I just got this note from Robert Tabor who wrote the post over at 538, which we're discussing below:
Thanks for highlighting my article on the Atlantic. I thought I would pass along some clarifying comments: Pat Robertson spewed a very offensive view of Haiti and its people. I'd be one of the last people to suggest, never mind state, that Haiti only became independent through a pact with the devil. My point was that this is a oral tradition in Haiti that resonates with many people down there and within the Haitian-American community.
Most likely Robertson heard the story from someone who had spent time in Haiti or knew
someone who had and it got mixed in with his own theology of vindication. Whether it was a religious ceremony with an African basis or not (most historians agree that it was) is immaterial to the fact that much of the West has treated Haiti horribly since it got its independence, a point I made in the second half of my article. And yes, I recast the last part of the quote in the most favorable light imaginable--hence, "most generous reading", taking into account that Robertson was also calling for people to donate to aid agencies to assist in the rebuilding.
I think a couple of things:
1.) Good on Robert Tabor for responding, writing and agreeing to have his thoughts printed. It's a stand-up thing to do. Please keep that in mind as you respond.
2.) As I told Robert, and I think as was clear in the thread, I certainly do not object to anything that helps clarify the history and origins of Haiti. It's important to understand. Pat Robertson's ugliness aside, I think, as one commenter said, the good thing is we've all been a little enlightened here.
3.) I think headlines are killer. What really got me, and perhaps too much, was the idea that the history--while very important--offered any kind of defense of Robertson. Suffice to say, I still believe that, and I still stand by my point about the generous reading.
4.) That said, I am sympathetic to Robert on one point. Sometimes, taking for granted that we're writing in a center-left space, we don't always clarify where we are. I think Robert might say that the offensiveness of Robertson's comments were obvious to all of us, and belaboring it feels like we're belabors a given. This is something that I've struggled with myself. (Do I really have to say--again--that I'm against the drug war?) Certain things feel like accepted truths, and restating them doesn't allow you to get to the interesting juice. That said, I think, readers don't always know where the writer is coming from, and assumptions are made.
Anyway, I am grateful for the response from soon-to-be Dr. Tabor. As I said, good on him.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.