Commentary: What is the colour of good governance after an election, Jamaica?

jamaica votes gleaner

Photo Credit: Jamaica Gleaner:

Every election has consequences, and regardless of what colour one identifies with, after the paint job has been completed, the nation has to deal with it until the rust emerges again. The people will always be the body shop to select the right paint and hope the dents are fixed from years of neglects, and bumps. Sometimes these new or recycled paints blend and other times it fades and does not shine as expected.

On February 25, 2016, the island votes in its parliamentary election amid an ongoing troubled economy. However, despite plenty of blame to go around, Jamaica has made significant strides in its election process. Several international and local observers have responded to its positive signs.

Over the past few decades, political violence seems to be on the decline. During the 1980s, over 800 people were killed in election related crime. People are still being killed, but the numbers have reduced, and more work needs to be done given the recent news on a few new election related deaths.

One cannot run or benefit from a 21st century election with barbaric ideology.

JA-votes1Elections in the Caribbean, despite its beautiful colour, can be extremely dangerous when it is simply an interest for good governance and democracy that should be colourless as people try to find the best canvas to represent them.

With speculation, increased pressure, poll numbers and questions of leadership, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Simpson-Miller called early elections. The population of about three million people will put to rest for a few hours the ongoing issues of organized crime, drugs, trade, low growth and high debt or even a positive sporting event, from the coastal areas to the interior to select the right colour with even a simple hope that the average life expectancy remains at 73 as reported in Jamaica.

Although the margin of victory, whether for the Peoples National Party (PNP) or the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP), will be close, the psychology from political identity will still have discourse. Election settles debates, but that does not stop a few from seeing their party as the only good, and seeing the other side negatively.

Photo Credit: towson.edu

What is uplifting is that the constitutional parliamentary democracy will remain intact this time around. Sure, you still have pockets of bad colours that have resulted in roadblocks, and other criminal elements and that can be related to political tribalism, as many scholars have noted.

However, since its independence from British rule in 1962, politics, crime, management, economic stagnation, poverty and power has always been a struggle from the ballot box to Main Street in Jamaica and other Caribbean Islands. Despite smooth transitions of power, Jamaica still struggles under the multitude of colours to find the right mixture.

This election and its bountiful colours are beyond party identity and boisterous claims of accomplishments, or the lack thereof. Quietly, it is more of a personality contest where, on one hand, current Prime Minister Simpson-Miller perhaps seems more aware of the latest dancehall moves, and opposition leader, Andrew Holness, who rose to the top after former Prime Minister Bruce Golding stepped down.

Holness, who won the delegates from Shaw, a longtime member of parliament and finance minister, has  to constantly convince the public that he has put in his time, and has the right in-depth knowledge of what it takes and that he should benefit from his leadership victory.

Some are still unable to unlink him from Golding and still believe that his sudden departure was due to an internal fight, but others saw it to save himself and the party in the process from embarrassment.

Political power is seldom based on accomplishments, but time served in the Cabinet. However, one hopes the Jamaican people will look for sustainability on many fronts as it searches for the right colour to offer the highest quality of living where both the people and the currency have lost value in governance.

Jamaica Election Crowd 2016

As this election cycle grows in Jamaica, supporters will usually show up to political rallies ether in red, green or orange, as if it is carnival season, having a good time listening to speeches, dancing for their particular party.

Sadly, these parties operate like primary colours: you cannot mix them after an election cycle, or even bring others to the canvas; thus making it difficult to govern and paint a picture for a brighter future. These election colours should be by definition where other colours derive from.

Hopefully, after this cycle, there will room for mixing to move the nation forward.

This is not an opinion on election monitoring and difficulties faced stemming from influence on of the electoral process. It is a hybrid of finding a revolution that will uplift not only the poor, but also the middle class to continue to paint a better colour after the last ballot has been counted, the street are clear, and the markets are open again with fruits still looking for buyers.

As pundits hit the airwaves to argue about the failing economy and use ignorance as growth, there is plenty of blame to go around for people not to vote.

JA-Votes6The question you should be asking, what will be different this time around?
Can many continue to live only on remittances from Jamaicans living abroad, which seem to be a rise?
What next will be cut from public programs, and what other fees will increase?
I hope this election will be one where people vote their own self-interest, even on a single issue. One should not be fooled by selective amnesia, and change of language to cover diminished credibility and, in the end, the ultra-rich, plutocrats get richer, and everybody else get poorer.

The question you should be asking, what will be different this time around?

This election should not be only a high visibility of colours that will fade shortly afterwards but, like others, it should be won on the right mixture for the future. Jamaica will not escape from the dark colour of current governance, and even if the paintbrush has been changed, often it too carries the stains from the past. Therefore, it becomes difficult to paint a much needed new canvas and here many still hope for the best outcome.

