Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Anti-Government Nonsense

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 28 July 2010)

Just to be clear, this is not about anti-government thoughts on government nonsense. It is about the government’s thoughts on anti-government nonsense. Make sense? No, it does not. And that is exactly my point.

Since I started writing this column again a few weeks ago, there has been a constant flow of “anti-government” finger pointing. On the first read of this phrase usage, which is a novel notion to me, I just giggled and shrugged my shoulders. However, I soon noticed this was not just a passing letter or two – the usual one punch, two punch method; it appears to be a broad ranging propaganda campaign.

It seems the campaign is intended to persuade the reader to make this rationalization: Those who agree with the government = Good, and those who disagree with the government = Evil. The more a person disagrees with the government, the more evil that person is. This is some very illogical logic. Let’s just all wear our shirts inside out and hang our pictures crooked on the wall.

I then wondered if the ideology behind this phrase could be found in other parts of the world and, sure enough, I did find some of what the Government of Guyana would define as “anti-government” in the U.S. In fact, “anti-government” language seems widespread around the world. However, it is not usually called “anti-government,” it is called free speech.

The U.S. President, Barack Obama, has people who call him all kinds of names every day. There are those who question his citizenship, his competency and his motives. Believe it or not, some have even called him a racist. But that is the beauty of free speech, even when we do not agree with the highest governmental seat in the land; it is the right of the people to say so.

Moreover, there are media outlets in the U.S. that dedicate their entire day to saying all kinds of things about Obama, his administration and the government as a whole. These outlets even say and print untruths and inflammatory statements just to get the opposition riled up.

I voted for Obama and I am happy with the direction he is taking the U.S. There are areas where I would like to see him push harder, but I stand behind him and his policies. This was not the case at all when George W. Bush was president. I cannot count the number of times I disagreed with how Bush ran the country and I said so almost daily. It was my right to do so.

Was I “anti-government” because I did not agree with Bush’s policies? Am I now “pro-government” because I agree with Obama’s policies? Was I evil during the Bush administration and now saintly during the Obama administration? Nonsense. It’s all nonsense. This propaganda campaign feels like we have fallen in a rabbit hole and landed with Alice from “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll.

Alice said, “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?” Yep, sounds like what I’ve been reading in these “anti-government” letters and articles.

Worldwide, free speech gives the people the right to disagree with the way their elected officials do their job. It was free speech that brought down the Berlin Wall. It was free speech that brought about the civil rights movement. And free speech ended apartheid in South Africa.

The term “anti-government” makes free speech sound like a curse word. It is true that political leaders must have a thick skin while in office. Even more so when they are unpopular with the people. When I heard some British citizens speaking about their government before their last election, I could not help but smile at democracy at work.

From a political science viewpoint, the PPP’s “anti-government” newspeak is an interesting manoeuvre to watch. I ponder the impact and ramifications of the propaganda. I look at it from different points of view and try to analyse the intended goal.

I have come to the conclusion that the propaganda committee should have developed a better phrase than “anti-government” because it is too jarring. I would have opted for something subtler. Or maybe I would have asked, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” It would make as much sense.

Webster’s Online Dictionary does not recognise “anti-government” as a word. However, when I did a search on the Guyana Chronicle’s Website for “anti-government,” I found 25 references to this phrase just since July 15 (I conducted my search on July 26 and saved a screen shot of the results). I wonder what Alice would have to say about all of this?

Whatever Alice has in mind, I agree with the Walrus on this point, “The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things: Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax – Of cabbages and kings – And why the sea is boiling hot – And whether pigs have wings.”

From now on, I have determined to translate the term “anti-government” as an invitation to Tea Time with a Mad Hatter. Oh my, “What if I should fall right through the center of the earth…oh, and come out the other side, where people walk upside down?” This makes about as much sense as anything else lately.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Women hold up half the sky

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 25 July 2010)

At any given time, I am likely to be reading two or three books at a time. I love to read. I read for entertainment, I read for information and sometimes I read just to read because it is so relaxing. However, I recently read a book that I would classify as one of the most important books I have ever read.

In fact, I believe every person in every country should read this book. It is entitled, “Half the Sky,” by Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. I have bought this book many times over and given it away to many a friend and acquaintance.

The title of the book is based on a Chinese proverb that says women hold up half the sky. The book itself provides the reader a glimpse into the lives of women around the world. It tells stories of women recovering from rape in South Africa, of teenage girls kidnapped and sold into prostitution and of women in India who finally take a stand for themselves against patriarchal social expectations.

