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stop the bribes now

Yesterday morning at 7 I found myself in line at the Port Au Prince airport in Haiti. We pulled up at the airport to fly out and were immediately greeted by men in blue shirts and red hats offering to take us to the front of the line. I thought about taking up the offer as it was 90+ degrees out and the line was long, but when we got to the back of the line I decided to just wait like everyone else.

Pretty soon after lining up I noticed the red hat people cutting past me, carrying luggage and being followed by white people. Immediately my blood began to boil as I saw what was going on. White people who were coming down to Haiti in order to help out after the earthquake were  now participating in the very corruption that makes Haiti chaotic to begin with. More and more people were cutting in front of us, some in groups of 7 or 8. There were a few Haitian people behind me who were also beginning to get frustrated so I decided I would say something to the next group of people who chose to bribe their way to the front of the line.

A couple of seconds later it happened, people were sneaking through. I asked them where they were flying to. They looked at me and said “we are not sure what airport we are flying to.” My friend Lindsay sarcastically asked “you don’t know what airport your flying to?” After all, there are only two airports to fly into, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. We continued to probe them, but they were not even acknowledging us by this point. Finally enough people complained that they were sent back to the end of the line.

Pretty soon another group was budging their way through the line. This time I decided to go off. I asked one of the men what he was doing. He just said he was following the airport staff. I got into his face and said “no, your cutting in front of the line and bribing the airport staff to do it. You come down here to help this nation and then you participate in the very thing that makes it corrupt.” Then, apparently I told them that “if they were going to come down to Haiti and act like that then they should never come back.” I found this out later as I talked with one of the women in the group and she said I told her that. I must have been heated.

A few other people butted in to line and I continued to go off on them too. I blocked people from getting by and made some people walk through the puddles on the street because I wouldn’t make room for them on the side walk. Finally, after much yelling, pushing and sweating we got into the airport. While inside the airport I talked to a few people whom I had been yelling at and had some good conversation. One lady asked “what can we do to stop the corruption in this nation?” I looked at her and said “stop participating in it by bribing people to get privilege.” She seemed to agree.

After going through ticketing and security we proceded to our gate and sat down with a cold drink. I was starting to feel bad about the way I treated people when a man came up to me and said thanks. I stood up and we shook hands. He looked at me in the eye and once again said “thank you for what you said out there.” Wow, that felt great. I stood up for injustice and someone appreciated it. My life changed yesterday morning, I am now more than ever committed to seing injustice stop, its the only way that we will see justice begin.

6 Comments

  1. joanna

    phil,
    this is HUGE. well done! well done. i’m so impressed and challenged too!
    love you
    jo

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