Idolatry leads to voodoo economics

A WorldNetDaily columnist named Janet Folger has a rather peculiar view of history, and cites a rather peculiar source to back it up. Asserting that America is dedicated to God, she contrasts this country with Haiti, which, claims Folger, is "dedicated to Satan":

Why has God blessed us so richly? Get a glimpse into Western Hemisphere history from a 1789 snapshot:
* In 1789, our first president, George Washington, was sworn in. He immediately kissed his Bible and went to the Capitol for a two-hour worship service. While the ACLU has sandblasted for decades, they still can't erase the fact that our nation was dedicated to God, in whom our national motto declares, "we trust."

* In 1789, the single richest colony in the world was ... Haiti. The sugar-producing French colony was called "the jewel of the Caribbean." Import and export profits of Haiti exceeded those of the entire United States. Then, following a bloody riot, Haiti was dedicated to voodoo.

So America was dedicated to God, and Haiti was dedicated to Satan. Then, rag-tag America conquered the most powerful nation in the world and went on to become the richest nation in the world. Haiti went from the very richest to the very poorest nation in the world.
Sure enough, the link Folger cites does reflect the sentiments of her claims:
In the 18th century Haiti, then called Saint-Domingue and ruled by the French, was the most prosperous colony in the New World. Its enormously fertile soil produced a great abundance of crops and drew thousands of White French settlers. Unfortunately, Black slaves from Africa were imported to help with the work.

In the late 1700's the madness of the French Revolution, with its truly nutty doctrine of racial equality, infected many Frenchmen, and the Black plantation workers were encouraged to revolt. When they did they brutally murdered every White man, woman, and child in the colony and declared Haiti a republic. What had been the richest and most productive part of the New World promptly sank back to an African level of squalor, misery, and poverty. The roads and cities built by the French fell into ruin. A peculiarly African mixture of anarchy and despotism took the place of French law and order.

What is not being pointed out is that this wealth was all based on coffee and sugar production -- which ("unfortunately" or not) demanded hundreds of thousands of slaves to produce:
Saint-Domingue became known as the "Pearl of the Antilles" -- one of the richest colonies in the 18th century French empire. By the 1780s, Saint-Domingue produced about 40 percent of all the sugar and 60 percent of all the coffee consumed in Europe. This single colony, roughly the size of Maryland or Belgium, produced more sugar and coffee than all of Britain's West Indian colonies combined.

The labor for these plantations was provided by an estimated 790,000 African slaves (accounting in 1783-1791 for a third of the entire Atlantic slave trade). Between 1764 and 1771, the average importation of slaves varied between 10,000-15,000, by 1786 about 28,000 and, from 1787 onward, the colony received more than 40,000 slaves a year. However, the inability to maintain slave numbers without constant resupply from Africa meant the slave population, by 1789, totaled 500,000, ruled over by a white population that, by 1789, numbered only 32,000.

This was a vast slave labor plantation run by the French. Is voodoo to blame for the fact that the French Revolution led to a horrific slave uprising? Wouldn't it be more logical to blame France, which established the slave plantation of Saint Domingue on the western portion of what had been a Spanish run island? (The eastern portion is today called the Dominican Republic, and its economy is by any standard vastly superior to that of Haiti.)

The site relied on by Ms. Folger discusses the anarchy and despotism, the years of United States intervention in Haiti culminating with Bill Clinton's 1994 assistance of Aristide:

Why can't we accept the plain and simple truth that it is as impossible to make democrats out of the Haitians as it is to teach them how to maintain their own roads? Why can't we understand that the Haitians are fundamentally different from us, that they are Africans, not Europeans like us: that they are Negroes, and that left to themselves they must do things in the way Negroes always have done them, with indolence, corruption, and Voodoo?
Negroes? Really? I'm tempted to ask why that statement doesn't apply to 90% black Santo Domingo, which is next door, with its far-superior economy, established tourist industry, and large baseball infrastructure supplying many players for the United States, but I have a feeling the authors might not bother to reply. The piece (which ends with a glorious Aryan picture link to the "National Vanguard" web site that I won't link) concludes that modern scholars would never "write honestly about Haiti," and that voodoo is bizarre and disgusting, and resembles political correctness: would be hard pressed to find a scholar from any university in America or Britain today who would have the courage to write honestly about Haiti, because he knows that if he did he would be condemned as a "racist" by a numerous and noisy faction of his colleagues and would be drummed out of the academy. And even if someone did write a book with observations and conclusions similar to Prichard's, no mainstream publisher would touch it. That's how far downhill our civilization has slid in a century.

The Haitians have their Voodoo, with all of its disgusting and bizarre beliefs and practices. And we have our cult of Political Correctness, our cult of egalitarianism. It is a cult based as much on superstition and as devoid of reason and logic as the Voodoo of the Haitians. And it exercises as strong a hold on its adherents. A Haitian would as soon offend a Voodoo witch doctor and risk having a curse put on himself as one of our modern scholars would risk being labeled a "racist!"

