by Jonel Juste
“If only I could turn back the hands of time” is something people generally say when it is too late. When we actually can’t do anything about the past, many of us wish we could change it for the best. Time travel is a long-cherished dream.
Some wish they could prevent the death of their loved ones. A woman whose father died of a lung cancer hoped she could tell her dad about the dangers of smoking before it was too late. However, until now, such a trip is only possible in Hollywood studios. If I could travel back in time, I would not try to change anything, good or bad. I would only like to be a witness, to observe some extraordinary moments in the history of mankind such as Haiti’s Independence in 1804.Then I wish I could come back and recount what happened.
Some people dream of eliminating the German dictator Adolf Hitler in his young age before he mass-murdered six million Jews. However, as heroic as such an act could be, we cannot measure its consequences from a historical standpoint. Changing the past, in one way or another, is also changing the present. Scientists call it the time travel paradox. For example, if I could go back in time and keep my mother from meeting my abusive father, would I do so and, in the process, sacrifice my own existence? I doubt it.
If I could go back in time, I would go back to Haiti 200 years from now. On this Caribbean island lived a group of people who were longing for liberty. They were slaves, they were Black and they were denied mere human dignity. These people had to fight and shed their blood for their freedom. They fought valiantly and won the right to exist. I would like to witness that final battle between the Haitian and French armies in November 1803.
What happened this day was wonderful. It is said that on this memorable day a man “covered himself with glory”. This man was called Capois-La-Mort. I just would like to know if this famous Haitian general fought as gloriously as History says he did. Today, when Haitians grade-schoolers study this legend, the patriotic feeling is so strong that they are shaken with pride.
Haitian historians wrote that Capois-La-Mort was ordered by General Jean-Jacques Dessalines to take down a stronghold occupied by French soldiers. Three times Francois Capois (that was his real name) attempted to conquer the fortress; three times the French army resisted the brave general mowing down his soldiers with cannonball shots and a rain of bullets. The fourth time, Capois, who seemed invincible on that blessed day, launched an attack on the stronghold shouting to his soldiers, “Move Forward!”, “Move Forward!” A cannonball hit his horse, Capois fell but he immediately got up, took his sword and re-launched the attack shouting “Move Forward!”, “Move Forward!” A bullet carried away his feather-garnished hat, but he kept fighting and shouting “Move Forward!”, “Move Forward!” Seeing this, the French general Rochambeau ordered to cease the combat, and send a French officer to congratulate to brave Haitian general, “the Black Achilles who covered himself with such glory”. I would just like to hide in some secure place during that epic battle of Independence so I could see with my own eyes such a bravery.
After this epic battle, Haitians declared officially their independence from the colonial France. January 1st 1804, a new nation was born on the face of the earth. Former slaves fought and snatched their freedom from their masters. This was the first and the last time that will ever happen in mankind history. Doing so, these valiant men, these Haitians said clearly to the rest of world that all men were really created equal. They shook the very base of colonialism and racism. The world heard of their bravery and trembled. Even in America, the slave owners feared that the revolutionary wind blew over the plantations. America won its independence from Great Britain in 1776 but the slavery issue was never solved. The Founding Fathers proudly stated in their Declaration of Independence that “all men were created equal”. However, “all men” did not include enslaved black people. That’s why the Independence of Haiti was perceived as a threat to them, and that’s why they banned Haiti from the international community. Nonetheless, History will remember Haiti as the first successful slave uprising that gave birth to the first Black independent nation of the New World.
More than 200 hundred years ago, Haitians gave birth to freedom and equality for all men. This first morning of freedom must have been wonderful. I would like to be a witness of that.
You may say that I am certainly proud of my history, and you would be right. In fact, must of Haitians cultivate the same pride, and they are certainly right. Does it mean that our history is perfect? Our course not. If I could go back, maybe I would use the rhetoric techniques to persuade the General Dessalines not to kill the French people who remained in Haiti after Independence. Maybe I would not, fearing that the fierce general order my decapitation. Once again, I would have stuck to my convictions and kept from changing anything in the past. Moreover, I can’t know what would happen in the French stayed in Haiti after the Independence. Maybe they would manage to reestablish slavery as the Haiti’s founding Fathers feared. Maybe we would have the situation than in South Africa. Frankly, I don’t know what the consequences would have been. If I tried to modify anything in the past, it would surely have changed Haitian history forever, and that would be a disaster.