Thu | Apr 18, 2019

Gordon Robinson | This isn’t life or death

Published:Sunday | March 10, 2019 | 12:29 AM

I tried my best to stay clear of the two-ring circus in East Portland.

Truly, I tried. But, then, this:

“East Portland people say they want tourism. I have a degree in tourism, I have a master’s in tourism, I lecture tourism, and yet still because of her class and her colour, some people say this lady is more qualified than me.”

And THIS:

“So when dem a seh me soon gone, it’s a lie, because the west already have a prime minister and it’s now time for the east …

“If you look at potential, the furthest this lady will go is Mrs. Vaz. If you look at potential, how far can I go and how [far] will you come with me?”

On this evidence, Damion, not very far! Who are the “some people” saying his opponent is more qualified based on class and colour? He should be forced to name every such person, assuming that they’re not figments of his hyper-imagination, so we can assess intent and character.

What exactly does he mean by “class”? Of what “class” is Ann-Marie Vaz, who was born in Duff House District, Alligator Pond, and who grew up with privilege as a foreigner?

Does Damion believe that her “class” is defined by her skin colour or her husband’s identity? That blacks have been victims of callous, inhuman racism for centuries doesn’t justify transferring that cruelty to persons of lighter colour skin, regardless of personal history.

I’ve witnessed this particularly insensitive, offensive and illogical practice, euphemistically called “reverse-racism”, up close and very personally.

The Old Ball and Chain, whose Finnish mother married Winston McLean, a Jamaican, in England, and migrated with him to Jamaica as a stranger, was born in Jamaica and grew up, like Ann-Marie, an alien to privilege. Yet she’s the constant butt of false assumptions based on her skin colour.

She who feels it knows it.

Is Damion saying that we should be judged by the colour of our skin? Or the content of our character? Does he have ANY IDEA of the reality of the Vazs’ life together? Or does his mind’s brush paint all the same?

Why does he say that Ann-Marie Vaz’s “potential” is limited to being one man’s wife? What in her résumé suggests that?

When speaking, she may not sound as “classy” as silver-tongued Damion (which makes the implication that she’s elitist even more incongruous), but she has made as solid a contribution to Jamaica’s nation building through her work with ALL children as has Damion through his educational and political work.

So why disparage her personal potential? What about Ann-Marie would make anybody guarantee that her potential is limited? Her “colour”? Her “class”? Her husband?

Grow up!

LEPRECHAUNS AND ROLLING CALF

This only makes PNP seem desperate. Is PNP so apprehensive that yet another seat could be lost to a politically resurgent JLP that it is lashing out like a wounded animal?

If you believe that Damion’s remarks were original and spoken without PNP backing, you’ll believe in leprechauns and rolling calf. You need only read and hear the defences from PNP high-ups on all media to conclude that this was campaign strategy.

Why would a party t held a seat for 30 years (with an over 2,000 vote majority just three years ago) need to launch such a personal and vitriolic attack on its opponent?

Obviously, this is no “safe” seat.

The personal attacks haven’t been one-sided.

Despite Daryl’s admirable restraint and mimicking of Michelle Obama’s famous “when they go low, we go high” some surrogates’ comments have gone way down low.

Let’s ignore those.

But I’ve also seen social media messages to the JLP candidate, by persons who should know better, like: “Good Morning, Action Ann, wi ready to fry and scramble di dread. ” (N.B. the emphasis on “di dread”).

The candidate responded (in part) “Boom!”

If she was Buju, she’d have a big public relations problem.

Calls of “pork-head dread” are commonplace. But neither religion nor politics ought to be used to label anyone. Why is John “a Rasta” and Tom “a Christian”? Why is Mary “a Comrade” and Jane “a Labourite”? Don’t they have identities? And personalities?

Damion Crawford isn’t “a Rasta”. He’s a man who may (I’ve never met him) espouse the Rastafarian faith. What’s the link with representational politics? So what if he eats pork? Or not? Rasta isn’t the only faith to preach against pork. All faiths conjure various natural acts (like fornication) into sins but the faithful “sin” anyway.