Every one of the stories included in “Half the Sky” inspired me, even the ones that did not have a happy ending. This book, more than any other I have read in my life – and I’ve read a lot of books – boldly showcases feminine power and spirit.

Here is a sobering excerpt from the book, “The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century. More girls are killed in this routine ‘gendercide’ in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century.”

The book maintains, and I certainly concur, that for “this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality around the world.”

I have long advocated education as the single most important act for women to ensure themselves a safe and financially secure life. This is also a constant theme throughout the book. From chapter three, “Education and empowerment training can show girls that femininity does not entail docility, and can nurture assertiveness so that girls and women stand up for themselves.”

My stomach drops when I hear a young woman say she does not need to go to school because she will get married and her husband will take care of her. Life does not guarantee pretty packages such as that. There are a million reasons why that line of thinking is faulty.

What if the woman gets married, but the husband finds something or someone else that makes him happier? What if the husband dies at a young age? What if the husband’s salary alone cannot support the family? What if the husband is abusive and the woman is forced to leave the home for her own safety? What if marriage never comes at all? These reasons and many others are why a woman should be able to provide for herself.

Education also helps women move beyond the role of being discounted humans. From chapter two, “People get away with enslaving village girls for the same reason that people got away with enslaving blacks two hundred years ago: The victims are perceived as discounted humans.” Education helps to remove the docility that allows women to be discounted. Educated women understand their value to society and voice their opinions on matters of governance.

Moreover, when women are educated and contributing to the work force, there is great potential for enhanced national economic health. Here is a quote by the World Bank found in the introduction to the book, “The question is not whether countries can afford this investment, but whether countries can afford not to educate more girls.” A more blunt way to put it is, “Gender inequality hurts economic growth.”

China has the injection of women into the work force to thank for their recent economic explosion.

It is good to see the government of Guyana making progress on this point. On October 17, 2006, I wrote a column about how great it would be to see Guyana introduce a micro-credit scheme like the one helping so many women in India start their own businesses. Just a few short years later, it does. I am now waiting anxiously to see how the women of Guyana use their own micro-credit loans from the government to improve their situations in life.

As women contribute to every part of society, another important communal aspect is affected – security. “Some security experts noted that the countries that nurture terrorists are disproportionately those where women are marginalized. The reason there are so many Muslim terrorists, they argued, has little to do with the Koran but a great deal to do with the lack of robust female participation in the economy and society of many Islamic countries.”

In this light, one cannot help but draw correlations between the way women are maltreated in Guyana and the broader national security issue. Yet even bruised and battered, abused and misused, Guyanese women are finding their way into positions of industry, law and governance.

All is not a silver lining though, if the female leaders of Guyana do not use their positions for the good of all. If these women succumb to the status quo of the long-held male traditions, we will see society become even more entrenched in death, poverty and corruption.

However, I have faith in Guyana’s female leadership. In fact, in my opinion, the opposition coalition that would truly work is one that is led by a female and would have many females in high positions.

If I could, I would pass this book out to every person I met each day. If there is one overall theme I took away from this book, it is, “Women are not the problem but the solution.” That’s what I’ve been saying all along.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It is a “grave offence” to ordain a woman?

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 21 July 2010)

I have tried to stop myself several times from writing this column, if for no other reason than because I have already written twice in as many weeks on the Catholic Church. However, anyone who knows my stance on women’s issues also knows I would be compelled by conscience to write about the Vatican’s most recent misogynistic tirade.

On Thursday of last week, the Vatican tried to make a move to show it has a small grip on the reality of the paedophile priest situation. According to the Washington Post, “The new rules extend the statute of limitations for handling of priestly abuse cases from 10 years to 20 years after the victim’s 18th birthday, and the statute of limitations can be extended beyond that on a case-by-case basis. Such extensions have been routine for years but now the waivers are codified.”

In other words, nothing has really changed. Why is it so difficult for the Vatican to just tell its priests “If you rape anyone you will be defrocked, kicked out of the church and turned over to the local authorities.” There, I said it. It wasn’t difficult at all to say. Yet the Vatican cannot seem to utter those same words. Moreover, there is still no mandate for Bishops to report all cases of clerical sexual abuse to the police.

Be that as it may, the subject of paedophile priests is not my theme for today’s column.