 

This election is both internal and external aftershock as poverty lingers. As these aggressive campaigns continue to seal their platforms, it will not change most recent reports that have seen a deterioration in Jamaica’s trade deficit combined with growing imports, and spending

Fundamentally, this election will come down to what party can project itself as the best choice. As the paint dries, the quest for good governance should bring out the best in elected officials to get things done, and stop promising ideas that they knew in advance cannot be fulfilled due to other economic reasons.

Several promises have been made, from who is best to handle crime, to free education and medical care, and yet some medical centres could use an election to replace some their own leaders. This is not an indictment on one party, but put forth a solid plan that has a sharp difference from the other.

Being angry at each other does not solve anything.

Jamaica must find a way to make sure these movements and organizations involve a prosperity platform build tolerance, justice and equality for as the island continues to look for the best sunshine.

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Commentary: The MVP from Obama’s Jamaica trip: By D.R. Miller

The Starting Team: April 8, 2015, President Barack Obama’s trip to Jamaica, the anticipation seemed like a World Cup football game where Jamaica made the play-off. The 24-hours ticket created a nostalgic vibe across all strata of fans. Some even took credit for his visit.

Some of what was highlighted suggested that the Jamaican government bought a new set of brooms and swept up several unappealing spots that had been overlooked for decades.The facelift gave an impression of a well-kept yard when it was simply a temporary cosmetic:

Many asked, when the mascara fades, now the last whistle has been blown, what next. Despite the joy, social media quietly erupted, where pundits, politicians, and bleachers seized the opportunity and aired what is called their dirty laundry. Few debated the new asphalt concrete pavements, and what happen after it fades.

One suggested only criminals benefit, as people are scared to venture out on these new roads after dark. Additionally, temporary relocation of mentally ill and homeless people in disguising images of poverty. Given the president’s compassion for the poor and youth in general, leaving these images intact could have resulted in more aid. Under his administration, the US budget for the homeless to help affordable housing programs increased and the homeless rate has been reduced, according Housing and Urban Development.

The irony is that some have been part of the team for decades and refused to quit, retire, or accept the penalties for their foul play. Many players who arrived at the airport and the town hall meeting wore hidden bandages, hurting in disguise. The region’s stagnated socio-economic problems have been a cancer for decades and this one-day match has not solved corruption, poverty, high unemployment, crime, and social stratification. Update: Only Obama can take full credit as to where he visits. Obama’s trip was more than a popularity contest.

Paradigm Shift: Even women in power, when women negotiate, it looks like they continue to suffer a social cost: the unintentional bias still lingers: Before the MVP is selected: First, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller must be commended for a successful visit. Despite the struggles and obstacles, Obama called Marley’s house “one of the most fun meetings I’ve had since I’ve been president”. The reggae legend Bob Marley lived there until his death in 1981.

Even Jamaica’s relaxed and warm attitude brushed off on him (no comment about what might have been the cause). He even signed the Jamaica House visitors’ log one day in advance: April 10, 2015, and not April 9, 2015. What was this trip or game about? Despite the chatter, the Caribbean needs a new broom. Few local outlets believed that Jamaica’s new economic power in the region plays a role. Local pondering and political ploy is always an option. According to Reuters, Obama wants to reassert US leadership in the Caribbean that has been overlooked. Many analysts say a key reason Washington is suddenly paying attention to the Caribbean Basin is that it wants to wean the islands off Venezuelan oil and influence.

Recently, the United States declared Venezuela a national security threat. When a country is so declared, it is the first step in starting sanctions. However, CNN’s Joe Johns in a recent interview with Jamaica’s Police Commissioner Carl Williams discussed the potential of sleeper cells in the region.

This issue appears moot, but he noted that Jamaica has formed a new intelligence unit to collect data in collaboration. Stay with me here, the game is still playing. I will get to the MVP. Concerning potential sleeper cells as reported, the region has not seen Al Qaeda, as in the Arabian Peninsula, capitalizing on the region’s poverty or a homemade bomb to date, or locals travelling to join ISIS.

However, these concerns should not be taken lightly. Even smart people can be confused to believe that only Islamic countries and religion can create terrorists. One cannot discount the ideologies that it can strike anywhere. However, with the lack resources to solve a wave of recent local crimes, one wonders? Several victims have lost trust in the government and are still searching for answers and justice.

The Pick: Many outsiders do not claim to be experts on the Caribbean region’s politics, crime, economic, or social justice. In fact, legally, several of us cannot play or even cast a vote, but the migration roots continue to connect these ocean shores. So, technically one never leaves the ballot box and checking-in is mandatory even to simply make sure a future visit or mom’s return can be fun without an overwhelming security apparatus. Although it seems society is picking MVPs before a season ends, Commissioner Carl William is the MVP. You might not agree because your crime and safety concerns, even corruption, remain active.

