I had the opportunity in 1983 and 1984 to visit Haiti. It had been ruled at that time by dictator-for-life, Jean-Claude Duvalier, nicknamed “Baby Doc” since 1971, when he took over from François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, his father. We were met at the airport by hundreds of Haitians going about their business and a bunch of machine gun toting Tonton Macoutes, the Haitian paramilitary force named after the Haitian bogeyman. We had to be careful about what we said and how we handled ourselves while around these men, who stood on street corners with dark sunglasses and machine guns. Haiti was and still is a third-world country. But just a couple of years before my visit, Baby Doc had spent approximately $3 million US on his wedding and lived a lavish lifestyle while his people died of disease, dysentery, and starvation.
I was shocked when he returned to Haiti in January to survey the damage after the horrendous earthquake rocked the area and he was greeted with shouts and heralds from the Haitian people. I wonder if they were willing to give him a second chance on ruling their nation after so much political upheaval. The courts were quick to arrest him and file formal charges in court for his punishment. So much for THAT second chance! After his arrest and formal charges, he was released on his own recognizance and told that he’ll have to appear again at some other time. I have to admit that I was very skeptical of Duvalier’s return. I wondered what he wanted and whether he was trying to get back into power.
I’m amazed that the Haitian people were willing to cheer a single cheer for Baby Doc after all the abuse they withstood. I found them to be beautiful people with beautiful hearts. They smiled all of the time. They were so happy in the midst of their poverty. They were willing to give up food to throw a huge feast for a group of American singers. The same people that did that gave up their grass mats so that we wouldn’t have to sleep on a wood floor.
If the abused Haitian people were willing to give their dictator another chance and Jesus was willing to give humanity another chance after we killed him, then why aren’t we willing to give those that hurt us a second chance as well?
Head on over to People of the Second Chance to read their next installment of Never Beyond.