$200 per person and how 40 people had crowded into the small open boat and set sail up the windward passage. Two hundred yards from shore, just before dawn, a squall capsized the boat. Most were just too weak from the journey to make it the remaining distance. The survivors were not even allowed to attend their shipmates’ funerals.
Amal and I discussed the tragedy during our ride home. While our rides to and from work were frequently taken up by theoretical discussions of theology and philosophy, this time I spoke directly to the point.
“I’m angry with my government for forcing disasters like this to happen and ashamed to be an American,” I told her. “Everyone gives lip service to love and freedom and uses them to sell everything from hamburgers to insurance. But when you cut away all the crap, nobody really cares about these people. How many others do you suppose have been swallowed up by the ocean without a trace? At least these 32 were lucky enough to make the news for their efforts. Altruism is a luxury you have to be able to afford to dabble in. Look at poor Régis. All he wants to do is complete his education and then go back and fill and pull teeth in his country. Now he is forced to go begging.” My voice was raised, and I was talking to her as if the boat tragedy were her fault. I knew I was being unfair to her: since she was Egyptian, she was not to be blamed for our national hypocrisy. What I was really angry about was her persistent optimism that all things would work out for the good.
When we had reviewed our data and reinterviewed our surviving patients in response to our critics, we discovered that indeed a small minority of the Haitian men had had homosexual experiences. This fact was seized on by our detractors, who ignored the fact that in most of our men, and all of our women, there were still no reports of homosexuality. New theories appeared in the newspapers every day: AIDS started in New York, transmitted by gays vacationing in Haiti to destitute Haitian men forced to prostitute themselves; conversely, AIDS started in Haiti as a tropical disease and then was trans-