“Update about My Forthcoming Book on Jean-Bertrand Aristide”

“Update about My Forthcoming Book on Jean-Bertrand Aristide”

My publisher (Fortress Academic) just informed me that my book on Jean-Bertrand Aristide (“Aristide: A Political and Theological Introduction”) will not be published as an e-book unless I can get permission from Aristide himself. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to get a hold of Aristide and a reply from him. She noted that my book will be published as a hardcover, then as a paperback in two years. I do not know the publication date yet. I will let you know when the publisher tells me.

When we contacted the French publisher, Editions du Seuil, that published the original texts of Aristide in question, the editor informed us that Editions du Seuil does not have the legal rights to give permission to republish electronically excerpts from Aristide’s texts in my new book. (It is actually one book: Dignité, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Christophe Wargny, Editions du Seuil, 1994; English translation: Dignity. Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1996). Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press). The legal right of this particular text is reserved to the author: Dr. Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

***I received this response after a three-month process of going back and forth requesting permission from publishers to reprint materials in my forthcoming book on Aristide. Interestingly, I finished writing the first draft of this intellectual biography (“Aristide: A Political and Theological Introduction”) on Aristide four years ago.

“The Eiffel in the Night”

“The Eiffel in the Night”

I am extremely bored in this very long 9-hour plane ride to Miami from Lisbon, Portugal. Thus, I watched for the 23rd time, “The Lord of the Rings.” 😂 😂 😂

I was reflecting upon my recent trip to Paris and its intellectual traditions, great literature, and the great monuments, museums, and treasures (Le Louvre, Palace of Versailles, Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame Church, Arc de Triomphe, La Seine River, etc), as well as the great civilization and humanist ideals imperial France had built over the many centuries and its ambivalent connections with the TransAtlantic slave trade, Africa, and the Black world, especially my native land of Haiti. Hence, I wrote a new poem and called this song of love, alienation, and lament “The Eiffel in the Night.”

“The Eiffel in the Night”

We are the Eiffel of the night.
Gesturing the body in Black to the beat of Senegal drum,
floating desires in a Parisian night club: the incense of Black joy.
To the gaze of the great Black Kings of the Nile,
to create a new beginning in the West.
The pyramids above, from the land of Kemet,
paved the way for the Louvre of glory.
Drops of Black blood in the Seine River enlighten the City of Light.

We are the Eiffel of the night.
Black beauty and love from the womb of the magical city of Ifẹ̀,
the movements of African spirits caress the Tower at night.
Sugar of delight nourished life in the city for centuries.
From slave plantations of the New World, Ayiti freedom in Black gave a speech about dignity and life in the dark.
The breathe of Black ancestors haunted the City of Light.

We are the Eiffel of the night.
The rainbow of the Tower calmed our wounded love.
We fashioned with our Black hands and strength this Eiffel in the night.
Through silent words, many days of no love speech, we became wanderers in the city,
and the wonder of love on a Parisian night.
You and I, the Tower of light and of joy, will create a new palace where love will reign as King and Queen in the city of “Sun King.”

“In the Hills of Lisbon”

“In the Hills of Lisbon”

Lisbon is a city of hills. I wrote this poem while in the airplane–on my way back home from Lisbon. I was inspired by the beauty, the Tagus River, the Sintra Palace, the old monuments, and the sightseeing of the old city of Lisbon. I called the poem “In the Hills of Lisbon.”  The main idea of the poem is that I experienced love as an unending gift in the hills of Lisbon.

“In the Hills of Lisbon”

In the hills of Lisbon, I offered you the gift the great king denied you long ago.
The waves of the oceans created the rhythm of Sintra.
Behold, attentive birds moved gently to cross over the other side of the Tagus River,
and found rest beyond the movements of the city.
Leading the way to the mountaintop, singing parrots guided me to search for you, the “treasure” in the hills.
You are veiled in majesty as the new crowned Queen.

In the hills of Lisbon, two strange hearts made a pact
to hold hands, while trafficking in the city.
Walking by the sea, we are touched by unending love for the first time.
We said, “We will submit our young love to the sanctuary of Christ the King.
On the old train to Sintra, they exchanged a vow for eternity.
I confessed, “You are the gift of the hills of Lisbon that will never fade.”

In the hills of Lisbon, beauty and desire gave a life of union,
a ring that closed two borders,
the river and the ocean sealed with a kiss from the pearl of raindrops…
I vowed to live in harmony with you,
You said, “I am creating new dreams for you and me.”
In the hills of Lisbon, you became the gift that gave love another chance.

