…bring to mind a nightmarish book I read about a year ago called One Second After, written by Bill Fortschen.
In that novel, the United States is hit by an unknown enemy using an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapon at high altitude, which knocks out virtually all electrical circuitry and reduces the country to a 19th-century state. Chaos, disease and starvation slowly grip the victims, and Fortschen tells the tale from the perspective of a professor in a small college town in the North Carolina mountains.
The current situation in Haiti and the scenario painted in One Second After are not completely analogous; after all, in Haiti the knocking out of electricity and running water – the the extent they existed at all – is compounded by the knocking down of virtually every structure in the affected area. Within a week or so of the cataclysmic event, though, the effect will be the same – without any civilian infrastructure and without necessary provisions for life, something akin to a state of nature will shortly prevail.
Port-au-Prince is a city of two million people, and it is now completely in ruins. Worse, the illiteracy rate in Haiti hovers around 50 percent and the average Haitian exists on about $2 per day – an indication that these people barely get enough to eat in the best of circumstances. The problems of logistics in getting aid to Haiti are compounded by the fact that people who are close to starving in the first place can’t hold out long when what little food they have access to is taken away. Don’t forget that a couple of years ago there were widespread food riots in Haiti as a result of ill-advised ethanol subsidies here in this country which took excess grain out of circulation and priced Haitians out of the market. It was in Port-au-Prince where the much-publicized “dirt cakes” made of mud and vegetable oil with a little grain mixed in were being distributed. This is going to happen again.
Our prayers are with the beleagured people of that long-suffering nation, for whom the real travails are only just beginning. The massive relief efforts underway by the United States military and non-governmental groups, as well as those of other countries, need all the support we can give them.