Instead, I want to highlight the rest of what was said last Thursday, which some maintain was the Vatican’s main business. It is now a “grave offence” to ordain a woman. In other words, a priest can be defrocked for ordaining a woman. (Sigh)

As I just typed that last line, a myriad of emotions and images flowed through me. A Catholic man recently accused me of having a vendetta against the Catholic Church. What is so ironic is that it is quite apparent to anyone with an open mind that it is the Catholic Church which has a vendetta against women.

Let us just look at the evidence and make a logical assessment of the situation. For decades, maybe longer, male priests throughout the world have been raping young boys and the Church has been protecting those priests from the legal ramifications of such an atrocious act.

Yet we hear nothing of nuns raping children. On the contrary, there is a recent story of a nun in Phoenix, Arizona, Sister Margaret McBride, who spent her entire life helping sick people get well, yet she was excommunicated for allowing a procedure that saved a woman’s life.

Here is how an Associated Press article told the story, “Sister Margaret McBride was on an ethics committee that included doctors that consulted with a young woman who was 11 weeks pregnant late last year.

The woman was suffering from a life-threatening condition that likely would have caused her death if she hadn’t had the abortion at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.”

The Sister had to choose between allowing both the mother and unborn fetus to die, or to save the mother’s life by removing the fetus.

Sister Margaret chose to save the life of the woman who is a mother of four. When Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, head of the Phoenix Diocese, heard of this situation, he said Sister Margaret was “automatically excommunicated.”

In other words, a priest can savagely rape a boy for multiple years, as the recent Belgium case reveals, and he is still afforded the protection of the church. However, a nun saves the life of a young mother and she is not just removed from sisterhood, but removed from the church completely.

It has been said numerous times that Sister Margaret worked her entire career to help others. Yet she was excommunicated.

I do not have a vendetta against the Catholic Church, what I have is common sense. I ask all good people, who better represents God to the world – the good-hearted nun or the rapist priest?

I would follow someone like Sister Margaret to the ends of the earth, but I would never follow a rapist priest even if he does call himself a representative of God. Yet, the Vatican remains stubbornly sexist and last week proclaimed women to be unworthy of priesthood yet again.

If there is a gender unworthy of priesthood, I vehemently declare it is not female and history would be on my side.

It is a “grave offence” to ordain a woman? Allow me to give my own list of “grave offences.” It is a grave offence for a man to sexually abuse a little boy.
It is a grave offence to care more about the welfare of that wicked man than that of the little boy.

It is a grave offence to tell women it is a sin to take birth control and instead insist they should procreate where there is war, famine, rape, etc.

It is a grave offence to believe one gender of the human race is superior to the other and thereby subjugating the “lower” gender for millennia.

It is a grave offence to demean homosexuality while it is obviously practiced within the very walls of the Church – and with small boys not yet of the age of consent.

On second thought, maybe women should not want to be ordained in the Catholic Church.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ask yourself this; are you loyal to your party or to your country?

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 18 July 2010)

A few months back I was disenchanted with the way the American political system was working. The two-party system incessantly fighting against each other and the well being of the people being lost in the fray – was fraying my nerves.

Come to find out, there were others who were tired of all the bickering and partisanship, too. I discovered a grassroots group called the “Coffee Party” that is calling for a dramatic change in the way politics is practiced. The ideas from this group inspired me and reminded me of how much potential we all have as humans.

The thinking of this group is actually very close to my own personal political philosophy. Not my voting philosophy, but my philosophy on how I believe politics should be practiced. I have spoken on pieces of my political philosophy numerous times in this column, such as the importance of the dissenting voice, the dire need for good leaders and the assertion that government representatives are hired by the people and are, therefore, accountable to the people.

Something that truly grabbed my attention about this group was a petition they are sending around to politicians called “The Declaration of Unity.” It asks candidates, incumbents and party leaders to “please find a way of campaigning without deliberately triggering anger, hatred and fear.” It asks them to avoid contributing to the disuniting of the country because we have more important things with which to deal.

It continues, “We will hold accountable those who engage in the politics of division. We will support those who offer facts, civility and solutions.” And concludes by stating, “We choose to be united as a People and refuse to be divided. We hereby Declare Our Unity.”

Doesn’t that inspire you? Doesn’t it make you feel there is hope? It truly inspired me because it was for these types of sentiments that I studied Political Science and still struggle against hope to believe there is yet a better way to govern a country.