“Dr. Jack Cunningham: The Man Who Inspired Me to Become a Professor”

“Dr. Jack Cunningham: The Man Who Inspired Me to Become a Professor”

The guy in the photo is called Jack Cunningham. He is 80+ years old now. Dr. Cunningham inspired me and empowered me to become a College Professor. He marked my life through his passion for teaching, his breath of knowledge, and his deep commitment to student learning and the intellectual and spiritual growth of his students. As an undergraduate student, he became the most influential educator in my life and a model of excellence, grace, and piety. I wanted to become a “Model Professor and Educator” like him, and that has been my passion because of his transformative teaching and creative pedagogy.

For my undergraduate degree, I went to a small Liberal Arts Christian College in Panhandle Florida. Professor Cunningham was my Education and Leadership Professor. I may have taken three to four classes with him. He was a Master Teacher, absolutely a passionate and energetic one. What I observed the most about him was his humanity, incomparable hospitality, profound interest in students, and his non-negotiable promotion of the dignity of all people, especially that of his “Black and minority students.” There were just a few of us on campus.

He started to call me “Professor Lou” (I believe he was the one who gave me the nickname) in the very first class I took with him. He gave me books to read, pushed me to go to Graduate school, and mentored me throughout my undergraduate years. He was the first one to have written a letter of recommendation when I applied for the Masters degree in Philosophy at the University of South Florida (USF), and he also wrote a splendid letter of recommendation for me to pursue my Master of Divinity and another brilliant one for my M.A. at the University of Louisville. He had great expectations of me and taught me with great patience how to think cogently, write clearly, and how to cultivate the life of the mind and the life of faith.

I miss him very much and wish to visit him soon.

“A Carrier of Love”: A Morning Poem

“A Carrier of Love”

I wrote this morning poem 😻

What shall I say about this unending feeling?
A carrier of love, of surpassing value
On frightful days,
in voiceless nights,
Cheerful springs surrender to your Himalayas of praise.

To what shall I compare you?
A carrier of empathy, on rough winters solitude
you shine forth in hot summer days
healer of fresh wounds
when sorrows win the day
where darkness conquers the night.

What shall I say about your sober gaze and smile?
A carrier of glory, of the farthest galaxy
a star of light in loveless spots
a glowing cathedral in the midst of damaged hearts
I speak untold emotions to delight in your peace.

“Less Prayers and More Revolutionary Actions:On Gun Violence, Mass Shootings, and Racially-Motivated Hate Crimes”

“Less Prayers and More Revolutionary Actions:
On Gun Violence, Mass Shootings, and Racially-Motivated Hate Crimes”

As a person of faith, I confess that prayer is a form of human action and a significant aspect of the religious experience. I would argue that human prayers to God could be construed as both radical and revolutionary human reactions to the catastrophes of war, famine, exile, and imperial exploitation and conquest as well as the problems of human suffering, pain, and anguish in the world; we find such textual examples in the book of Psalms of the Hebrew Bible. The book of Psalms is a testament of radical human actions transmitted through the transformative power of human prayers and petitions to the Divine. Nonetheless, this is not the type of human activism and agency I would like to advocate in this essay. By contrast, I am supporting the imposition of the rule of law, another form of radical and revolutionary human actions, which would contribute to improving the existential dilemma of gun violence, mass shootings, and racially-motivated crimes in the American society.

Fundamentally, in this essay, I am suggesting that the American people need to stop praying to God for the end of gun violence and mass shootings in this country; rather, rational and concerning citizens and lawmakers should take radical actions to end mass shootings and racially-motivated crimes in society. Both mass shootings and racially-motivated crimes have now been incorporated into the American experience. Whenever I see the disturbing manifestation of evil in this country, in the form of racially-motivated hate crimes and mass shootings in schools, worship centers (i.e., churches, temples, synagogues, mosques) and public spaces, I refuse to ask the most natural human question where was/is God? As a committed Christian, I also resist to do the most natural Christian response to gun violence—a form of human tragedy and terror—the Christian prayer. I do not believe incessant prayers to God to eradicate deliberate actions committed by volitional agents resulting in mass murder or mass killing of innocent individuals and children have worked effectively in the history of this country. By any means am I discounting the power and role of faith in both civil and political society.

Instead, I would argue that “American prayers” have been a meaningless, ineffectual, even vain endeavor in the history of racial and gun violence. Prayers without human responsibility and action will not change a thing and have no ability on their own to move God to revolutionary action. From this perspective, God is not a magician, and prayer is not a magic or a form of human sorcery to improve the human condition in the world. When American politicians, lawmakers, and gun manufacturers do not act humanly, responsibly, and morally in the urgency of time, they send a clear message to the American pubic: they misconstrue the meaning of life, and through their failure, they make human lives more vulnerable and disposable to internal threats and acts of terror.

