In chapter eight of Create Dangerously, “Another Country,” Edwidge Danticat writes about natural disaster and about how many residents of the developed world so frequently associate such disaster with the developing world. Of course, the developed world also sees its fair share of natural disasters, but those images of “the aftermath” we hold in our minds—devastated villages, suffering refugees—are almost always associated with “poorer” countries than ours. But then there’s Hurricane Katrina.
In watching television coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Danticat—who is Haitian American—finds it troubling how so many journalists and news broadcasters talk about how foreign the suffering in New Orleans is, how “if you turned the sound down on your television, if you didn’t know where you were, you might think it was Haiti or maybe one of those African countries” (quote from CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien, p. 109). Danticat writes in response:
It’s hard for those of us who are from places like Freetown or Port-au-Prince, and those of us who are immigrants who still have relatives living in places like Freetown or Port-au-Prince, not to wonder why the so-called developed world needs so desperately to distance itself from us, especially at times when an unimaginable disaster shows exactly how much alike we are.
I find Danticat’s assertion that poorer people—no matter where they live—function as outcasts within their own country to be powerful in its honesty. I like to think that many people living in a city like Philadelphia or New Orleans may be a little more attuned to the imbalances of wealth—and to the crushing poverty in which so many people still live in our “developed” country—than the average viewer of Hurricane Katrina TV coverage who may not see or experience such issues in his or her daily life. But I do think that many living in the developed world still have the instinctual thought of: “That couldn’t happen here,” the instinctual association of poverty and tragedy and disaster with some far off country. Why do you think this is?
What did you take away from “Another Country”? Share your thoughts in the comments!