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I just finished reading the article about the Americans who are charged with “kidnapping” Haitian children. After reading this article, I found some fundamental questions that I think are worth discussing.

1. How much is too much?

In terms of helping the poor/disaster victims, how much aid is too much aid? Is it possible to overstep your boundaries? Within this scenario, I believe that the Americans certainly stepped over the line. They acted very irresponsible by simply taking the children and not filling out any paper work or even making sure that the children were orphans. In many ways, there is a good chance they did more harm then good.

This makes me wonder how other forms of aid could actually hurt those who are in poverty.

2. Does the Haitian government have the right to govern itself at this point?

When a third world country faces a natural disaster, how much legitimacy does its government have? Should other countries be prepared to take over its adoption programs/law enforcement/ criminal trials? In many ways, I do not think Haiti is capable of governing itself without the aid of the United States/International organizations. In my opinion, the US should take charge of this recent “kidnapping allegation.”

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  1. Unknown User (bbarnes)

    I definitely agree with your 1st point Greg, about the Haitian children and how they are being adopted by people, without using the correct process. My family actually knows some one who did this. It is an assistant pastor at our old church, he and his family decided that they wanted to go to Haiti and help, they saw all the children that were in need and brought back two children, who's paternal guardians had died in the quake. This was very disturbing and shocking to me even though they were very young kids.

  2. Unknown User (ewirzba)

    Addressing question 1: I agree that it was way out of line for the Americans to try to take Haitian children! I feel that these people truly meant well, but were totally irrational and thoughtless. Just the fact that they were willing to completely uproot these children from their homes shows how irresponsible, and Western-oriented they are. By automatically assuming that the kids would rather be with complete strangers in a new land shows how little the Americans understand or value the Haitian way of life. The western lifestyle may not be the preferred choice for the entire world! It's true though, we need to look carefully at our actions, and determine if the aid we give is helping solve problems, or just a temporary patch-up that will prolong the issues. While we should definitely still contribute aid, we should do it thoughtfully. 

    1. Unknown User (jglass)

      I completely agree with all of the points that you made.  It is truly tragic how so many Westerners have such narrow perspectives of the world around us, making it difficult for them to truly help when a disaster strikes.  However, how should Americans approach the problems Haiti is facing right now?  I agree with others that we need to first understand Haitian culture in order to more adequately provide aid, however is there time to do this?  Most Westerners are oblivious to the Haitian lifestyle, myself included, therefore should we delay aid while we take the time learn more about their culture?  I'm not sure if there is really an answer to this question.  The way I see it, the people in Haiti need help now-- but are we really helping?  

  3. Unknown User (scrane)

    #2 I think this connects with the article "No One Wants Your Old Shoes". The Haitian Embassy is asking for donations of "stuff" not money, but our government and non-profit people seem to be recommending against that and mostly donate money. Who draws the line? Who knows best? Does a government know its people and their needs best, or does this government struggle with that? It seems like Preval is not as wise to the people's needs as Haiti's former President-, but do not Haitians know best? I do not have an answer, and I do think there are major government issues in play. 

    As to the kidnapping issue, this is HUGE after a natural disaster, and I am afraid that many children may fall prey to do-gooders overstepping or people preying on the vulnerable for personal gain.

  4. Unknown User (cmceniry)

    First of all, it's terrible that those children taken away. I do not condone that at all. I was actually planning on writing a comment condemning the inability of Americans to care about other cultures when I read this article.

    It's a pretty interesting opinion piece on intrusive aid- aid that ignores what the culture wants, providing instead what middle-class aid-givers deem appropriate. The writer proposes that Haiti is a progress-resistant culture, and only people who are willing to break that cultural barrier will actually be of any help. However, in order to prove this point, he uses the example of poverty here in America, which really demonstrates once again that Americans have a hard time understanding that things work differently elsewhere.

    I don't know enough about Haiti's culture to say what is well-supported in this argument and what isn't. But I do think that this goes back to the idea of situated knowledge and the whole feminist element of Peter's book. We are only able to gain knowledge from our perspective, and Haitians are only able to gain knowledge from their perspective. The hope would be that we would combine the knowledge to actually be able to progress together.

    1. Unknown User (larmstrong)

      Wow, Cortney. His cultural theorist perspective is somewhat shocking to me. But, as I think more about it, I still do wonder how Haitian culture plays a role in their impoverished state, if it plays a role. This is a question, however, that can rarely be addressed from a "Westerner's" perspective without being criticized as paternalistic. I wonder if there are any Haitian writers who have pursued this...I'll be looking!

    2. Unknown User (scrane)

      Cortney, what an article and perspective, like Laura wrote. I would like to read from some Haitian writers if we find anything!  Your last comment reminds me of something Beht Templeton mentioned on Friday and again yesterday at my United Ministries orientation: we all have certain "funds of knowledge" as she puts it, that are based upon our culture, our family, and our life experiences, among other things.  None of us have the same knowledge, though socioeconomic situations can largely determine some similarities.  I believe we have very different "funds" than the people of Haiti do, so that combining those could be a very beautiful thing. I think most importantly, tying back to some comments begun by Mallory on "Why Aren't Haitians Talking About Progress?", it is key to have Haitians as a part of discussions, if not leading them, about aid needed and rebuilding.  It will be interesting to see if this unfolds, or if the world takes a typical Western-led response to the situation and a repetition of the past ensues.

    3. Unknown User (mhull1473)

      I'd like to take a closer look at Brooks' comments about micro-aid; it really frustrates me when people condemn the efforts  as insufficient. It took centuries for many of the problems involving today's poverty to arise and develop and these problems are not going to be fixed over night. Even though giving one person in need aid may not seem to make much difference, it doesn't mean that changes are not being made. Things like this take time, and there has been great evidence as whole villages become even just a little bit more empowered when individuals are given the "insufficient" resources that prove to be exactly what they need. It just takes time, but if we continue with our little efforts hopefully things unjust will be made right. It is oftentimes those with the most power who have made the most damage upon our communities and countries, maybe it is time to start uplifting people from the bottom of the ranks; they generally know best what they need. It may still be under the surface, but I'd like to think that the "comprehensive change" that we so desperately need is already growing and evolving right beneath our noses with the encouragement of all our little efforts.

  5. Unknown User (tmendez)

    1. How much is too much?

    Greg, in response to your grievance: I agree that these Americans DEFINITELY went over their boundaries. Clearly, it was wrong of them to assume that it was their right to take the kids. The sad part is that these countries do not need a natural disaster for this to happen. It is a sad truth that there are MANY human trafficking rings coming out of the US and Europe that take people (all the way into their 30s) from Latin America and the Caribbean regions (and other places of course) and ship them all over as sex slaves. I know it may not be the same thing but it is reality that these postcolonial powers and their citizens think it their innate right to force themselves on the "twothirds" world. 

    We can see from many examples, like any country that was affected by the NAFTA agreement that sometimes the solutions that are found by the powers may not necessarily be in the best interest of those who they're trying to help. 

    2. Does the Haitian government have the right to govern itself at this point?

    When a third world country faces a natural disaster, how much legitimacy does its government have?: who determines what legitimacy another country's government has? 

     Should other countries be prepared to take over its adoption programs/law enforcement/ criminal trials?: To a certain extent I guess because it is in our interest as global citizens to want to see others thrive (or even survive).

     In many ways, I do not think Haiti is capable of governing itself without the aid of the United States/International organizations. In my opinion, the US should take charge of this recent “kidnapping allegation.” I do not think that their government is very capable of handling this disaster either simply due to the fact that many members on  the administrative levels in their departments and parliament members were killed in the earthquake as well. Why do you think the US should take charge of anything in particular? I think it should be a combined administrative effort of surviving Haitian officials and UN officials. Not just the US... 

    1. Unknown User (gnigro)


      I agree, it should not just be the US. I was just referring to us because we are the closest power. It should be a combined effort between all powers interested in helping the Haitian people.

      This being said, I guess what I am trying to get at is:

      As of today, does the Haitian government have the right/ability to overrule American/International organizations while in  Haiti? Does the Haitian government still have final say in all matters (considering the current state of its government/infrastructure).

      1. Unknown User (gnigro)

        Sorry Tabby, I did not see the first part of your question

        "Who determines what legitimacy another country's government has?"

        I believe (and please correct me if I wrong) that a country's legitimacy relates directly to public opinion. If the World does not believe a government is capable of adequately rulings its land, then it automatically forfeits its legitimacy.

        But this does raise an interesting point. I am not sure if I am correct.

        1. Unknown User (ewirzba)

          In my World Politics class we have been studying what makes a government legitimate. The book asks "by what right do some human beings rule over others?" Basically if the government is regarded as acceptable and proper, it is legitimate. Some believe that democracy is the only true form of legitimate government. There can be legitimate authoritarian regimes, if the people and citizens are in support of the government. All this to say, I think in the case of Haiti, the people probably do not have any faith in their government. I doubt that many people would claim Haiti's government to currently be legitimate. While other countries should be very careful when intervening in Haiti (especially making sure that Haiti's interests are the only ones that matter), if the Haitian people feel that foreign aid is useful and helpful, I imagine that foreign governments could be viewed as "legitimate." There also is a fine line between helping out and threatening sovereignty. In times of national crises, that may matter less to the citizens of Haiti... The foreign power just cannot assume that it will always know best, even after Haiti is rebuilt.

  6. Unknown User (rchildree2126)

    While its hard to find anything funny in Haiti considering the grave situation the country is currently in, the reaction of these missionaries was hilarious to me. According to a NY Times article published on February 4, one missionary said, "We didn't know what we were doing was illegal." I guess kidnapping doesn't constitute a breach of the law in the missionaries' minds. I wouldn't argue that what they did was wrong but it never will be considered legal. The only way I would consider what they did as wrong would be if they took the kids without their parents permission. Many of the parents gave the missionaries permission as their kids were promised a safe haven and education in the Dominican Republic. 

