Father Aristide seems to have the same thought. He has given no quarter, taunted authority and dared it to come after him, refused to be in its debt.
'We, the people'
After the Tontons Macoutes stormed his church, killed many and bayoneted a pregnant woman, he put a Macoute mannequin in his office, dressed in Macoute colors.
"We dechouked [uprooted and removed] him," Father Aristide told Ms. Wilensky. (A period of Haitian history was known as the Dechoukaj, Creole for uprooting -- as in the uprooting of evil by the forces of good.)
"We?" she said. She thought it sounded like an admission, coming from a priest.
"We, the people, I mean," he said, smiling.
She found his symbolic merger with the poor demonstrable: "The congregation looks like a mirror of the priest: total concentration, rooted excitement. 'Titid, Titid,' the two next to me whisper in aroused unison, using his nickname, which carries connotations not only of small and cute but of street urchin as well. The girls watch the priest with their mouths open, their palms turned upward on their knees, their feet in and out of their too-tight shoes. No one wants to miss a word."
He was immersed in liberation theology, the idea that priests should be of politics as well as of the church.
"What weds the movement within the Church to the movement within Haitian society as a whole," he told Ms. Wilensky, "is liberation theology, which has filtered into the youth of our country, which invigorates them, which purifies their blood, which teaches these youths that either you are a Christian or you are not.
"And if you are a Christian," he went on, "you cannot allow what you are seeing to happen without saying something, because if you say nothing, you will be sinning by your silence. You will be sinning by your complicity.
"So, in order to avoid that sin, which is a mortal sin, we refuse to accept what is happening. We cast off corruption. If you're a Christian, you cannot accept to continue the Macoute corruption in this country. Well, then, you are obliged to take historic risks. You're obliged to participate in the historic movement of liberation theology. In other words, the resurrection of an entire people is occurring right now."
Though he and his followers had little ability to confront power on its own terms, Ms. Wilentz says Father Aristide's declarations were frequently regarded as preaching violence or preaching communism or preaching out of some demented, messianic delirium. And he did proceed as if he were a designated savior, a person who could be uncompromising because he alone understood Haiti's destiny.
'We do not bow'
U.S. interests in Haiti did not escape his condemnation. And though he eventually said that he was grateful to the United States for serving as the instrument of his and Haiti's deliverance, he continues to speak past the U.S. audience to the people of Haiti.
Father Aristide was caught in a sublime irony. He had been a harsh critic of the United States, and here it was dispatching nearly 20,000 troops to vouchsafe his homecoming.
He told Ms. Wilentz in the late 1980s: "I cannot accept that Haiti should be whatever the United States wants it to be. And it won't be, I can assure you of that.
"I don't know what Haiti will become in the future -- I know what I'd like it to become, what many would like it to become -- but one thing Haitians have made clear, from Dessalines [Haitian leader of the world's only successful slave uprising in 1803] to Dr. Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, good and bad alike, is that we do not bow to the will of other nations. We may pretend to, but we don't.
"We have never been a client state."
He continues to speak and act in this way today, perhaps because friend and foe in Haiti are listening.
C. Fraser Smith is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun.