Michael's Reviews > Hidden in the Rubble: A Haitian Pilgrimage to Compassion and Resurrection

Hidden in the Rubble by Gerard Thomas Straub
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Apr 07, 12

bookshelves: religion
Read from April 03 to 07, 2012

Gerard Straub makes movies that are hard to watch. Simply put, he takes his cameras into the most poor and hopeless places in the world, films the people there, then asks his viewers to care about them. I have seen several of his films, and each one leaves me speechless. We in America simply cannot comprehend the desperation of the poor in places like Africa or Haiti. Similarly, Los Angeles's Skid Row (where Mr. Straub has filmed), the Tenderloin in San Francisco, the abandoned neighborhoods of Detroit--places just a stone's throw away from wealth and affluence--look like Berlin after World War II, yet the vast majority of American's have only the vaguest sense that such places exist. Mr. Straub's calling is to take his camera and show us what suffering, and sorrow, and hopelessness look like, and pray that those of us who see these images will be moved.

Mr. Straub is a lay Franciscan, and much of what he writes as narration for his films is infused with the spirit and spirituality of St. Francis. While his films (and this book) are filled with horror and grotesqueness, there is a sweetness, too: in these places the author calls "the Cathedrals of the Poor," Mr. Straub find great kindness, compassion, and love.

About a year and a half ago, I received a letter from the San Damiano Foundation (the nonprofit through which Mr. Straub produces and distributes his movies) announcing that he was stepping down. He simply couldn't do it any more, and he sited his experiences in Haiti as the primary reason. It was all just too much. Having now read this book--part journal, part history, part bearing witness--about his experiences in Haiti a month before the 2010 earthquake, then his two return trips in the immediate aftermath, I can see why this good-hearted man needed some time to regroup, both spiritually and psychologically.

I won't try to describe the things he saw in Haiti. I will simply repeat what I said above: it is impossible for someone like me to grasp the suffering of the Haitian people. What happened, is happening still, in Haiti, is unimaginable.

Mr. Straub has, once again, pierced my conscience and troubled my spirit. This book is a perfect antidote to all of the Easter Bunnies and Cadbury eggs that are replacing, for many people, the torturous death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

Powerful stuff. Very.
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