(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 01 Dec 2005)
If it were possible to count the number of times a Diaspora has spoken sweet words of love about their beloved country, I believe the words would fill the ocean that laps upon the seawalls of Guyana.
The verbal love letters of fair Guyana tell of its unparalleled beauty and abundant flora of vibrant colours. In this Canaan the mangoes grow sweet and the avocados are thrice the size of those in the States. The sun shines bright on the shoppers at Stabroek Market and the rain falls softly on the heads of the little children playing with a simple toy that just rolls on one wheel.
These were children raised without a Nintendo or an iPod. Instead, stories of ice cream on the sea walls and boat rides on the Essequibo fill the room at every gathering of Guyana’s children. It is funny how a life so simple could produce a people so loyal. Then again, perhaps that is the secret.
To hear a child of Guyana talk, theirs is a land like no other land on earth. With eyes fixed afar, perhaps in Georgetown or maybe in Bartica, the memories come flooding back and a smile creeps across a once guarded face.
And oh there is the food. There could never be an account of beautiful Guyana that is not accompanied by phulourie galore, roti aplenty and cook-up for all. Every Christmas brings friends and family in droves to compliment new draperies and to eat – even though they have just eaten at the last three houses previously visited.
There could never be any doubt of the love that Guyanese have for their country. In fact, most Guyanese who live abroad would trade their cushy lives in developed countries for the chance to live in their beautiful homeland again – if they knew it was safe and there was a friendly economic climate.
It seems that regardless of how much love there is for Guyana, no one seems to know how to fix her. She is like an exquisite painting that has been sliced down the middle. On one side there is a portion of beauty, and on the other side there is another portion of beauty, but if the two pieces could be mended the painting would be whole and the splendour beyond compare.
Guyana has had its share of counterfeit artists who have gone through the movements of a master painter, but they never had the necessary talent to mend the painting and bring the torn pieces back together. In fact, only the people themselves are capable of fixing this nation.
What a tragedy that a land with so much beauty could at the same time be so ugly with hate and distrust.
I truly believe with everything in me that the day that Guyanese can place a vote that is not based on race, that is the day that the country will start to mend. This unseemly wedge that drives Guyana’s people apart will forever cripple the nation’s ability to accomplish any form of significant progress.
I know there is justification for the deep-seated hate that runs through the veins of all Guyanese like the mud that runs through the Demerara River. Neither race has clean hands. But I also know that for as long as that hate controls the minds of the people of Guyana, they will also be sentenced to live in poverty and fear.
Racial conflict is an issue many other countries, large and small, have dealt with in the last few decades. The riots in France and the raw feelings of those left to face Hurricane Katrina make it clear that this issue continues to be a hot button. However, a society that acknowledges these exposed nerves and doctors them accordingly has the potential to grow together as a people.
Does Guyana have this potential? Ghandi once said, “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” This statement would explain why so many Guyanese are blind to their own hate while they accuse others of racism.
Who are the pioneers in Guyana today? They are the ones who have crossed the racial lines and jumped the racial barriers to live their lives as One People, instead of as an Indo-Guyanese or an Afro-Guyanese. These are the heroes of today. These are the men and women from whom we can all learn.
The number of mixed racial families reported in the recent census shows that evidently there are far more Guyanese getting along - regardless of race - than we are led to believe. There are so many racially mixed Guyanese now that this group could easily be a swing vote in the next election. However, this is not a good idea either since a twisted politician is sure to try and slice a line through this beautiful painting as well.
I now wish to publicly confess that I have an agenda. No, I have not joined a political party like my friend, Sweet and Sensitive Freddie. My agenda is far more complicated than just supporting another party. What do I want to do?
I want to do everything possible to convince the people of Guyana to vote with their conscience in the next election and not with their race.
If I could write a billet-doux for Guyana, it would contain all of the beautiful aspects I have already mentioned - the culture, the music, the flora and the food. But my love letter would also include my desperate desire to see this nation heal from its past and move on together as One People.
You can expect to hear more from me on this subject. I plan to make my case in as many ways possible to dispel any reasons a Guyanese can have for using race as a voting standard. In the end, my hope is that Guyana will vote for a government that will usher in a new era of progress and national unity. This is what a beautiful country like Guyana deserves.