OF PATRIOTS AND SELLOUTS

On May 2, before the ink dried on the IMF Agreement, Peter Phillips delivered a stirring speech obviously intended to fan our most patriotic flames. He insisted the successful completion of Jamaica’s IMF obligations is a national undertaking, which requires “all hands on deck”.

If we’re to create this new environment, it’s not a task that can be accomplished simply by Government operating on its own. It’s a challenge that must be embraced by all the other stakeholders in the national community,” he said.

                   “This is the land of my birth;                                                                                 I say this is the land of my birth.
I say this is Jamaica, my Jamaica,                                                                      the land of my birth.

Almost immediately, it became known that Senate President, Reverend Stanley Redwood, his wife and family were fleeing Jamaica leaving the rest of us to scrub any mess they leave behind off the national deck.  In defending his inalienable right to decide what’s in his family’s best interests, Rev Stanley has relied on every man’s prerogative to do what’s necessary to protect his family.  But, is Stanley “every man”?  What has missed most pundits is the biting critique of this government’s policies and performance that Stanley’s hasty departure implies.  The vote he registered with his feet is a crippling blow to his Party and Government.

No doubt, when Stanley wrote to the Gleaner (published May 15), his intention was to deflect and deflate the critique of his own Party raised by his own actions but, instead, he drove the wooden stake deeper into the vampire’s chest and exposed himself as just another frightened émigré who believes that putting “my family first” means he must escape what he sees as a violent, hopeless, barren wasteland called Jamaica at all costs. Better to be a resident alien in some cold, unwelcoming tundra than to stick it out here.

Under the beguiling, if rather oxymoronic headline “I’m a Patriot but Family Comes First” Stanley wrote;

          “My family’s application to Canada came after the 2007 election loss….”

What exactly are you saying Stanley?  Jamaica didn’t lose any election in 2007.  No Jamaican patriot lost any election in 2007.  Only the People’s National Party lost the 2007 election.  The majority of Jamaicans made a democratic choice to boot the PNP.  Is it that your patriotism only kicks in when the PNP wins an election?  Are you a Jamaican patriot or are you a PNP Activist? My Oxford dictionary defines “patriot” as “a person who loves their country and is ready to defend it against an enemy.”  Does Stanley consider the JLP Jamaica’s enemy?  Is Andrew Holness an Enemy of the State?  Why else would you make plans to flee Jamaica as soon as the JLP won?  Why’d you not decide to stay and fight the “enemy” on our behalf?

                   “I will never leave her shores, I will never run away.
I will always believe in the black, the green, the gold I say.
All nations greater for their trials.                                                        We must face the test of time,                                                                           that our people they are strong and we going to get along.
Though some people say we poor,                                                          but the progress you make my friend                                                                   is not always how rich you are.
”         

It was the French aristocrats who sought political exile from whence they could plot against the Revolutionary Government.  But, for you, it’s not even political principle because you elected to move onto greener pastures despite your Party’s return to power.  More importantly since you knew your family planned to migrate from 2007; since the necessary applications were filed; why’d you accept the Senate President post?  Why not decline THEN because you were on your way out?

It gets worse.  He immediately delivers himself of this self-serving nonsense:

          “The understanding within my family up until the birth of my last child in January 2011 was that I would settle my family in Canada and return quickly to Jamaica to continue my efforts to help make Jamaica the best that we can be. I am sure you will understand if you are a parent that you cannot very well choose to be so far away from your family with an infant child.

But Stanley, you just said that you DID choose to be “so far away from your family”.  Why did one more child make such a difference?  Again, you have dug an even deeper credibility hole for yourself because, if the child was born in 2011 and cemented the family’s emigration, all the more reason for you to refuse the Senate President post.  Didn’t you know THEN you’d flee and not return?  Didn’t you realize THEN how that would look?  Didn’t you see that the implied comment on the government and Party you seem to worship would be devastating? 

Why’d you accept that post?  Was it lust for power and status without regard for consequence?  Or was it patriotism? The answer lies in Stanley’s own defence.  He discloses that the understanding reached was “within my family”.  Nobody knew of his carefully hatched plan to bolt.  Why?  If it was such a noble, patriotic plan, why the secrecy?  The way Stanley describes it, the plan sounds to me like one to spirit the family off to “safety” while Stanley returned for whatever scarce benefits and spoils his party affiliation could bestow upon him. Again, there is no political principle discernible here.  There’s only what appears to be a selfish man behaving in a hypocritical way.

