I woke this morning to American Sean Penn questioning the legitimacy of Haitian-American refugee Wyclef Jean’s bid for the presidency of Haiti. I was amazed. Mr. Penn, you invoked your American right to free speech in a manner inappropriate and unbecoming, in a situation which is as we say, “nunyabizness”. It seems that because Mr. Jean will “get a lot of support in the United States” that he is somehow unfit to be President of Haiti.
You fail to realize, Sean, that you are helpful in Haiti because you get a lot of support in and from the United States. President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation are helpful in Haiti because they receive a lot of support in the United States. Perhaps Mr. Jean having popular support in Haiti and the United States will benefit Haiti in similar fashion.
Mr. Jean has worked tirelessly on behalf of his homeland for many years. He was interested in its well-being before, I dare say, celebrities like you were, Mr. Penn. Your challenge, then, much like Wolf Blitzer’s arrogant interrogation on CNN, is based on something else. It’s okay for you and President Clinton to help Haiti, but not Mr. Jean? I have to wonder why.
Americans (like you) have a long and glorious history of “helping other countries and peoples.” Commodore Perry “helped” Japan in the mid-19th century join the western world. President Andrew Jackson “helped” the Cherokee explore the southwest. President Ronald Reagan “helped” Nicaragua, and Nixon “helped” Chile. All with the best of intentions, much like yours in speaking out against Wyclef running for President of his native land. Hell, President Bush “helped” the Iraqis to choose their current government (and Afghanistan, too, come to think about it).
Your work in Haiti and other countries has been commendable. But don’t think, like John Mayer, that simply by your presence you have a “pass” and that you are one of the people actually impacted by the election of the Haitian president. That is simply a blind white privilege that you don’t get to assert in this case. Whether Mr. Jean is worthy of running the country is something for Haitians to decide. Your claim that his foundation misappropriated funds, and he “needs to explain that first” is very Fox News (anti-American and undemocratic), because in these United States, we are not guilty just because a white man with a microphone casts aspersions. I am disappointed that this is the sheet from under which you speak.
You are a guest in Haiti, and should act as such. It is wonderful that you are helping, and I encourage you to continue. But first, you owe Wyclef Jean and your hosts an apology for speaking out of turn.