You know what hurts as much as America’s new mood of twitchy anxiety? We’re losing our habit of “good.”
The difference between America and a Cuba that jails an ill-and-innocent Alan Gross and an Iran that imprisons three obviously innocent hikers who strayed across their unmarked border has been narrowed by an official American act of such brutishness that I wish I could run full-page ads in the major newspapers of Haiti and Israel disassociating myself from this foul deed.
The drama begins with the earthquake in Haiti early last year that took 200,000 lives. Haiti’s salsa dance champion, Gheorghes Exantus, was pinned down for three whole days beneath the rubble of his apartment building. Friends found him and dug him out.
The world may have forgotten and the World Brotherhood of Jew-Haters is not likely to remind us, but little Israel had the best medical team in Haiti. The Israeli doctors and paramedics and the equipment they brought along made Haiti temporarily the most modern medical center south of the USA. That’s where they took Gheorghes.
It became inevitable his leg would have to be amputated below the knee; not the best news for a 28-year-old dancing champion. Gheorghes’s next stop was Israel, where Israeli medics and physio-therapists fitted him with a prosthesis and trained him how to walk, and even dance with it! Filmmaker Tamar Dressler produced a riveting video of Gheorghes’ rehabilitation with a title as great as the production itself: “Back On The Floor”! See the video here:
Mafia movies gave the phrase “an offer you can’t refuse” a sinister connotation, but next came an offer I don’t see how anybody could refuse. Gheorghes was invited to fly to New York for the early June “Salute To Israel” Parade, to dance on one of the floats during the parade and then give a performance at a Central Park concert. I often imagine being at a planning session prior to the parade and we’re all happily hugging each other over the magnificence of all this; and then the committee lady who never smiles says, “Wait a minute. He’s got to get an entry visa to America first.” I imagine all my Southern gallantry evaporating and laying into that woman and saying, “Lady, will you and your stupid negativity get out of here and take your wet blankets with you! How in the world could the State Department fail to give Gheorghes a visa?”
Guess what! She’d have been right! It wasn’t just that the American Embassy in Port-au-Prince denied him a visa. It was their piggish reason. They interviewed Gheorghes and then said they were “unsure of his ties to Haiti” and feared he “might try to remain in the United States”! I can understand doubting, for instance, George Soros’ ties to Haiti or Mel Gibson’s ties to Haiti, but Gheorghes Exantus is a native-born Haitian. He made no attempt to remain outside Haiti when he went to Israel for treatment. When you picture what’s going on along our border with Mexico, the fear that Gheorghes might not return from America to Haiti is a little like calling room service on the Titanic after it hit the iceberg and demanding they send somebody to your cabin to fix a leaky faucet.
At this point Buddy Macy, a palpitating human globule of that good old American “good,” briefed me. Buddy threw himself into the fight like a one-man cleanup-and-repair crew after the Embassy added its own little earthquake by denying Gheorghes a visa. The parade went by without Haiti’s salsa champion. Poor Buddy stood ready to pay anything, contact anybody, make any call, write any letter, be submissive to any idiot bureaucrat, anything to get Gheorghes a visa – and even though the epic opportunity of the “Salute To Israel” parade and the concert are bygone, Buddy is still exhausting himself trying to bring Gheorghes to America.
I always thought a call from a congressman supporting the visa request would apply a blowtorch to all the cobwebs and succeed. Again, wrong. A senator, Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, tried. He failed. That is beyond odd! All of Buddy’s pleas to former President Bill Clinton, allegedly a huge friend of Haiti, went unheeded.
Gheorghes himself, meanwhile, is as noble as the daffodil that sheds fragrance all over the heel that crushes it. He thanks Buddy in a charming blend of English and Creole for his efforts. No hard feelings, except maybe for mine.
I suspect this ham-handed blockage of awarding Israel such overwhelming, heart-warming mass-media attention originates in the Oval Office. And I’m the world’s foremost authority on my suspicions. You judge! Do you think the reason this heroic Haitian survivor with such a monster-payload of inspiration for everybody was denied a visa because America fears he’ll try to stay illegally? Or because Obama dared not let Israel harvest the tsunami of good will it clearly deserves?
A Haitian proverb teaches, “Sot pas touye, mais sot fait sue,” meaning, “Stupidity doesn’t kill, but it makes you sweat.”
So, that explains all those strange puddles from the Embassy to Hillary’s office to the White House!