The purpose of God is not to fix all human problems that could be easily resolved by human agency and intervention or through the rule of law. Correspondingly, the function of religion in society is not to be a substitute for common sense actions and (human) reason. I would like to put forth the idea that the decision to remove “Christian prayer” in America’s public schools, for example, does not contribute to the spread of gun violence and hate crimes motivated by racism, bigotry, and xenophobia; I counter this long-standing fundamental ideology and Evangelical Christian tradition regarding the relationship between religion and the state or the function of religion in the public sphere. Public piety apart (from moral responsibility and emancipatory human-centered activism) associated with the American model of “secular religion” and “post-postmodern faith” does not impress the Divine.

The aim of human prayer to God without showing intentional human responsibility and (potentially) emancipative actions is like to wish for the light switch to be turned on without proper electricity infrastructure or technological arrangement. As the light switch requires a human hand to turn it on, prayer without human effort and moral agency will not move the hands of God nor will it stop gun violence and hate crimes. Prayers without radical human interventions and legal actions to restrict the easy accessibility and (re-)distribution of guns to private American citizens is akin to this illustration. This is a matter of existential urgency for the American people to campaign for rigorous judicial actions and moral interventions that will center upon the preservation of human life, especially the life of innocent children found in most vulnerable places in society, such as schools, daycares, worship centers, and marginalized communities.

A Great Moral Problem
Given the long history of gun and racial violence in the American society, it is disingenuous to continue to look for the Divine in the midst of human-made chaos and disorder, especially when the American government, powerful American citizens, and BIG corporations have the power, equipment, and resources to create a more dignified society and an alternative and safe future for American children and students, especially. To ask where God is in the midst of human terror and orchestrated acts of violence and human cruelty—manifested in the form of mass shootings or gun violence—is to shy away from our ethical responsibility as Americans to create an uninjured environment for all people. The future our school children and marginalized and vulnerable communities deserve is one in which they will not be traumatized by another potential act of racial violence or mass shooting. The sacredness and urgency of human life in this moment is an adequate reason to compel those in seat of authority and power to do more than asking for more public prayers, taking a 2-minute pause of reflection, and making good wishes to the families of the victims and those who wish to live peacefully and in safety in both the present and the future. Any type of human prevention to safeguard life is a moral action, and any human attempt to block any potential threat to eradicate life should be a non-negotiable and permanent commitment to sustain all lives in society.

Moreover, I would like to contend that instead of “uncaring politicians,” “lighthearted lawmakers,” and “hurting citizens” asking for more public prayers and petitions and questioning where God was in these recent mass shootings or the ones that transpired in the last fifteen years, I would like us to consider the following ethical and moral questions:

• What is the moral responsibility of this country’s lawmakers and politicians to protect American children and citizens from gun violence, mass shootings, and racially-motivated crimes?
• Where is the moral outrage of BIG corporations (and their networks) that are manufacturing guns and making deadly weapons effortlessly accessible to violent people and those with mental illness?
• Where are they? And where have they been in the midst of national mourning and acts of terror threatening national peace and collective joy?
• Does gun ownership come with certain moral responsibility and rights?
• What is morally right in this country? And what is ethically wrong in this society? Do they have anything to do with or linked to the mass obsession of gun ownership and egocentric individual freedom?
• When will the American people make the distinction between what is morally evil and what is ethically valuable to the promotion of the common good and human flourishing in society?
• At what cost would personal liberty and individual happiness contribute to the possible destruction of the welfare and safety of the collective? In other words, is there an ethical framework that holds individuals accountable for libertarian freedom and actions—in respect to gun ownership and the leniency of gun laws in this country?

Unhealthy Ideologies
Further, I would like to say that this country’s collective impulse concerning national conversations on gun violence and hate crimes grounded in racial ideologies include the following propositions:

  1. Traditionally, the emotional capacity of the American people is high (or always maximizes) in tragic moments in our (dark) history, and such a moment is akin to this contemporary one: the moment of pain, the moment of despair, the moment of national mourning. When our collective emotions go high in such a moment like this one, they will inevitably decline in strength and public expression. The problem of the American psyche in catastrophic times like this lies in its ability to produce permanent human endurance and robust resistance to cultural productions of evil and to various sources of the American wound. The American indignation or response to the problem of cultural evils does not prevail in times of trouble; to our great despair, it vanishes swiftly before a common solution is found. This shared attitude also lies in the collective reaction to find an “easy way out” of complex American problems; as a people, we prefer to use the Amazon’s Prime model to engage in existential crises that have negatively affected the human experience in this country and lessened human dignity in society.
  2. The American resistance or response to structural violence and human suffering in society is inadequate and not robust to lead to genuine structural transformation and radical cultural renewal. This is a profound matter rooted in the indeterminacy of the collective will of the American people—the will to power, the will to enact radical change, and the will to sustain the sacredness of human life. In other words, we are resisting our own will to do what is morally good for our families and our neighbor and what is ethically constructive for this country and the common good of all people.
  3. The American fixation on gun ownership and the triumph of individual freedom transcend any human feelings associating with collective love, group empathy, and national peace.
  4. The American people’s protest against gun violence and mass shootings is characterized as a “temporary feeling” to change gun law legislations, but it has never been deeply rooted in the collective will and the common purpose toward radical transformation. Unfortunately, the moral indignation and collective drive of the American people toward national safety is too weak, pathetic, even fragile; arguably, it is a shared crisis of (lack of) passion.
  5. The moral restraint to the production of evil in society shall not be to have “more religion” or to shout for “more public outcry” for rapid divine intervention through prayer and petition. While I believe in the transformative power of faith to effect social change and improve the human condition in the world, I reject the emotional dependency on the potentiality of religion as a substitution for ethical human responsibility, human behavior, and emancipative moral activism.
  6. Religion as a social construct was never designed to broadcast good news, promote human flourishing, and effect peace and unity between peoples of different religious expressions or those of no religious affiliation or identity. What we need at this existential moment in our dark (American) history is less religion in public, but more national moral outrage that would lead to robust legal restraints and human-centered judicial interventions against all forms of public productions of evil (gun violence, white supremacist ideologies) and the potential production of social evils (hate crimes, mass shootings) in society. Arguably, the rights to own a gun has been abused the same way the performative function of religion and prayer in public in moments of gun violence and mass shootings have been misdirected and exploited.