Of course, I instantly thought of how this Declaration of Unity can be applied to Guyana politics. In the course of the next year, there will be mudslinging, fear-mongering and polarizing rhetoric coming fast and furious. Worst of all, there will be racist remarks intent on dividing the country.

It makes me cringe every time I see a racist remark from a political leader because in choosing to promote one race in any shape, form or fashion in Guyana, that leader has alienated all other races. This type of leader is only representing a portion of Guyanese. Guyana needs leaders who will represent all Guyanese. When the people of the other races see that remark in support of one race, they instantly distrust that politician because the impression is that only that stated race matters to the said leader.

Such activity is counter-productive for any leader in Guyana. It does not promote unity. It promotes disunity. It promotes anger, hatred and fear. If a leader truly wants to be the leader of all Guyanese – of all races – then race must not be a factor at all in a campaign, unless it is to call the various races of Guyana together in unity to stand together for a better future.

The fastest route for Guyana to get to the point of being a prosperous country is to find a leader who rejects disunity in all its forms (racism, sexism, classism, etc.) and embraces the diversity of this beautiful country. Ask yourself this; are you loyal to your country or to your party? Do you want a functioning government or do you want to win fights?

Rejecting division will not be an easy task for any leader. The past is thrown into the face of anyone who says the time to change is now and I can lead the way to unity. It will take someone with deep convictions and a staunch will. But if such leaders can be found, the people should flood to them with all the support there is to offer.

In this coming election, refuse to be divided. Reject anger, hate and fear politics. Reject campaign tactics that divide the people and put them against one another. Every one already knows of the injustices of the past. The problem has been stated and restated again and again to keep the fear alive and the people divided.

Embrace unity. Embrace civility, dialogues and practical national solutions. The campaign to watch for in the upcoming election is the one that presents a solution to the problem.
Make your own personal declaration of unity and support only candidates who adhere to your affirmation of union. The people are not limited to the candidates proposed by those already in power. The determination of who leads the country is in the hands of the people, not those who have yet to bring unity.

Do not let power players divide and rule Guyana any longer. Choose to be united as a people and refuse to be divided. Take a stand with that old saying from an Aesop fable, “united we stand, divided we fall.” It’s a superb motto, but not as good as “One People, One Nation, One Destiny.”

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I will continue to judge paedophile priests

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 14 July 2010)

I wrote a column that was published in the July 7, 2010 edition of Kaieteur News, captioned, “Power, Priests, Paedophilia and Corruption,” in which I called for justice for the victims of rapist priests from the Catholic Church.

Leon Jameson Suseran, a long-time letter writer whom I respect, responded in a letter to the editor published on July 12, entitled, “Don’t judge the entire organisation based on the actions of a few.” Leon took issue with my column and felt my rage against the rapist priests must be due to a vendetta I have against the Catholic Church.

Leon told me, “Do not judge people, Stella, you do not know what struggles priests go through.” With respect, such reasoning would translate that society at large should also restrain from judging rapists who are not Catholic priests because we do not know what struggles they have faced in life. That is just preposterous, Leon.

Regardless of what causes a priest to rape a child, a predator is a predator – dangerous – and should thus be removed from society and locked away where they cannot prey on anyone else. This is true in civilised society and it should be true regarding priests who rape as well.

It was magnanimous of Pope Benedict XVI to ask the forgiveness of the rape victims on behalf of the Church, but the victims rightly desire more than an acknowledgment of this wrong, they want justice. A more righteous gesture from the Pope, and one that should be instinctive, would be to turn the criminal priests all over to the authorities so the victims can be assured of justice.

Leon called my column on this issue a “hate essay.” He said my column “was full of anger, resentment and hatred for the Church.” On this one point we agree, that I hate rapists. However, my column was not targeted at the Catholic Church at large; it was only about the rapists in the Catholic Church. And yes, I do so hate those rapists. I know religion teaches us not to hate, but I believe there are certain things we should hate – even despise – and rape is one of those things.

Yes, I do know that, as Leon pointed out, “other churches within Christendom have numerous unreported cases of sex abuse scandals every single day.” I did not speak on these other atrocities for two reasons. One, it is the Catholic Church that has long been in the spotlight with its numerous scandals throughout the world and has yet to hand its priests over to be tried by courts of law.