Dealing with crime variables is certainly a challenge: all economic correlations, including changing criminogenic needs, the security team has to stay the tallest person in the room. Commissioner Williams will always have difficult task ahead, especially to decide potential sleeper cells, track and measure criminal history and people engaged in crime, and prediction requires synergy. Sadly, today it appears social media can get more evidence than a local investigator. Jamaica, Trinidad, Guatemala, Haiti and others cannot be successful with pockets of outlaws who continue to cause mayhem, and residents remain silent (no snitch). These communities must become vigilant and be protected. Mr Williams and others holding top cop positions cannot solve crime alone.

If Obama’s trip was built on security concerns, the nation needs to realize, despite their frustrations with local criminal elements, solving crime requires critical data and analysis with methodological commitment from the team. The Road Ahead: Since high-profile games are played in nation’s capital, often rural communities are overlooked when they need a new social and justice stadium. Recently, a lifeless body stood still for hours from a machete chop. (What happened to a trained forensic expert?) Speaking on condition of anonymity, an officer noted you cannot solve a crime arriving several hours later, at times intoxicated, the entire community has possession of the deceased. The crime scene compromised and the officer fears for his/her own safety in investigating the incident to decide the direction.

There are many parents still searching for justice. Fourteen-year-old Kayalicia Simpson’s family now wonders how the system missed the warning signs, while other mothers are living in fear of their young child being kidnapped and raped to and from schools. The idea that some local communities now have turf wars like the Sunnis, Shiites, and ISIS is problematic. These conflicts cannot be allowed to be manifested into more issues.

Eliminating potential threats and cutting recidivism requires community trust and resources. The politics that often surrounds community policing has to be balanced with accountability. It is less likely for a young man or woman to join a gang when he or she has opportunities, equal protection, and respect for the rule of law enforcement. Dangerous ideologies are often formed from exclusion. What if the society had continued to isolate the Rastafarian movement, the question posed to President Obama on the legalization of marijuana would not have been possible. Inclusion only makes a society stronger even when we disagree

The crime rates have declined as reported. However, several are not resolved while victims search for follow-up and support. The sense of hopelessness cannot be measured. Strengthening local police departments with modern equipment and training is more critical, even sensitivity to a rape victim. “To serve and protect” is not simply the power of one badge received after an academy.

The recent reported killing of a police officer shot dead by another officer after allegedly trying commit a robbery on a bar only further deteriorate trust in the system. The ending of police violence is equally important, and an independent review is paramount.

Our Hope: As Obama said, “Wah gwan, Jamaica?” Being critical of public safety only makes the system better. It is not a good feeling having to spend one’s vacation in another part of town simple because of a fear being killed, and frustration in seeing others suffering from barbaric atrocities. For Prime Minister Simpson-Miller, despite difficulties, she has tried and needs more collaboration. This is not an endorsement. Winning this bid to host Obama comes with enormous responsibility.

Obama leaves Jamaica, what next? The region has to get back its moral compass. Leadership can no longer ignore rural areas until an election season, while continuing to depend on its fruits and vegetables. As an outsider, how do you choose this MVP? One simple watches the young people basking in hope and change through education.

After the last whistle has blown, and parade is over, the confetti is off the street, and planting of new trees to meet the next leader, the commissioner will be the fence around their safety to grow. If this MVP has already begun to stretch this physical and mental fence, great. If not, we cannot see how he can build confidence. I still believe the community is where his best players are.

Finally, the critical value attributed to the cosmetics cost generated for Obama’s visit only confirms that if the region focuses its resources on solving systematic problems, the temporary beautification can have a lasting effect, and residents will have less ammunition during high profile visits to vent their frustrations.

Commentary: Obama’s One Love stop to Jamaica, who will be dancing after he leaves? By D.R. Miller

obamaja1

Pres: Obama Leaving Jamaica

Touch Down: US President Obama will make a quick mic-check stop in Jamaica on his way to the 2015 Summit of the Americas in Panama. This visit will be welcomed on the island and in the region in general. Since Ronald Reagan in 1982, he will be the second sitting US president to visit Jamaica.

In Reagan’s case, some argued that his visit was about gaining strategic cooperation from former Prime Minister Michael Manley, who enjoyed a close relationship to then Cuban president, Fidel Castro. Today, several changes have occurred. The Soviet Union has been dismantled, and relations with Cuba are being normalized.

