This morning, I’m due to travel to Bahamaland. It’s for a good cause (I was going to add ‘very’, but read last week that it’s very overused, and have been avoiding it like the plague ever since). The inaugural IAAF World Relays, will get underway in Nassau. This has been on the family calendar since before Christmas. So, the fact that, in Jamaica, the National Amateur Golf Championships also take place over our Labour Day holiday weekend is like a bunker ahead of a ball: I don’t see it. Family harmony preserved on that point, I can move forward. How long the harmony lasts will be interesting to see: I am Jamaican; my wife is Bahamian. Awkward. Jamaicans will be representing in fullish fashion: Usain Bolt will not be running on the track (and I hope he wont be just profiling on some ad while his fellow runners are speeding along). So, the harmony thing may get strained. The Bahamians are capable of making some huge noise for a nation of so few. Those cow bells kaliking may drown out all other supporting sound. I hope the Jamaicans come with drums. I will be packing my whistle. I do not, and will not, own a vuvuzela. But, much as my mother-in-law says she loves me, I feel that the blindness of love may not last. I am taking out some insurance, though, and packing some sliced East Indian mango from a cousin’s house to sweeten Grandma’s mouth. Hope the Customs people don’t give any trouble with that.
Harmony may take a little bump, too, if I get to play some golf–something that has not happened before, despite often being a hair’s breath from one of the loveliest courses I know, on Paradise Island. This time, I have tried to make plans, but my hook-up is still not sure. But, I live in hope. My golf crazy cousin, has decided to make the trip to Nassau–I think he may be there in some official JAA’s capacity, but that’s not important. He may have locked in his playing, and I will have to remind him of our blood ties, even if I have to caddy for him. That wouldn’t be so bad, because I’d get paid. Anyway, wish me luck on that. I’ve packed some drop-dead golf clothes, which may see me deported unseemly publish display.
My daughter is still asleep, as I write, but is very excited to rejoin her cousins and friends (whom she proudly recognized last night, when pressed on why she was ready to go). The fact that Grandma is reported to be preparing peas soup for our arrival was not lost on my child. She has some serious Caribbean genes, and walks with her belly. I’m so proud of her.
We’ve a few boring errands to run before getting to the airport, including taking my car in for a service. I’ve visited the nice ATL service facility in New Kingston once already with this car. It was a mixed experience that left me lamenting this feature of life in Jamaica, and was a reminder of how human interaction can get unnecessarily cumbersome because of simple dishonesty and unwillingness to accept mistakes.
Yesterday was one of those days in public discourse that I like to witness. A controversy has been raging this week about the future of Professor Brendan Bain, ‘one of the Caribbean’s pioneers in clinical infectious disease practice and a leading medical authority on the HIV epidemic in the region’. He was dismissed earlier this week because of testimony he gave as an expert witness in a case in Belize. Professor Bain was director of the Regional Coordinating Unit of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training (CHART) Network, and gave his testimony in 2012,on behalf of a group of churches that lobbied to retain Belize’s sodomy law. Various human and LGBT rights groups objected to this, mainly as a conflict of interest, but also on the use of disputed and outdated data.
I would not call what has gone on a ‘discussion’.
The matter of homosexuality does not lend itself to civil discourse for very long in Jamaica. (and in much of the Caribbean). The language used is often very telling. Gay rights groups are often positioned in a distant way with terms such as ‘they’. Also, reference is often made to their ‘strength’ and ‘power’–based on what, I have not yet understood. We also hear of ‘their agenda’. All of this makes it sound as if this particular lobby group has tactics and issues that make them extraordinary. Fear and loathing are rarely far from the surface, and many people who oppose such groups, latch on quickly to some pieces of religious argument to support their vehement opposition to what they often refer to as ‘abominable behaviour”.
A group of a dozen people mounted a picket outside UWI’s regional headquarters in Mona yesterday; that got a lot of airplay. I wish that every group of a dozen people is treated equally: I am looking forward to my time on the evening news when I get back. The way the media latched onto this yesterday was revealing. I’ve seen bigger groups making a fuss and yet never feature in a clip, let alone extensive interviews. What’s this talk about ‘power’ and ‘strength’ and ‘agendas’ all about? What are the facts? Awkward, again?
I’ve had a few conversations with Caribbean people about the Biblical support for their arguments, and what abominable behaviour means. They end up being noisy and confused, not least because parts of Biblical writings that do not go in support of the arguments opposing gay rights are conveniently pushed aside. Or, other abominable behaviour and sins are seen as…I’m not really sure what. Maybe, this is a turning point, and the next public announcement of sinning will bring forward a crowd, much bigger than 12 people, I hope, against murder, rape, or incest. Anyway, I will tread carefully around this minefield, within which one is likely to sense lightning bolts being hurled (an unintentional slide back to track and field).
Anyway, I don’t know what possessed me last night, but I decided that the vilification and half-arguments were getting a bit much, and I decided to engage in a few rebuttals. I ended up collecting a lot of red herrings and had enough to make one of Jamaica’s favourite dishes, Solomon Gundy, which is great on water crackers. A goodly number of these herrings were being cast by people often seen and read in the mainstream media, which I think give them ‘strength’ and ‘power’ to run with their ‘agendas’, but let’s not muddy the waters, with inconvenient truths, or even facts. Fact has become a great word to bandy around. ‘Facts are facts’, some people will holler. Really? is often my reply. I’ve lived long enough with people to know that facts are not often seen the same. So-called facts can often be denied. I’ve also been in a few situations where upholders of the law cited ‘facts’ in courts of law, which judges have then turned around and said were not supported by other facts, so were dismissed and rejected. What I see with my eyes may not be what you see. Likewise, with other experiences. Some facts are easy to understand and verify. How much money do I have in my pocket? We can check and agree that it’s none. But, other facts can get tricky to verify. When they involve what is called ‘data’, then fact is often a mixture of evidence and opinion. Take a look at Jamaica, and see which ‘facts’ about the country are shared by any, many, few, or none.
I heard what was quite a reasonable discussion last night on the topic of Professor Bain, during AllAngles, a current affairs discussion programme hosted by Dionne Jackson-Miller. She asked hard questions of UWI’s vice-chancellor, Nigel Harris. He gave what sounded like solid replies, and indicated that the decision was not the result of a brief consideration, but had been part of a long dialogue of several months. The panelists, from the Medical Association of Jamaica, and a spokesperson for human and gay rights groups, also discussed and answered questions well, including holding onto views that seemed clear and not biting on their being twisted.
I suspect that this was one of the less-heated discussion that was going on. But, so be it. I will no doubt see a lot of hyperbolic commentary today that makes it seem that all people’s rights of free expression are being trampled. I may not be in a position to argue back whether this same concern is partial or general, and ask if the rights of some other individuals to freely express themselves in Jamaica are not trampled by those same ‘defenders’. But, let me not get ahead of myself. I have no particular axe to grind in favour of any group, but I do have a liking for arguments that seem fair and make sense. Rightly or wrongly, I am not gripped by a certain fear that seems to pervade some of the arguments. I cannot tell if that is because of where I spent most of my life, or if it’s just something that I have never had. Some lifestyles are not my preference, but I know that they exist and are practised by others. I do not see that as threatening me or my lifestyle. Whatever moral arguments I may wish to use in favour of what I do, I can have thrown back at me.
It seems that Jamaicans throw a disproportionate amount of energy into opposing certain things, yet save that energy when it could oppose other things that are really more detrimental to all of our lives. Need I go back to last week’s topic of electricity theft? Should I touch on how we do not really care that much for our children?
I hear the sound of tiny feet overhead. How convenient.