Doctors differ; patients die. Lawyers differ; both get rich. Persons of faith fall short then help the Church with its shortfall. People’s actions are often at odds with their “faith”, usually for personal not political reasons.

Rasta Ozzy, from up the hill

Decide fi check pon ’im grocery bill

An’, when him add up the things him need,

Di dunny dun weh him save fi buy little weed.

Him hand upon him jaw, Lord,

Red ’ im eye an’ just mediate.

Di time is so hard, Lord

I man a t’ink ‘bout immigrate.

I mek up mi mind, Lord,

I might as well go ’ gainst I man faith.

So I forward a market

I sight di butcher bwoy by the gate”

 

(You want goat?)

No I might a kill I queen

(Try beef nuh?)

I no check fi no grass wey green

( Wha’ ‘bout fowl?)

Watch ya now!

Is time fi a change.

(Mi ‘ave fish?)

God children outta dat range

(How about the steak?)

Watch ya now, you nuh sight di rake?

(Try the tripe, nuh?)

Bun mi belly when I pull me pipe

(Alright hol’ di pork?)

Hush your mout’,

Mind mi brethren hear

Sell I a pound a dat thing there

IRRELEVANT AS MASTER’S DEGREES

These things are as irrelevant to political representation as master’s degrees. For me, one of the most urgently required constitutional changes is to force MPs to have a residence within their constituencies.

One of the by-election candidates has been living in Portland and walking the constituency door-to-door for a long time. The other has a master’s degree.

One has been handed the gift of a 2,000+ vote margin earned by a former East Portland resident, despite an islandwide JLP swing. The other has access to what has been called “big money”.

Which will talk? Which will walk?

Due to Jamaica’s asinine system of governance, the difference between a by-election and a general election has always been that one candidate will have access to Government funds AND be able to concentrate those funds on a small geographical area.

This is no adverse comment on any candidate, just a fact of Jamaican political life that neither party seems anxious to change.

Yet, every by-election, opposition party candidates squeal like stuck pigs about the sudden appearance of constituency roadworks, while Government candidates hold up their hands and say that (smirking) the works were already in the pipeline.

Stop it.

Opposition parties must advocate for systemic change or shut up and out-think Government. Without a new Constitution and genuine, effective campaign finance legislation, no opposition party can ever outspend any Government in any by-election.

Since neither side wants constitutional reform or effective campaign finance controls, it’s time for PNP to dry its crocodile tears and get the show on the road.

Ozzy pay off di butcher bill;

Tek di parcel an’ trod up di hill

Like a spite, who you think ‘im meet?

Rasta Jeremiah from down di street

‘Guidance, mi bredrin!

‘Is wha’ you have inna dat deh bag?’

Him kinda get frighten

An’ begin fi hide it beneath him rag.

‘That man no fi hide, Lord,

‘Mek mi go a mi yard and tek a sat.

‘Meanwhile, light a fire,

‘Ah wi help you eat off di pound a DAT’

Leighton ‘Pluto’ Shervington suffered from such a terrible stutter that he could barely complete a sentence. Yet when he sang, he was as fluent as Tony Cozier describing a Lawrence Rowe cover drive. So he wrote and recorded some of Jamaica’s best music, including a song explaining why, as the cost of living rose sharply, many were forced to make uncomfortable eating choices.

Some MPs eat pork. Some don’t.

Fer Crissake, leave religion, colour, and class, real or imaginary, out of this by-election!

Despite what some closest to the contest might believe, this isn’t life or death. It’s a political competition for a temporary position as representative of the people of East Portland.

Let’s try to have a discussion about their needs or at least one that doesn’t distract from that noble debate because of acrimonious personal attacks.

In your anxiety to join the desk banging gang in Gordon House, don’t forget who will be certifying your real qualifications.

Out of many...

Peace and love!

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com