tonton macoute, walking disaster

For maximum effect, one must employ the curious American pronunciation: Ghaundi; as in aunt.

As in gaudy. Bauble. And balls.

Without the faintest trace of irony. Like a line from a popular sit-com. Canned laughter and a tightly cropped close-up on a kooky, lopsided smile to camera. As she pulls on what resembles a perfectly sealed spliff.

For her part, we are informed, she was the self-proclaimed \”witch\”; a voodoo fixer with all the right stars in ascendancy. Fashioning a stripe. Presumably, this anecdotal scrying predated events in Iowa, down the road a piece.

Or so I gather from Peter Stothard\’s \’book of the week\’ review of \”Peace of a Lifetime: How Obama Won the White House\”, a collaboration between Mark Halperin and John Heilemann documenting the campaign which ultimately returned a result set in motion decades earlier with those reforms pursued by the Civil Rights Movement.

Rewind half a century.

Papa Doc Duvalier – poised on securing presidency in Haiti on the back of a populist noiriste strategy, born out of the négritude (black pride) movement first popularized by mentor, Dr. Jean Price-Mars – consults a Vodou priestess in the slums of Port-au-Prince . She spreads out a tangle of chicken feet and deludes herself of grand design.

\”Papa Doc,\” she says. \”President Duvalier. There is no mistake; make no bones about it.\”

The squat little man stands with hands folded behind his back. His mouth a trembling slit. A mosquito fastens itself to a mole on his neck. Milking a teat.

\”The mulatto twitch and see only fear. The Haitians revere you as Ghaundi…\” Donna DeCesare analyzed the Haitian predicament thus, in 2000:

\”…the transition to democracy at the end of the millennium with anxiety over violent crime exacerbating perpetual third world miseries… from the ousting of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986 through the long and violent backlash against those struggling for democratic rule… has worn people out.

The murder rate for young men remains high, but in the late 90s the body count is seldom politically motivated. Homicide is most often the work of vigilantes, angry mobs or criminal gangs. Persistent corruption and economic recession have eroded faith in political leaders.\”

Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince, is routinely described by the UN as \”the most dangerous place on Earth\”. On a good day. This most recent natural disaster, Haiti\’s most severe in over two centuries, might justifiably be construed as insult to injury; the coup de grâce delivered without mercy or conception of fair play. The shortest straw yet in a fistful of consecutive ill blessings.

Bad juju. A vodou harvest of rubble and dust.

photographs: (top) anonymous; (bottom) \”children in cité soleil\”, donna decesare. DRUMMERS OF THE SOCITÉ ABSOLUMENT GUININ: MAS KARON from \”Voodoo Drums\” 2 x LP (Universal Sound) 2001 (Haiti)


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