Then he starts hammering on a second stake:

          “Many Jamaicans have sought opportunities for their children overseas. I do not believe there is any shame in seeking the best for my  talented children. I am sure you would have done no differently.

Many Jamaicans seek the best education for their children abroad.  Most of these parents remain in Jamaica fighting the good fight and trying to earn rapidly appreciating US dollars for children’s tuition.  Few, if any, fled with the children never to return.  Most of the children returned after completing their education; struggled for years without jobs; then surrendered to jobs for which they were overqualified.  They and their parents are patriots. 

Stanley’s own pen exposes his hypocritical and selfish behaviour.  Neither is a crime.  All are free to behave selfishly and hypocritically without sanction.  Many make that choice daily. It’s the pretence selfishness is patriotism that rankles.  That’s insulting to the rest of us.

Perhaps inadvertently, Stanley has delivered a withering commentary on Jamaica’s government.  According to Stanley, Jamaica cannot provide the best for his talented children.  Jamaica, governed for 20 of the past 24 years by Stanley’s Party, is just not good enough for Stanley’s children.  So, in flight, Stanley has damned the PNP as an abject failure. Did he stop to think? If, from his privileged standpoint, he can only see doom for his children, what must we say?

                   “Let us stop for a minute, count our blessings one by one.
We should never be disloyal, but stand up and keep strong.
My Jamaica is a beautiful island;                                                                        she’s the pearl of the Caribbean Sea;                                                       and our people they are free.                            No oppression here to see.
With the prettiest women there be                                                                     and the hills, and the plains and the rivers                                                        and the valleys always beckon to me.

Had Stanley been just another citizen, his actions wouldn’t be so damning.  He’d simply be one of many who flee when nobody pursueth imagining some ideological or physical threat.  But Stanley is, in reality, fleeing from himself.  As one of the leaders who contributed to the shaping of modern Jamaica, his twisted logic returns to haunt him because it’s he and his colleagues who have created the scenario from whence he has scampered in alleged protection of his family.  This is symptomatic of our leadership since Independence.  Do as I say not as I do.

                   “Miss Tourist, Missa. Tourist, leave your land and come.                                     Tarry here for a while, and have a bathe in the warm warm sun.
We will share our lives with you.                                                                        Our people they are true.                                                                                  They will want to be with you.
They will love; they will help; they will give.                                            If you wish my friend you can live.
You will be a happier one in the land of the rising sun.

Stanley’s plot, hatched, mobilized in 2007 and finally executed with demoralizing timing in 2013, brings to mind the legendary 18th Century British writer, Samuel Johnson, who published The Patriot, (“Booklist” eat your heart out!) a critique of what he considered false patriotism. It was Johnson who once famously said in 1775, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

If stricken with a dread disease, I must wait interminably at a ramshackle hospital for a tired, over-worked junior doctor to glance at me before scheduling treatment months after it can help.  Yet my political leaders are whisked off in airbuses to a first world institution with a highbrow name at the first twinge of pain.  I live in squalor.  Yet my M.P. lives in a faraway ivory tower and visits me only when I block the road and behave as my parents forbade me ever to do. 

Who am I?  I, like you, am every Jamaican.  I don’t have a Visa.  I can’t afford foreign medical treatment.  I use Jamaican produced goods and services whenever available.  I was lucky; educated in Jamaica to the tertiary level.  I’ve always worked in Jamaica.  I raise my voice against what I perceive as injustice whether or not I attract tribal abuse.  I won’t remain silent or blindly suck-up to any politician or political party for personal gain.  I do what I can to help the less fortunate without public fanfare.  I ensure my family lives in love and I try to keep them as healthy and happy as is possible in Jamaica. I believe in Eric Donaldson’s patriotic lyrics.  I believe in the black; the green; and the gold.

                   “I say this is the land of my birth;                                                                            I say this is the land of my birth.
I say this is Jamaica, my Jamaica,                                                                          the land of my birth.

Who am I?  Me teacher, me teacher!  I know, I know! I’m a Jamaican patriot.

Peace and Love

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