Although Obama’s trip is believed not to be about the past, but the irony is that several of the region’s issues are still in the shadow of the past. Economically, for Jamaica and some of its neighbours, the ship is still searching for an economic anchor.

Although many of these islands have gained independence from colonial rule, many islands quietly remain dependent, with no economic upward mobility for the youth, poor leadership, poverty, crime, stagnation and a missing middle class. Today, only few enjoy comfort zones that they strategically keep up, as the region remains divided between the haves and the have-nots.

Jacurrency

The reality: Many hope Obama’s visit will spark new hope and change where along these shores change remains an elusive word and only poverty is as constant as the ocean that surrounds these islands. From the Caribbean to the Atlantic Ocean, these islands are looking more like an America colony than the once British, French, Dutch, and Spanish ruled outposts.

A retired school teacher once said, the only thing missing, especially in Jamaica, where several local stores are stacked with imported American products, is simply to make the US currency legal tender. Maybe Obama can become the next face on a $50,000 bill, given the rate of inflation that shows no sign of easing, as currency across the region has devalued and soon one will need shopping bag to exchange it for one US dollar.

Such as Obama, the first US black president, Portia Simpson-Miler was the first woman prime minister of Jamaica. Many thought her choice would have brought hope, and more economic successes, especially for young women, who also felt liberated when she elected. However, many women’s concerns in this region remain invisible. Her rise to power has been an uphill battle, like others in the region who have been the first.

Today, there are not many positive economic numbers to show since the 2008 economic collapse.

In contrast, it was not only an historic event for Obama; it was believed to be a new paradigm shift in race relations that have been a cancer in the US. His election had the prescription for equality, social and economic justice, and even racial harmony. However, the country is still divided along race, religion belief, and ideology, haves vs. have-nots, although the US economy has rebounded.

This visit perhaps will be a boost to Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, when many polls, according to the Voice magazine, say the opposition leader would win the next election. Obama’s visit will not have the same global impact and political tone as when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu visited the US Congress in early March 2015. Some thought that his US visit was a platform for his re-election.

Portia simpson

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller: Photo: Bryan Cummings/Jamaica

On the other hand, Obama in Jamaica might tempt the other party to exploit the economic stagnation and the unpopularity to its advantage in the next election. While the threat of external violence, terrorism or billions in aid is a hot topic in the Israel-US relationship, Jamaica could use a few millions in aid.

The topic of terrorism might not be high on the agenda, but perhaps he would like to know how the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) bilateral trade agreements with Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Venezuela are working for all in the region and if there is any more room for dumping.

Jazz-crowd-Ja2The Connection: On this day, Obama’s roots, birth certificate, religion will not be in question. The Jamaican motto “Out of Many One People” will ring loud. Although there is deep social stratification and a male dominated chauvinist attitude, he will be welcome as a son of the soil that has deep roots from the 17th century slave ships that docked along these shores.

Often throughout life, some continue to be defined by colour and not the accomplishments or intellect. As much as Obama would have liked to bail out the local sluggish economy as he did with General Motors, a financial package would be stalled in today’s divided US Congress.

Although the term minority is seldom used in the region, the irony is it gives a false sense of equilibrium in the melting pot. For many, the region is like a field planted with 100 corn plants and, out of those 100 plants, you have yellow, white, brown, and multi-colour kernels. They all dependent on the same water, soil and nutrients to survive. Looking on it seems they are all corn along these hills, valleys and coastlines. However, George Orwell, in his1945 Animal Farm book, said, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,” and that plot rings loud in the region as many other places.

Okay, this is not a paper on race: Let us get back to Obama’s historic trip.

Crime Affects us all.

The Whispers: Jamaica will add one more boisterous smile from this trip. However, one cannot ignore that the region has become a dangerous place. According to a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report, Honduras, which records 103.9 murders per 100,000 people, is ranked number one on the list as the highest murder rate in the world. Jamaica is number three, with 45.1 murders per 100,000. Venezuela is second on the list, with 57.6 murders per 100,000 people. Other places such as The Bahamas, where crime is often low, should be concerned with its 11th place on the list.

Public safety remains a major concern away from the white sand beaches and even retired natives who have called the US and other industrialised countries home for four or five decades are having second thoughts about returning due to safety concerns, and proper collaboration to head off violence given the abundance of weapons in the region.

Cab1While these islands continue to compete as if they are at the Olympics, with distrust and dislike, they are all connected. While some will have a toast with Obama, quietly, economically they have been on pain killers and have not lived up to their full potential in moving people forward

This trip will not create any significant comprehensive financial package to head off stagnation, or subsidise health care, create new financial regulations, prison reform, increase the 63-member House of Representatives, cut the bureaucratic red tape that is often reported and recognized as a major hindrance to conducting business. However, I hope he asks the local government make sure enforcement to prevent corruption through the Corruption Prevention Act.
Here is what he should propose and highlight:

transgender-teenThe need for legislations to promote equality in the gay and lesbian community that has seen detrimental treatment for many years, more attention to victims, and their families of sexual violence such as Ingrid Brown wrote about in the Jamaica Observer in 2012. She reported a major issue that is not unique to Jamaica alone where children were being raped and infected with STDs, as Dr Knight from the Bustamante Children’s Hospital noted. Sadly, many victims will remain silent.

Furthermore, the president should ask for a new consumer protection agency like the one he created in US to cut the exploitation of many who became victims of quick loans.

What if the president lands on your island, what would be your socio-economic, criminal, and social justice data show? Many in these areas would have reached the US shores if it were not for the ocean.

Airfore 1 leavingSorry to Say: After Air Force One takes off over the blue waters, the unemployment rate will not change, education costs are still rising, crime remains high. Many still have significant problems gaining employment for being labeled a former prisoner, poverty and a criminal justice that seems to help only who can afford it for the right price and where distrust in government roars like the ocean brushing along shores are just a few issues that will still be on the table.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson has tried and, despite her history in the Jamaican government, she too struggles for equality. Even her minimal achievements will continue to be rushed up against the shores.

What next?
One hopes the US or other presidents to these shores bring economic prosperity, making it a frequent vacation spot. Perhaps the next one could be simply to see a grandparent: We’ll see you again, thank you for stopping by.

Commentary: My rabbi is gay, now what?

DYBYANSHU SARKAR Photo By Getty Image

DYBYANSHU SARKAR Photo By Getty Image

The Location Gay: Recently, GilSteinlauf, a senior rabbi of Adas Israel in Washington, DC, one of the largest conservative movement-affiliated synagogues came out as gay. Soon after, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, announced he is gay. One blogger wrote, “You don’t just leave your wife to “go be gay any more than you would leave her to go be straight.” Another wrote, “Apple has lost its pioneering skills and seeking more businesses.” Does one need a prerequisite to come out as gay? I asked.The gay community stories are bigger than these two men despite the media attention. However, this story is not about the rabbi, or Tim Cook. It is the plight for acceptance for other gay people who are trapped by location under an old colonial ideology that still roars like the ocean, damaging any objects in its path without an anchor. These unchecked anti-waves have eroded several poor and developing regions.
rabbi, Gil Steinlauf,Fortunately, Rabbi Gil Steinlauf and Tim Cook both have financial anchors, bridges, closets and retractable vessels that can weather the storms and bypass rough tides. Tim CookUnlike Michael Sam, an openly gay player who was cut by two National Football League (NFL) teams. This I believe is a culture of homophobia. Fortunately, for many rich and famous people, publicly announcing their sexuality often increases wealth and power.

 

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human_rights_watch: Photo

On the other hand, many less fortunate gays, lesbians,and bisexual announcement have the opposite effect. They do not have speedboats to escape tides and community pirates and are sometimes thrown overboard by their own captains. Many parents also face discrimination for having gay children and are more worried today about society stigma and hostility than their own future.These are some of the issues they face daily in the region: abuse, homelessness, lack of access to medical care, expulsion from the community. The only visual representation of a voice mail or iTune is the sound from the broken sewer pipes dripping and hovering over their heads from living under decayed bridges. Being gay is not a sin or learned behaviour, but bigotry, racism, and atrocities against them are.

Transgender -teen

By age 16, the teenager was dead – beaten, stabbed, shot and run over by a car when he showed up at a street party dressed as a woman. (AP Photo/Jay, J-FLAG)

(One) — I called him Rupert. Shortly after he came out, his church memberships and choir receded. He seldom goes to the beach anymore. Few friends’ lives cut-short as barbaric treatment against them appeared now acceptable. Often denied entry to community activities, employment, and forced to move for their own safety. Few burned alive, stoned, and scorned.Garden

(Two) — Sonia dressed like a man, short hair, cargo pants and boots, although she has found comfort in maintaining the small town floral garden. While some visitors marveled at her floral garden designs, other abused her appearance and threw rocks at her. Being gay did not limit her imagination. I wonder if a few had taken the time to know her, one would learn that friends of own dad repeatedly raped her as a child at a local bar he owned. With nowhere to turn for support, her trust in men eroded and she became isolated. Even in her death after she lost her battle with breast cancer, her remains were treated as if her gayness had Ebola. Her ashes are now resting in the garden she created.