The second reason is that the leaders of these “other churches” would be held accountable to the laws of the land if found culpable, not protected by their churches. To protect their children, most parishioners would gladly hand over a rapist pastor and give law enforcement every bit of evidence it needs to prosecute the criminal leader.

Leon, loyalty to the Church to the point of defending it in this very indefensible situation is like those who, attempting to remain loyal to a political party, defend governments who prey on its citizens. It is just illogical and masochistic. Seriously Leon, doesn’t protecting these priests from the authorities seem a bit like a political party who covers up its shady dealings so the world will think good of them?

Blind loyalty may seem a noble notion; at least that is what some spiritual and political leaders would have us believe. But such unrestrained devotion never – I repeat, never – ends well for the follower. Just ask those children whom the priests raped. If you want to have faith in God, fine. But be careful of how much faith you have in humans.

Leon, you may not be happy about my outrage over this predicament with the paedophile priests and the leaders who protect them, but I am not alone in my indignation – it is worldwide and it is a righteous anger that will only be quelled when the rapist priests are in jail. Those priests should serve God from behind bars so the rest of society is safe. I hope, and even pray, they are all caught and brought to justice.

Leon said, “I generally have enjoyed reading Ramsaroop’s columns over the years, but this time she has gone overboard.” It seems this is one issue on which we will not agree, so let’s agree to disagree on this point because I am sure there are others on which we will agree.

He also told me, “Don’t judge the entire organisation based on the actions of a few, Stella.” Thank you for your wise words and I will be careful to follow them. I do not judge you by the actions of your leaders and still respect you even though we disagree on this point.

I fully intend to continue judging this situation. To justify my judgmental stance, here are some scriptures for Leon to contemplate:

Leviticus 19:15, “In righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.”

1 Corinthians 5:12-13, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked man from among you.’”

1 Corinthians 6:2-3, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life?”

And finally Jesus admonished his followers in John 7:24 to “judge righteous judgment.”

Related Links:
July 13 Letter to KN - The church and sexual abuse

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Marriott is not the key to attracting tourists

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 11 July 2010)

I love to travel. I love going to places I have never been before and spend my time in these places exploring the culture and history, eating the food the locals eat and, of course, relaxing. I do like to stay in nice places, but I rarely spend much time at all in the hotel room.

On my trips to Guyana, I have stayed at the Pegasus or with family. My time spent in the hotel room at the Pegasus has always been short because there was always somewhere to go and something to do. I have not been back to Guyana since the Princess (Buddy’s) was built, but I have heard good things about it.

It is not that I think building a Marriott in Guyana is a bad thing. I actually like the idea. It is the rationale being given for building the hotel that has me somewhat bewildered.

According to a Kaieteur News article from July 8 entitled, “Jagdeo says Princess, Pegasus not good enough for tourism,” President Jagdeo said of these two hotels, “they are not of the quality you would want if you are promoting tourism and other travel.”

The issue I have with this statement is this, if one is looking to promote tourism and travel in Guyana, there are other much more pressing concerns that should be considered before building another hotel. It is not the hotel situation that is keeping people – both tourists and Diaspora – from travelling to Guyana. There are other pressing reasons.

What are some of these reasons? Just to name a few, there is the crime, the garbage in the streets, the fact that police shoot people who are not criminals, the unreliable electricity, the extrajudicial killings, and my all-time favourite reason – when catching a taxi from the airport to Georgetown you wonder if you or someone on the street will die while the taxi driver drives on both sides of the road at super high speeds.

I am quite sure tourists would gladly stay at the Pegasus or Princess if all these other issues were rectified. In fact, if all these other issues were resolved, I think tourists and Diaspora would flood into Guyana. Adding a Marriott to the list of hotels in Guyana will not bring tourists in any quicker if the issues I’ve listed are still problems by the time the Marriott opens its doors.

When I visit Guyana, I only need a hotel room to get some sleep – if I sleep. I will spend most of my time finding adventures, eating all the food I can find, drinking rum, talking with friends and family, immersing myself in the culture I married into 25 years ago and loving every moment not spent in a hotel room.

As a woman, another concern I have is the attitude toward women in Guyana. When I want to do something, whether it is going for a long walk or a night out on the town, I do not like to be constrained by fear for my safety. The sad fact is that this fear is probably felt by Guyanese women more than female tourists, but this is yet another issue that should be addressed before building another hotel.

