When the July issue of Vanity Fair floated across my desk containing a loving portrait of Sean Penn written by his close personal friend and travel companion, Douglas Brinkley, the accompanying pictures (Penn shoulder to shoulder with U.S. Army Lt. General Ken Keen, Assistant Alison Thompson eschewing World War I nurse’s costume for flower child attire adorned with adorable young Haitians, young white NGO’ers earnestly peering at their shiny Mac Powerbooks) made me wonder. Are they already filming the movie of themselves? I mean, as Brinkley points out, the set has been dressed, right?
“…a white, 60-by-20-foot wedding tent from the Dominican Republic…a crude roof over a patchwork of wooden floorboards, which he helped cobble together by hand…two rusty blade fans whirring to keep things cool…a single bulb – its lampshade fashioned from Chef Boyardee boxes – illuminating a long wooden table of bird-dropping white. A forlorn bookshelf held a collection of dog-eared U.N.-regulation guides, accordian files, and browning bananas. Down the length of one wall ran a corkboard lined with maps from the U.S. geological Survey: an army cartographer had handsomely re-christened one, changing the name from Pétionville to Pennville. A calico cat named Guadalupe wandered among a collection of stethoscopes, tool kits, syringes, morphine, a photocopy machine – and a stash of Greek wine and Jack Daniel’s – giving the quarters the patina of M*A*S*H, with a touch of Pee-wee’s Playhouse.
Ezili Dantò, of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network (HLLN), has done a masterful job of deconstructing the motivations and the actors behind Penn’s Bosnian/U.S.American NGO, JP/HRO. Dantò is fair, above all, giving Penn credit where credit is due, and calling out the rest of the nonsense by its proper name. See Sean Penn and Wyclef Jean: Hollywood, Hip Hop and Haiti, excerpt below:
We’ve gone into cartoon land. The sideshow eclipses the living, breathing, suffering Haiti people enduring over 6-nightmarish years of US/US occupation and slaughters and NGO pillage never covered by the mainstream media. The election carnival is just beginning and has reduced, for the moment, the worst disaster in recorded human history to what actor Sean Penn has to say about hip hop rapper Wyclef Jean’s run to sit at the crumbled National Palace in Haiti! Elections under occupation? Neither are saying – krik, not a word, about that!