(Three) — Berma, very beautiful and has a good job. She blends in well with her peers, lives in a nice home, and well educated. However, she is also scared of coming out. Despite rumours after she was seen holding hands with her partner on the other side of town, she constantly shrugged off the argument of having a child. Today, many of your cab drivers could have been famous cricketers, track stars, teachers, and police officers, but they were not welcome for being gay. Many have left their districts, and now found comfort behind the wheel of a cab or coaching in a women’s sports league and serving your meal at the local restaurant. Even Human Rights Watch has seen increase in violence simple for being perceived gay. They do not have the support system and their future in being gay remains grim.

UmbrellaThe Umbrella: The gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community has finally reached many shores, but others are still searching for that elusive lighthouse for guidance off these shores. Despite some being gay themselves, they would rather promote stratification along racial, colour, and economic status or location lines. One’s gayness is not white, black, rich or poor, tall short, fat, or slim issue. They are simply gay, who happens to be one of the above. A gay cruise from Puerto Rico along the eastern and southern Caribbean with over 1,500 men does not address the plight of the ones stuck under the bridge or left at sea.

The Jamaica Gleaner reported on an anti-gay march in St Thomas in response to a proposed bill that would recognize marriage as a legal union between two people and not the traditional man and woman. Huffington Post reported in March 2012 that two California men were arrested in Roseau, Dominica, where sex between two men is illegal.

In 2010, the Cayman Islands rejected the arrival of an Atlantis gay cruise. Moving forward is slow in the region.  Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says the “decriminalization of homosexuality” in Trinidad and Tobago is not something her administration will seek to do because “it would not be prudent for the government to go ahead in that direction at this time”, according to the Trinidad Express.

MDR Photo: Taken on Location in St.Lucia

The gay and lesbian community spends an estimated $830 billion according to Curve Magazine each year. Leveraging its influence especially along blue water and white sand through education, and other grassroots support is vital. The region cannot afford to avoid this business revenue. One should not have to strategically plan gay vacation routes based only on gay friendly destinations in the Caribbean, Africa or any other regions as if it is an election strategy in red and blue in the US.

Society has evolved, but it seems the colonial ship mentality continues to sail while umbrellas shield leaders’ hesitation to move forward from a cemented things as they are. “Things cannot stay the way as they are.” Despite the statistical signs for more tolerance, this issue remains a monumental task. The region cannot do this alone.

An intolerance system passed down from several decades is hard to change course instantly. Subconsciously, the Anglicization of families as the British did wherever they settled centuries ago remain active. However, some islands have taken steps, such as Bermuda, and in Jamaica, the momentum is gaining, but an advocate needs to keep the pressure on.4457931_orig

A Blinded History: According to a study conducted by Trevor Bernard, based on data taken from St Andrews Jamaica, marriage patterns between 1666 and 1750 taken from the parish register were analyzed.

The results indicated that the average length of marriage was very short and declined over time. It resulted in a reduction of children produced by marriage, and was insufficient to sustain slavery and population growth. During that period, influxes of women slaves from Britain and Africa arrived in the region.

An argument can be made that they were placed there for procreation and not simply as slaves working for white rulers, as reported. It seems valid if people stayed married four centuries ago, and produced more children; it would have supported the demands for labour. Centuries later, independence has created more social and economic struggles, as 2901278residual footprints in customs, laws, beliefs still have the ghosts of the past.

My conspiracy theory is that many of the men then were gay and, in shaping these societies, they undermined individuals’ rights for the sake of economic and political power. Recently I began to wonder if the Buggery Act has similarities as earlier, anti-voting laws passed to isolate certain groups. Some 150 years later several Jamaicans opposed amending the Buggery Act that was created during colonial rule around 1861.

Today, many leaders in the region remain silent on amendments or new human rights laws. The anti-gay protesters believe that homosexuals and their agenda are bad for strong and healthy families, righteousness, and justice. This not just a sea change happening in Jamaica, the US and other regions. Many who felt left out finally seeking anticipation and began to wear their bright colours. However, history has shown that the quest for equality does not sit well with few on ideological grounds.

Black2The transition from slavery to free legal status from 1823 to 1838, especially in the Caribbean region, seems only to be on paper. There is still a major divide between the haves and have-nots, as social, economics, ideology, greed, power, and intolerance maintain stratification. Modernization today is in conflict, especially with leaders who are stuck in the past on old colonial rule mindset. Many pulpits have created more homophobia as they labeled it as a sin.

This is not much different from when many blacks  being viewed as second-class citizens. That mentality has created hostility, hate, isolation and violence. Reaching out and developing tolerance across the region is key, such as what occurred recently in Washington, DC, where several Muslim groups were invited to worship at Catholic Cathedral.   A recent one report on  You Tube by an Arizona pastor claiming that, “we can have an AIDS-free world by Christmas if gays were executed.”  If the god they all worship is love for all, who determines which one is not loved by him?