In fact, it would be nice if other national issues were addressed before the building of another hotel. For example, the flooding issue is never-ending. Every year seems to bring “above normal rainfall” and no one has yet figured out how to keep the Guyanese people high and dry. It seems by now someone would realise that “above normal rainfall” is the new normal.

Moreover, why worry about the cleaning up the garbage just to attract tourists? It is far better to care that the garbage is cleaned up for those who walk and drive the streets every day.

Now that I’m thinking about it, I suppose this notion could apply to all the issues I listed on how to attract tourists.

When it comes to the crime, the garbage in the streets, the fact that police shoot people who are not criminals, the unreliable electricity, the extrajudicial killings and reckless driving, why not fix it for the people of Guyana instead of the tourist?

I am being presumptuous. The stated goal was just to build a Marriott because the Pegasus and Princess are not good enough. I am quite sure that goal will make someone happy, some investor(s). It really is audacious of me to think it would be nice to spread some of that happiness around to the people.

Then again, how happy could an investor be when no tourists come to stay in the new hotel because the crime, the garbage in the streets, the fact that police shoot people who are not criminals, the unreliable electricity, the extrajudicial killings and reckless driving are still keeping them away?

Silly me, I am sure someone has already thought through all of this. In fact, maybe an unhappy investor is the real goal.

Power, Priests, Paedophilia and Corruption

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 07 July 2010)

Though I have never hit another person, if there is one thing above all else that maddens me to the point that I could react in a physical way, it is when I hear of someone hurting a child. It is for this reason, that I consider the ongoing scandal about paedophile priests to be one of the vilest portrayals of human depravity.

The truly ironic part is that this base depravity comes from those who are supposed to champion moral living. Children are innocent, helpless and trusting. How on earth can a “man of morals” crush that innocence just to feed an ache for sex? I know the answer to my own question, no man of morals could.

Regardless of what the Catholic Church says, the priests who rape and sodomise children are not representatives of God on earth. I am not a religious person anymore, but from my decades of religious background I know the church believes in God and Satan and I would say these priests represent the latter far better than the former.

On a Thursday morning two weeks ago, Belgian police raided two Church offices and the home of a former archbishop just as a conference was beginning with local bishops to discuss, among other things, what should be done with old files that proved Belgian priests had raped children.

I have followed this ongoing story that has spanned worldwide for two reasons. The first reason is that it boggles my mind that these supposed men of God could betray their consciences, congregants and God with such pure wickedness.

The second reason I have followed this saga so closely is because I want to see justice for those victims. The fact that most of these child rapists have walked away without so much as a slap on the wrist from a nun is simply unacceptable to me. Just because they wear pretty robes and make an oath to their God should not mean they are exempt from the laws of the land.

Pope Benedict XVI, who had recently vowed to do everything possible to prevent such abuse from occurring again, was quite peeved about the Belgian raid. He called the search, “surprising and regretful” and insisted on the church’s right to conduct internal investigations. As if those “investigations” have amounted to anything more than a bunch of hot air.

It is because these men feel they can commit such atrocities to, in the words of their Bible, “these little ones” and go unpunished that makes this whole situation completely untenable.

What would be a suitable punishment? Here is what Jesus said in Mark 9:42, “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” A bit drastic for my taste, but that is straight from the mouth of their God.

Here is the situation in a nutshell, there are priests all over the world who are raping young children and getting away with it. When the world finally says enough is enough, these “men of God” have the gall to say it is “surprising and regretful.” What is truly surprising and regretful is that these rapists are not behind bars.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This quotation was from a letter from John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton (first Baron Acton) to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887. Lord Acton then stated, “Great men are almost always bad men.” How appropriate.

This statement is true across the board. Consider those in power in Guyana right now and how that power has corrupted them. Remember the PNC when it was in power and how corruption was rampant. The only way to put a halt to the corruption is to take the power away.

Which is exactly what happened in Belgium. The Church no longer has the power to hide the rapists in Belgium – or in the US, where the Supreme Court ruled that the Vatican enjoys no immunity in cases of alleged molestation by priests. The ruling means that, in theory, even Pope Benedict could be taken to court.

Who knows how long this priestly paedophilia has been practiced in the Church. Decades? Centuries? It makes me sick just to think about it. It is about time these rapists are held accountable for their actions. They may seek forgiveness from their God and their victims, but when priests break the law, they should be punished in accordance to that law.

There is no God-given right for priests to rape children. It is my opinion that the moment that a paedophile priest touches a child in an inappropriate way, he is no longer a representative of God and should be punished just like any other person in society.