Look, I don't like political correctness either, and I am not about to praise Haiti or the Haitian government, but is voodoo really the problem that this article says it is? As to the fear of being called racist, well, what does it mean to declare that because Haitians are "Negroes" if they are "left to themselves they must do things in the way Negroes always have done them, with indolence, corruption, and Voodoo"?

I think the above is an appallingly racist statement. If that makes me "politically correct," well, maybe I need to reexamine some of my assumptions about the phrase.

There's no denying that Haiti has had many problems in its long and turbulent history. And certainly, Haiti is known for the fact that voodoo is practiced by many of its citizens. But voodoo is also practiced in the Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Bermuda, and New Orleans, and doesn't seem to have caused the economic downfall of any of those places. Unless of course Hurricane Katrina is "God's punishment" for voodoo too!

(Maybe I shouldn't be posing such questions, but I'm trying to inject a little humor into a serious subject.)

Voodoo, by the way, is called Vodun, and its practitioners consider the word "voodoo" to be a misnomer, and a description of "an evil, imaginary religion" "created for Hollywood movies." I'm using it purely as a descriptor because the word is in common usage. What I cannot find anywhere is an explanation of how "Voodoo" or "Vodun" (or whatever people might call it) is "Satanic" or that it is any more responsible for economic failure in Haiti than the race of the people living there.

Might it be that this reflects the personal prejudice of the writer? Returning to Janet Folger, she is not only intolerant of Voodoo, but in the same piece she also seems quite convinced that the United States is threatened by Hinduism. Among the incidents Folger relies on to support her claim that Christians are being persecuted in the United States involves the fact that a Hindu from Reno Nevada offered a prayer in the Senate:

Rajan Zed, director of interfaith relations at a Hindu temple in Reno, Nev., preparing to pray when a clear, loud voice came from the Senate gallery.

"Lord Jesus, forgive us, Father, for allowing the prayer of the wicked, which is an abomination in your sight," said a male protester.

The Senate's sergeant at arms was instructed to restore order, but Zed was interrupted again.

"You shall have no other gods before you. ... "

They were arrested for disrupting Congress, which they clearly were.

Can anyone explain to me how this constitutes religious persecution? I can't. But this writer for WorldNetDaily relied on by Janet Folger says they were "arrested and jailed for praying Christian prayers aloud in the Senate gallery that same day."

What they were arrested for was disrupting the Senate, not praying. Apparently, the Senate has prayers led by Christians, as well as various Jews, and Muslims -- some of whom may love or hate various things. I do not doubt that if I went in there and yelled "Lord Jesus, forgive us, Father, for allowing the prayer of the wicked, which is an abomination in your sight," I'd be arrested too.

So, I hope, would an Islamist who yelled "BEHEAD THOSE WHO INSULT THE PROPHET!"

Does disruptive speech become protected speech simply because it is religiously motivated, or takes the form of prayer?

Ms. Folger thinks so, and she invokes the Haitians again. It's the voodoo:

"God is not fond of idolatry. Ask the people of Haiti."
Well, considering that Roman Catholicism is the official state religion in Haiti, and the United States has no official state religion, I wouldn't know where to begin.

Would it be too blasphemous to offer the Haitians some lessons in Hindu economics?

MORE: Here's a YouTube video of the Senate's "persecution of Christians."

MORE: Did Zed actually commit "the sin of idolatry, right there in public, violating the first of God's Ten Commandments with full government permission?" The text of his prayer is here, and the idolatry part just isn't staring at me.

posted by Eric on 08.28.07 at 07:41 PM


Ah, Haiti! The *other* place where Wilsonianism would fail that everyone forgets about, and one of the object lessons in humility for the US. It is the one place where we did, indeed, try our hand at COIN and failed, miserably. Very few like to talk about the failure of the US there from 1915-34 but it is one of the lessons that must be learned in how NOT to do such things. Mind you we had done it right in the Philippines, so it was something else going on with it...

Of course we would then re-repeat our inabilities some decades later with President Clinton and John Murtha's perfect war in which he was more than willing to write a blank check for it. But then learning from our mistakes overseas is not a highlight of the American political class.

ajacksonian   ·  August 28, 2007 8:49 PM

I was active in the Republican party from 1964, when I worked for Senator Goldwater's presidential campaign, up until 1982. Between 1972 and 1980 I was on the executive committee of the county party in Portland, Oregon, president of the College Republicans and chairman of the political union at my university, worked as a full-time political campaign employee and served as a delegate to the state party convention. I had helped fight off vitamin selling evangelicals for more than a decade. By the time I decided to retire from active politics, the Religious Right had gained unquestioned authority in the Republican Party of Oregon.

Usually, I have no problem with people of faith. This article rubbed sore a scar that has healed. Your reference to "link Folger cites" was an eye-popping revisit to the kind of crazy white women that are so prevalent in today's Republican party.

Churches have an advantage. Schools have an advantage. They proselytize. For school kids it's M-F during the school year. For the devout, especially evangelicals, it's at least once a week...usually more. It's a frightening imbalance.


Anonymous   ·  August 29, 2007 12:57 AM

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