Reversing the monster: What if US never passed the 1964 Voting Rights Act and the Title VII Act against discrimination, would there be a Barack Obama. I believe reprogramming the few who might have never have left the colonized period mentally is key. Reparation is not the key answer in removing ghosts of the past. A simple law such as the US Prison Rape Elimination [PREA] that holds prison guards who rape inmates accountable would address some of the issues gays face in prison there.

The British government should increase funds towards educational awareness, and pressure leaders to move forward from its old laws. The price of educating the community will be far less than the ignorance in the end. Although the crops such as sugar cane, coffee, spices that have built their economy decades ago have dried up, however, footprints are still cast in the red clays with far-reaching effects.

For example, the Suspicion Laws popularly called the ‘Sus Laws’, which emanated from the legislation of the Vagrancy Act of 1824 as reported by Shaka Yesufu. This law represented an institutionalized  racial profiling that often used in many cities today globally.

What if, in 1776, the US did not declare independence from Great Britain and insist on the pursuit, of life, liberty justice even on paper for all. There is an opportunity for these once colonial masters to hasten the new paradigm shift in reshaping the less fortunate regions they have left. It is time to consider another conquest of these regions, but this time bringing an update new version of an operating system to modernize much needed social and economic ideologies.

What if we continue to allow many more Boko Harams to commit atrocities on society, many young girls will be sold off into marriages at an early age, female circumcision (female genital mutilation) and Incest and more women would continue to be raped and not allowed to file for divorce, or even drive in regions ruled by black leaders.

The Struggles Ahead: Despite US Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement: “I am pleased to announce that the federal government will recognize same-sex marriages”, combined with new laws passed in over 20 states, polarization, intolerance and political ideology threatens this paradigm shift. Those communities must choose candidates who share their values. President Obama has benefited from this focus.

However, it cannot only be leaders from industrialized countries while the poor suffer. Efforts have to be made to make sure, if one gay life lost because of who they are, it should be a sad day, as a soldier killed in a war despite one’s belief for or against that war. The gay community in these poor regions remains at the mercy of the rich in an oligarchic system with an uphill battle.

Changes take time and often resisted. When the US elected Barack Obama the first black president, many were delighted for the change, but six years later, with positive economic growth, the nation is still divided. Like fighting racial issues, the gay community has to continue to fight for equality because while they dance to fun rhythms on the beach in these regions, many lyrics are strategically placed to demonise the community, such as racial epithets, and codes used to polarize, create intolerance and hate.

Love DocOnly when societies become more educated and tolerant, then we can begin to dance together and reverse a monster that was created. Pushing the legalization of marijuana despite its potential long-term addictive effect, gay rights should take on the same effort. Finally, the next time you power up your iPhone to spread hate, just remember the new design you waited 24 hours in 10-degree weather  to buy  was approved by a gay man. And no! I am not gay, but should that matter to support their cause?  Rest in Peace • Leslie Feinberg-for fighting for equality for all.leslie-feinberg-story-

 

 

 

Commentary: High on Ebola, low on chikungunya

EbolaSince the recent outbreak of chikungunya in the Caribbean, four people with close connections who arrived back to into the US from the Caribbean region were hospitalized immediately and diagnosed with the virus. In addition, a few medical center employees communicated that they have seen an increase of patients from the region admitted to their medical facilities. I am not a medical doctor, nor I do I play one on the television; however, based on the recent reports chikungunya has seen a significant up-tick. On the other hand, an impression is being portrayed that it is under control on these shores. What  long term-effect it has on people  is not  known at this time.

The leaders must address this issue openly and develop a solid plan before this potential storm, where soon US and other well-traveled countries by the Caribbean people will begin to put the medical drone in the region. The drone concept is geared to destroy anything in its path when launched. However, could you blame the US if they cut travel, and begin to set a high alert and other screening of passengers from the region?

The recent death of Thomas Duncan from Ebola at age 42, who arrived in the US, has created an intensive focus on foreign travelers from many poor and developing countries. Although many believed Thomas Duncan’s death while in US care would inevitably send a statement to others to not come, many people are now wondering what the color of medicine is after two dedicated Caucasian doctors who worked in Liberia contracted the virus and recovered. One of the silent tones in the Caribbean addressing chikungunya, I believe, is not the politics of the virus, which is often seen elsewhere, for the region it is all economics.

1797349_origHere is why: Most of the region’s economic engine is tourism, and if any indication like what has been taken place in Liberia, it could be worse than the economic collapse in 2008 that left many still sneezing. I begin to wonder if this is a reason reports of this increasing tide seem a bit hushed up to protect the tourism industry while many locals are suffering silently. Any business model during a turbulent time is not only to ready, but willing to tell about structural problems. This approach not only builds credibility, but also shows a level of leadership that is lacking today on several fronts.

