Crisis in Haiti

Rex Murphy shares his perspective on the recent earthquake in Haiti

Read the Transcript of this Point of View

January 14, 2010

Haiti today is a scene of desolation that strains to the very edge of apocalypse. The scale of death, injury, grief and suffering surpasses all effort to frame it in our understanding or sensibility. I do not know how we take in calamity in which the numbers of the dead spiral upward to a hundred thousand – possibly even many more – and I speak that from our position as Canadians, who are, save for those who are themselves from, or have relatives in, that desolated nation … if I may … mere witnesses.

Trying to conceive how it must be for Haitians themselves - despite all we have seen, read, heard and watched in the last two days, exhausts the mind. Haiti is a small place, so the sweep of the destruction, massive and instantaneous, was both magnified and concentrated. There will not be, there cannot be, a single person there, not a single one – man, woman, or child – whose mind and soul will not carry unspeakable burdens of shock and grief from this time forward.

I know the marks left by Ocean Ranger disaster almost three decades ago in Newfoundland, how it darkened an entire province and piercingly echoes even today.

Haiti’s tragedy is exponentially more vast, and magnified by that sad country’s extreme poverty. Poverty colludes with tragedy. Those with the least to begin with always suffer more sharply - they suffer longer, they suffer with less hope, and with lesser grounds for hope, than others. Haitians are today saturated with unbearable loss and misery.

The only comparison to Haiti’s situation is the bleakly obvious one of the Christmas tsunami, with its 300 thousand dead and millions displaced, and it is perhaps from that parallel that we can draw a single flare – I will not say of optimism – but of luminous example. People or every almost country in the world responded to that epic disaster with superb readiness, and openness of heart and wallet. A world so frequently angry and mean, saw and felt real need, and gave and volunteered with an almost wondrous immediacy. It cannot be but that Haiti and Haitians will be the centre of a equal effort.

That will not redeem the misery and grief of Haiti – but it will be one stream of light in a time of what must otherwise seem complete gloom and darkness for the people of a tormented and weeping nation.

For the National, I’m Rex Murphy.