turned to the loss of hope.
 Malraux wrote that he felt his legs giving way under him as he saw the smiling faces that he described as looking like skeletons locked in final agony. He wrote that while others danced lithely around the floor, he felt as though “the earth had been ploughed from under him.”
What better epitaph for the month that was. The earth was ploughed out from under us. Physically for Haitians, spiritually for us all.
The hunt for reason and comfort began. People rushed to houses of faith, to at least test the bonds of friendship. They tried to suppress their fear, and eagerly sought fortitude. Some succeeded, some did not.
These are truly days of awe. They are beyond comprehension. If our faith is to have any meaning, it must be through a manifestation of action. When Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we commemorated this week, spoke of unearned suffering being redemptive, it can only be redemptive through our sacrifice and service. This is a time to dare to care. This is a time to give.
Devant certaines crises, nous ne sommes pas toujours certains de la façon qu’il faut agir. Cette fois-ci c’est évident. Ceux parmi nous qui sont venus à la maturité politique durant les années soixante et soixante-dix ont su instinctivement combattre les pharaons de la haine. Personne n’a jamais vraiment appris comment combattre les conséquences du destin. Nous le savons maintenant. Dare to care.
Plusieurs, même ici dans cette ville, ont perdu plus que peut être imaginé. Une jeune femme remarquable nommée Dominique Anglade a perdu ses parents et avec un courage et une élégance extraordinaires a dit qu'elle était sereine car « ils sont morts en faisant ce qu'ils croient. » Si nous croyons en nous-mêmes, nous devons nous tenir avec ceux qui ont perdu. =
That is the true faith. The commonality of our pain. What Aeschylus called the pain “that falls drop by drop upon the heart until through the awful grace of God we attain wisdom.” And we must understand that wisdom viscerally. Alone we are nothing. Together, in the brotherhood of man, we can tear down any walls of suffering and resistance.
Together we can cross over the mountaintop. We can realize the dream of Reverend King that we as a people…as the family of man…will get there.
We have been witness to the highest forms of charity. The kind given with not a possibility of reward nor recompense from those receiving. The kind where we give until it hurts. We are helping the damned of the earth. If we have met the test of charity, there awaits yet another challenge. The test of compassion.
Remembering that in helping a fellow soul one should not calculate political or economic ramifications in the future. For with each rescued spirit, we have saved an entire world.
In facing that challenge we were gratified to hear of the decision by the Quebec government to broaden the definition of “family” for the purpose of rescue and reunification. We were also glad to hear that the paper trail of process would be speeded up in both Ottawa and Quebec.
There had been some talk that the definition of family would be narrow and linear. Grandparents, parents, children. But family means more than that. Family means who cares about you. Excluding uncles and aunts, cousins, brothers and sisters in law would not meet the challenge of compassion. We are a large enough and rich enough society to accommodate more.
C’est également encourageant de voir que le débat continu sur la démographie sociale au Québec a été apaisé pour l’instant. Nous ne regardons pas les rescapés en termes d’anglophone ou de francophone, de noir ou de blanc. Simplement comme des personnes. C’est à peu près temps.
The question of the smallest victims also arose recently. There was some talk that adoptions would be halted so as not to encourage child trafficking. That seemed to be a pretty far reach. Haiti already had the highest percentage of orphans in the Western Hemisphere. Fully five per cent of its population. The orphanages have been mostly destroyed and there is little or no room to accommodate the new orphans to add to the 500,000 that were there.
Le Québec a annoncé qu'il, en fin de compte, ne restreindrait pas les adoptions mais plutôt accéléra le processus. Cela aussi est bien.
Perhaps we as a society can look at ourselves through the prism of Haiti’s tragedy. Perhaps we will finally be grateful for what we have built and put aside petty squabbles. Perhaps we can treat each other with understanding, forgiveness and forbearance. That will be the true test of meeting the challenge of compassion. It will be the greatest living legacy and the greatest tribute to the suffering of the victims we are helping.
Maybe, just maybe, we are becoming more human.