When reading the first chapter of Country of My Skull, I could not help but think about our class discussion about the first chapter of Eichmann in Jerusalem. In our discussion, we talked about how the courtroom in Eichmann in Jerusalem is set up like a theater which takes away from the complexity of the situation. This is seen when the prosecution tries to paint Eichmann as an evil mastermind who orchestrated the whole Holocaust in order to create a sense of sensationalism which is simply not correct and it undermines the whole legal process.
In the first chapter of Country of My Skull, the exact opposite atmosphere is set up.The Truth Commission is extremely complex and anything but simple. Justice Dullah Omar states the Truth Commission started because “a strong feeling that some mechanism must be found to deal with all violations in a way which would ensure that we put the country on a sound moral basis” (8). The commission acknowledges the complexity of the past political policy and understands that a magnitude of people were hurt by these policies. Most importantly they realize that not one person is responsible but that a long history of political policies and politicians are to be blamed. There is not one person to put the blame on because apartheid represents a whole political system, and it would be unfair to the victims for the process to be rushed. In Eichmann in Jerusalem, the court is less concerned with finding out the truth and more concerned about being the court that tires and finds guilty a member of the Nazi regime. Having this scapegoat takes away from the truth and the complexity of the Holocaust. Former commissioner of police, General Johan van der Merwe talks about how he was an enforcer of the law but never an advocate. He says that, “it is not the police who came up with apartheid but the politicians” (6).
While reading, I was drawn to do a close reading comparison of the Haitian Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. I am currently in a Constitutional Law class so I couldn’t help but note the differences between the document from Haiti and here. Specifically, the biggest difference is in how the law is presented. One aspect of the United States Constitution that is frustrating in a Con Law class, but I found an appreciation for after reading the Haitian document, is the fluidity of it. The US Constitution is crafted in a vague way, especially in the Bill of Rights. I think that this vagueness and introduced elasticity is actually beneficial for the law. The law in the U.S. Constitution becomes malleable in a way that is still firm, but also open to interpretation. It opens it to changing times and beliefs so that it is not stuck in tradition, but able to move forward with the people. For example, the First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” which may seem specific, but is not. It brings up the questions of “what is a religion”, “can Congress allot tax money to religious organizations with secular aims”, etc. These are all questions that have answers that can change with the time because the law, in this case, is how it is interpreted. The Haitian Constitution does not have this flexible aspect. It seems that the clauses are very specific. Article Two says that “slavery is abolished forever”. This applies to the list of duties of the government as well. The U.S. Constitution lists vaguely again the roles of each branch of government, but the Haitian Constitution gets specific. Article 15 says that “The Empire is one and indivisible; its territory composed of six military divisions”. I should also note that there are some strangely vague parts like the article about the “good father”, but for the most part, I see this Constitution as something very specific. There is little room there for potential change. I am not here to argue that one is better than the other, but it is interesting that the U.S. Constitution opens the law to change, while the Haitian Constitution sets it more firmly.