Or we could do as the Bible suggested and tie a millstone around his neck and toss him into the sea…that works for me, too.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Freddie said Guyana wants to hear an independent voice

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 04 July 2010)

On September 21, 2005, Freddie Kissoon penned a column to sort of welcome me to the Kaieteur News column pages. In this particular column, Freddie said, “Everybody in Guyana wants to hear an independent voice and read a mind that is not fed by PPP or PNC propaganda.”

Freddie then encouraged me, as he did in a more recent column on last June 25, to come to Guyana - something I long to do and plan to accomplish before year-end. But in his 2005 column Freddie said that during my visits I would discover the longing and desire of the people “to read a refreshing mind that does not pamper to the robotic repetitions with which the two major parties have poisoned this rich country.”

I do not know if Freddie now regrets his words of encouragement toward me in 2005. However, I do know that on certain occasions when I have reached beyond the cultural disposition that engulfs Guyana (and Freddie) because of its racial and political mire, Freddie tells me that I just do not understand.

I know full well that as a columnist I am at a disadvantage when it comes to completely knowing and understanding the bitterness and anger that stirs in Guyana because of the many racial and political indignations cast upon the people. However, I do care deeply about Guyana and have wrestled with those feelings of bitterness and anger myself in many columns with tirades towards the government.

In fact, I have to admit that before I quit this column in late 2007, I had forgotten Freddie’s words of wisdom. I got too caught up in the tide of Guyanese political culture and in the process I lost my independent voice.

When it was decided that I would start writing this column again, I began a search for direction. Since I am at a disadvantage, I needed to find my voice among the columnists. It was in those words of Freddie’s from 2005 that I found the direction I needed.

My voice is an independent voice. By the publisher’s design, I am here to offer an outsider’s viewpoint. A viewpoint that is able to be more objective and independent than if I was in the midst of the storm – as Freddie is. I am not touched by years of racial sparring, I am not scarred by the daily injustices, and I am not assaulted by visuals of Guyana’s poverty and governmental incompetence when I leave my doors.

Do I know of the racial sparring, daily injustices, poverty and governmental incompetence? Yes, of course, I do. Does it make my blood boil? Hell yes! But what good is the voice of a white woman married to a Guyanese in the Diaspora and living in Texas who rants about the same thing the rest of the columnists rant about? My value is found only in my independent voice.

In the past, I have been able to point out the absurdity of certain government activity when it might have been otherwise overlooked in a culture where absurd government activity is a norm.

For example, just recently a ferry inadvertently dropped a work truck full of cargo into the Essequibo River. A couple days later, on June 12, one of the top stories on “The Chronicle’s” Website was entitled, “Businessman has fruitful discussion with Minister Benn.” Is it now top news that a businessman can have a fruitful discussion with a government representative? Why is that news at all? It should happen on a daily basis.

The real story in that article is that nothing fruitful ever came of that “fruitful discussion.” Other than being told an “investigation would have to be conducted,” there were no other signs of fruitfulness. Do we know if there ever was an investigation? Was the businessman reimbursed for his losses? There were more questions left unanswered than were answered in that article about a “fruitful discussion.”

Using my independent voice, I wrote a column June 23 that talked about how silly it is for adults to call each other names. Freddie did not appreciate my independent voice in that regard because he wrote a column in response that basically said I just do not understand. Well, I do understand why he would want to call the government of Guyana all kinds of names – I can think of a few names to call them myself.

However, just because I want to call them names, does not mean I will. There is a level of decorum that should be present in all civil discourse and it does not include name calling. Freddie said they started it first and listed the names he had been called. But does that mean Freddie should lower himself to the same level?
When outsiders do look in on Guyana, isn’t it bad enough that they must see the head of state calling people names? Must they really see some of the best and brightest minds of the country behaving the same way?

If all the political parties behave like children, let them. But let the people be better than that. Let Freddie be better than that. It seems to me that Freddie takes these names he is called by others too seriously. He takes them personally and lets the words hurt him. He needs to let the words roll right off of him and move on.

Freddie does not have to take my opinion on this matter to heart. He is, of course, free to do whatever he likes. I am merely making an observation – an observation that may be shared by others. I am following his advice and using my independent voice. True, I may not understand everything about Guyana’s political and social issues, but isn’t that the point?

Yes, I have my voice back – my independent voice – and I will make good use of it.