  7. Unknown User (mhull1473)

    I'd like to question the right that any other country should come in and take over control over Haiti. I firmly believe in others lending what aid they can upon a country in dire need, but to question the legitimacy of the Haitian government and to take matters into one's own hand is just plain disrespectful and likely not very productive for the long run. Even though Haiti was in bad shape even before the earthquake, I still do not believe that they have not lost the right to govern their own country. As corrupt and dysfunctional as the Haitian government may be, they still are equipped to run their own country. Please send aid and offer advice, but do not force them into following your ways. The US or any other country may believe that they could do a better job of running the country, but ultimately they will serve their own interests before those of another country. What the Haitian government needs to do in this time of disaster is to take a deep breath and figure out what needs to be done, delegate where necessary, but ultimately keep the power within themselves. What Haitians most need to do at this time is learn to trust a government worthy of trust. However, this will never happen if Haiti is never allowed to prove itself to its people. As horrible as this disaster may have been, it may be just what Haiti needs to finally begin improving its country.

    1. Unknown User (gnigro)

      "but to question the legitimacy of the Haitian government and to take matters into one's own hand is just plain disrespectful and likely not very productive for the long run."

      ...Anna, I do not think that questioning the legitimacy of a government is "disrespectful" The legitimacy of a government is supposed to be questioned.

      That being said, I don't think anyone meant any disrespect

      1. Unknown User (mhull1473)

        May be, but I can't imagine putting my trust into something that is always being questioned at every turn as the Haitian government has been questioned. In the long run, if the people cannot trust the Haitian government, how will the country ever become strong? Historically, Haiti has always been divided from within, with all of its uprisings and fights for power, but if the government was the one to finally bring positive change, maybe things would finally change for the better. I'm not saying that it does not need all the help it can receive, but ultimately I still think Haiti needs to keep charge of Haiti. There is a difference between questioning and challenging an institution and stripping it of its power. And very true, it could be accurately argued that Haiti has lost its chance to govern itself and it is time for others to step in and take over, but I return to my initial question, can a country ever be strong if it cannot trust the institutions and people who ultimately run it?

        Maybe I'm being idealistic and seeking to fix problems that are only secondary to other more pressing ones that must be dealt with first before we start worrying about the Haitian psyche... Lots of maybes...

  8. Unknown User (smire)

    I agree with Greg. The first step to fixing something, is stating the problem. Only through questioning the government will change happen. 

    1. Unknown User (bsmalls)

      Yes Arundhati Roy makes the same claim that the Constitution says we have the right to have...and that is freedom of speech that can help us against the government. If we feel like the governments is not doing something right, then we can speak out on it. I like that in this speech she highlights basically why so many countries hate us (even though it should be our government).

      So what kinds of ulterior motives do you think the US government could have in "aiding" Haiti?

  9. Unknown User (ewirzba)

    Brittany, that is such a scary question to be asking! And honestly, that thought hadn't really crossed my mind until I read your comment... But you have such a good point. I really hope that the U.S. doesn't have any ulterior motives, at least not consciously. I really think that they are purely acting out of good will. However, subconsciously there could be ulterior motives. Perhaps the U.S. wants to restructure Haiti's economy under neoliberal economic values so it can later benefit from free trade. This could end up being exploitative or a form of post-colonialism. The U.S. may also figure that Haiti will feel indebted towards the U.S. for all of the aid it distributed, so Haiti's foreign policy issues may align with the U.S.'s. All this to say, I highly doubt that anyone is thinking about "what can WE get from aiding Haiti" at this point in time. It is a national crisis! The comments I make are purely speculation. It is honestly hard coming up with ulterior motives that the U.S. may have in a situation as dire as Haiti's. Do you guys have any other ideas?

  10. Unknown User (rchildree2126)

    I think the U.S. has ulterior motives but I don't think we should immediately consider them "bad". I think the U.S. sees both a destitute country in desperate need of foreign aid and an opportunity to further U.S. interests in some way. For instance, due to the rampant damage caused by the earthquake, lots of clean-up and reconstruction will be needed. If the U.S. uses the role they played in providing foreign aid as leverage to make sure US contractors obtain these lucrative reconstruction contracts, I wouldn't consider it "bad" at all. The US provided aid and then is able to make money by providing an necessary service to the Haitian people. 

  11. Unknown User (bbarnes)

    question #2: I think that with the help of other world powers, the Haitian government should start to govern itself. No country has started off successfully by their selves and this is why i emphasize the fact that they do need the help of others. But eventually with in the next couple of years and after the initial shock of the quake has passed i believe that the Haitian government should start to govern itself and learn how to solve/prevent problems (the structure of the buildings) like this from occurring again. But like i said they would need help, and shouldn't start to govern themselves right away.