Substituting Public Prayers and Good Wishes
with Radical Collective Actions and Judicial Interventions

I must admit that I do not have the best solution to the existential catastrophe of gun violence, mass shootings, and racial-based crimes in this society. Also, I have yet to devise a plan or the most radical actions politicians, lawmakers, gun-manufacturers (and their networks) should take to get us out of this national dilemma, an American crisis. Nonetheless, what I am suggesting in this piece is to substitute public prayers and good wishes with radical collective actions and judicial restrictions against the easy access and distribution of guns. I refuse to believe there is not a national solution to the enduring problem of gun violence and mass shootings in this country. For example, the question is not the lack of (government or private) funding, human resources, intelligent people, mass support, adequate policing, etc. Perhaps, it is matter of strategic plans and human-centered intelligent thinking or design from the highest offices to the lowest governmental offices.

The intervention we need to preserve life in the most ethical, legal, and moral sense must be a collective solution and national action. To get us started, I would like to make the following two suggestions to help reduce popular violence through individual gun ownership:

  1. Public Schools and the Safety of school children: since school children have been of the most vulnerable groups and victims of gun violence and mass shootings in this country, American parents should demand the state government and local school authorities to close schools until (local) politicians and (federal) lawmakers take drastic measures to make American schools and educational centers a safer environment for school children. For example, parents should keep their children at home until stricter gun control laws are passed both at the national and federal level. Parental protests should also include the following: 1) keeping children at home for 30 to 60 days, even an academic semester; 2) collective street peaceful protests at the national level; and 3) and giving lawmakers and local politicians a deadline to produce measurable goals and learning outcomes associating with gun safety at schools and gun ownership.
  2. Centers of Worship & the Safety of religious people: (churches, temples, synagogues, mosques): people in sacred places or places of worship should be able to gather together in safety and to worship in peace without having to worry about getting shot or being slaughtered. Recently, religious centers have become the second most target places by internal terrorists and white supremacists. Religious people should also use the power of non-violent protest to campaign for stricter gun regulations and gun ownership, both at the national and federal level. Another way religious people could use protest as a human force is to close the places of worship; for example, instead of gathering on Sundays or Wednesdays for spiritual meetings, religious leaders, and ministers (rabbi, pastors, imam, priests) should use designated times for street protests.

Closing thought

I must admit that what might be considered a “radical” action for some individuals may not be interpreted as so for others. The radical actions and judicial interventions that must be taken nationally and federally must be truly “radical” and genuinely “revolutionary.” Whenever something radical occurs in a society, the people will interpret it as a radical shift—in the form of a consensus; correspondingly, whenever something revolutionary happens in a culture, the citizens will construe it as a revolutionary shift that gives birth to a new age, a new era in the human experience. Those examples are voluminous in the American experience. For example, in our (American) history, we talk about the radical nature of the American Revolution (1774-1783); the Declaration of Independence (1776); the revolutionary nature of the American civil war (1861-1865); the radical nature of the Emancipation Proclamation (1863); the radical nature of Women’s suffrage (1919); the revolutionary sense of World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945); the Cold War (1946-1991); the Vietnam Wars (1954-1975); the radical nature of Legal Abortion (1973); the revolutionary sense of the Civil Rights Movement (1954-1968); the Feminist Movement of the 1960s; the radical nature of the end of Racial Segregation (1964); and the legalization of Same-Sex Marriage (2015).

Truly, these historical antecedents should serve as models to put an end to mass shootings, gun violence, and racially-driven hate crimes in society while maintaining spiritual passion and religious fervency.