The jokes were obvious as soon as Sarah Palin announced she intended to visit this weekend. Haiti really can't catch a break, can it?But Sean Penn and John Edwards show up for photo ops and they're heroes. Palin does a good deed and she's ridiculed.
That's the gist of it, but there are variations. How could things in Haiti get any worse? Oh, I know, Sarah Palin!, an American friend quipped. Another friend, in the U.S., alluded to the flaming roadblocks that have peppered the city this week in the wake of the country's contested elections: Sarah Palin is headed your way. To the barricades!
The year 2010 has been absolute crap for Haiti, one in which the crises have mounted with near-hysterical acceleration. A 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed as many as 300,000 people and destroyed much of the capital. Then came hurricane season, exposing more than a million tent-dwellers to life-threatening torrents and winds. Then came cholera, which continues to kill Haitians with no access to clean water or decent sanitation. Then came corruption at the polls and a political crisis that this week brought the country to a standstill. Schools and shops are shuttered, aid workers are on lockdown, and, until this morning, few but the fearless and flack-jacketed dared go out.
And now comes Palin, threatening to grace this beleaguered country with an awesomely ill-timed, insultingly opportunistic visit. At this point, some might prefer a plague of locusts to Palin poverty porn. Well, not Franklin Graham, president of the evangelical relief organization, Samaritan's Purse, that wants to bring her here: "I believe Gov. Palin will be a great encouragement to the people of Haiti and to the organizations, both government and private, working so hard to provide desperately needed relief," he said about the visit.
It is hard to imagine Palin's presence encouraging anyone in this country. A quick canvassing of relief-worker friends indicates their most prevalent reaction is along the lines of "WTF?" Much more importantly, most Haitians have no idea who she is. Even my friend James Beltis, a political activist at the State University who lives in a tent on its grounds, had never heard of her. (I guess he hasn't seen "Sarah Palin's Alaska.") For James, Palin would be yet another middling celebrity alighting Haiti "to profit from our misery," he said.
As if this wasn't bad enough, it actually gets worse. As noted at the Free Republic, media outlets are reporting Palin brought her hair stylist on the trip with her. The only problem? It's her daughter Bristol.