This is not a call for a reduction of travel to and from the region, or high-level screening at airports — that would be premature at this point. On the other hand, when the local government is slow to educate people, this could be a tornado building. Therefore, questions must be asked. Along these blue waters there lies an undercurrent overflowing its banks at any time, and the long-term impact could cripple many lives, both medically and economically.

Managing these issues takes compassion and resources. Recently I saw a Facebook picture post of what appeared to be a sick person from the region who became more victimized as he was scorned from an appearance of what is believed to be the symptoms of the Ebola virus. Furthermore, when it is reported that few local doctors are contemplating refusing to report to work in the event of an outbreak due to the lack of medical supplies and other resources that is troubling.

In today’s society, where billions are being spent on wars and politicians re-election, it is hard to fathom that lack of resource and awareness, combined with scorn, can leave many more suffering. I hope elective officials, medical staff, and CARICOM step up its mandate to educate people and seek help through awareness, because the potential problems such as what is occurring in Liberia and other West African countries, where perception is more dangerous that an actual virus.

These islands are unique and sometimes that can be their own downfall because the uniqueness creates a form of isolation. It further limits collaboration, as all seem to be competing for piece of the visitors pie. Therefore, competition mutes concerns, while marketing becomes“them and not us mentality.”

This virus is not just an island thing, or in Third World countries as one of my less informed friends stated, he is going to stop eat chicken, and stop going to places where lots of chicken are found.

-Ebola3-thumb response

Education is key: No, you cannot get it from eating chicken, or visiting places where chicken are in abundance. The name chikungunya derives from a word in Makonde language roughly meaning that which bends up reflecting the physique of a person disabled by the disease. Many reports have noted that it was first identified in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in 1952

According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the first known autochthonous chikungunya cases in the Western Hemisphere occurred in October 2013 on the island of Saint Martin. By March 2014, travelers to other Caribbean islands carried it to: Dominica; the British territories Anguilla and British Virgin Islands; overseas departments of France — Guadeloupe, Martinique; and the constituent countries of the Netherlands Antilles, as well as other areas such as St Kitts and Nevis; the Dominican Republic; and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

An estimated 3.6 billion persons in 124 countries are at risk worldwide, such as the many who are exposed to dengue fever. Large outbreaks have also been seen Indian Ocean islands, India and South-East Asia, according to the Infection, Genetic, and Evolution Journal. It has also reached Asia and Europe, and North America has seen a few cases recently in Florida.

The National Institute of Health, World Health Organization, Public Health Department, and Infectious Disease, noted that chikungunya is a viral disease that is rarely fatal. It is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. The symptoms include high fever and headache with debilitating joint pains, swelling and stiffness of joints, muscular pain, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and rash that can last for several weeks. Normally within four to seven days as reported after been bitten, the symptoms appear. The mosquitoes become infected when they feed on an infected person during the viraemic period. Today, there are no specific antiviral treatments or vaccines available. However, it also has been reported that commonly used medications include ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, paracetamol, and aspirin. Although there have been reported deaths, the number of related deaths are extremely low compared to Ebola; however, one should not discount it as a storm that will pass soon.

These regions have to debunk that only certain medicine can cure this outbreak, while many studies have reported there are no known cures at this time for the symptoms. It is extremely important that people take serious preventive measures such as bite-proof long sleeves and trousers.  Purchasing  untested drugs in desperation from local street vendors might not be the best approach, especially for people with limited or no access to healthcare.  More information can be found published by many health organizations.

It can be extremely difficult to track down all mosquitoes and apply chemical spray on an entire region to cut concerns and especially in poor  and, rural areas with pool of slow-flowing water that is a breeding ground for mosquitoes and the lack of access to good health care only add to the problem.

Today many travelers are still waiting on a concrete government plan on how they are handling the issue in a coördinated effort. If there is one, please post.

Although some awareness has been posted, and the governments seem now to be taking steps to mitigate the potential problem, more needs to be done. Nevertheless, can we all be stratified? This is not to reduce  any attempts, as the lack of resources can make this a difficult task. Moreover, the chance of being robbed, shot or killed in some of these areas, is more than likely than contracting the virus.

Island PicAs the region continues to attract visitors, it is also important that these visitors receive a disclaimer of this undercurrent taking place. The leaders must make sure that all proactive measures are taken, and seek help and resources as needed, and stop putting on a good face on this issues with a relaxed attitude. I am still optimistic that all can come together and weather the storm. Moms and I have a ticket ready to land soon to take a break from the upcoming winter.