It's true, I did it, and I'll tell you all about it, but first I want to address Pat Robertson. Much was made of his recent assertion that long ago Haitians made a deal with the devil to gain their freedom from the French--and that we are still paying for it to this day. Some say that Robertson only stated what many Haitians have often said themselves: that we are cursed. While it might be easy to give some validity to this theory since Well, even Haitians believe it!, let me make one teeny weeny correction to this train of thought.
While I have, over the years, heard plenty of Haitians say that we must be cursed, I defy anybody to find one Haitian who believes there is any comparison to be made between a pact with the devil, and the mythical ceremony that took place in the hills of Haiti. The one where runaway slaves made a plea to their African Vodou deities for help in vanquishing the cruel colonizers. Haitians look upon the gods and goddesses that make up the Vodou pantheon as God's helpers, not as devils.
Okay, now that that's over and done with, let's talk about being cursed. I do think we have been cursed, but not by the devil, and certainly not for being the first successful slave rebellion in the history of the world. We were cursed by the resentment of the then-defeated French, who levied a huge and burdensome tax against us for the simple reason that we whooped their ass; we were cursed by the fear of the nearby Americans, who, worried that their own slaves might also be inspired to revolt, placed a crippling economic embargo against us for close to 60 years. We have also been cursed with a long list of Haitian leaders who were greedy or mad or corrupt or woefully inefficient (or a combination of all of the above). And last but not least, we have been cursed with a tiny and powerful minority elite, who engage in benign neglect of their brothers and sisters' plight because, at the root level, they believe the "masses" to be inferior beings.
Okay, now that we know Haitians are cursed, why not consider making a pact with the devil for a little prosperity? We haven't given that a try yet, and hey, if the down sides aren't too deep, hell, we sure could use it! It's not that hard; I've done it before.
Selling one's soul isn't something that happens once in a great while, when someone receives an extraordinary visitation from Satan himself, who comes to take advantage of some terrible mess that needs fixing. We may not realize it, but we sell our souls to the devil every day. Each time we undermine our principles -- ka-ching! Whenever we lower our standards just a bar too low -- ka-ching! Every time we smile instead of expressing how we really feel -- ka-ching! Each time we look the other way -- ka-ching! goes the cash register. And what about humiliation? Repeated acceptance of the big H -- ka-ching! You know that catch phrase, "being in denial?" What do you think that really means? Ka-ching! Ka-ching! Ka-ching!
Fact is, we sell off little bits of our souls every day. And since the devil takes many shapes and identities, we're like scam artists who sell the same piece of land to different people. Problem is they all come collecting eventually. Whether we sell off little chunks of our souls or big chunks, doesn't matter. It's always at the below wholesale price. No matter how good the deal seems, you never get your money's worth.
Unfortunately, I have an excellent and all too recent example of selling my soul to the devil. Thanks to the crushing recession, my husband and I talked about turning the basement of our home-based Haitian art gallery into a studio apartment rental. The next day, as a friend and I chatted on the phone, I mentioned the idea, and he called a few hours later to say he had just the right person for us. "No!" I said. The place is not ready, there's no kitchen! Plus we're leaving the country in a week for a month-long trip (which, if possible, would have been canceled for financial reasons)." He insisted we should meet his friend; I said no. He called again the next day and insisted further; again, I said no. Another mutual friend called the following day and pressed the point too; next thing I knew, I was getting a call from the prospective tenant. Against my screaming gut instinct, I let her come see the place. She loved it and, in the face of our reticence, offered to pay several months up front. That certainly made my head spin--not as dramatically as Linda Blair's in The Exorcist, but close! And let me tell you that that horned, red creature sitting in the corner of the room suddenly seemed a pretty sort of pink. After all, this potential tenant seemed so sweet, so mellow; so cool with the unready status of the place. She said we could deal with all that upon our return, no problem. We said yes.
My husband and I got back on the day the earthquake happened in Haiti. Jetlagged, sick with a virus we both picked up, exhausted and emotionally drained from the wreckage in my country, we were met with a drastically transformed person. In our absence she'd become an impatient, foot-tapping, stressed-out tenant anxious to move in yesterday, if not sooner. It's been hell ever since for all concerned parties. Selling our souls. We do it every day. We just call it something else. On second thought, let's nix that idea of making a pact with the devil for Haitian prosperity.
In the interest of ending on a positive note, I'll tell you how I opted to resolve the recent sale of my soul (and persistent foot-tapping). After an hour-long meditation and a couple of yoga classes, I decided this was just a rough beginning with our tenant (after all, we are clueless landlords); that once all the wrinkles are ironed out, it will all work out just fine and harmony will reign. I believe that light can overcome darkness; that it takes work but the devil can be outsmarted. That's why I believe the rubble that is Haiti today will one day be a thriving, prosperous, ecologically rebuilt beacon of hope.