Permit me the small arrogance of assuming there might be good reason to remind some of my readers of the history of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America.
They were political leaders and statesmen “who participated in the American Revolution by signing the United States Declaration of Independence, taking part in the American Revolutionary War and establishing the United States Constitution.”
Within the large group are two subsets: the Signers of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Framers of the Constitution. A further subset is the group that signed the Articles of Confederation.
The phrase “Founding Fathers” was coined by Warren G. Harding, then a Republican senator from Ohio, in his keynote address to the 1916 Republican National Convention. Also most prominently in his 1921 inaugural address as President of the United States. (Not to introduce a jarring note, but I need add that many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves, and that the Constitution adopted in 1787 sanctioned the system of slavery—just so we know the original Founding Fathers were not altogether candidates for sainthood!
I was thinking about certain local developments when I was moved to do the research that delivered the above information. The current prime minister having recently declared Sir John the “Father of Independence,” I was wondering whether the deceased prime minister had been demoted from Father of the Nation. But then it occurred to me that the last mentioned designation had always been controversial.
Dependent on whom you asked, the Father of the Nation was either John Compton or George F. L. Charles, for whom Vigie Airport was renamed by the same prime minister that last Friday evening had credited Sir John with freeing our country from the shackles of British domination. Of course, the prime minister didn’t actually put it that way.
What he actually said was: “This statue which we will unveil is part the story that is our history, that long road from discovery to self-determination.” Additionally, that the statue would “remind Saint Lucians of the life stories which can be told of John Compton . . . some of these stories might well be myth or legend, some skewed and tinted red, yellow or blue, dependent on the bard . . .” Might “slanted” not have been a better word than “skewed”, Mr. Speechwriter?
The prime minister chose not to identify the “skewed” myths. Therefore, this particular “bard” is left to wonder whether that Father of the Nation title was among them and whether from now on school children will be taught that George Charles
fathered the nation, while John Compton set us free from British bondage.
The cynic in my soul is now prodding me to remind readers yet again how divisive can be the very people whose job it is to keep us united in our efforts at making our country a better place.
Let me quickly remind Saint Lucians that at a gathering convened at the Central Library in Castries in 1998 (I would not swear to that particular date but rest assured he was not at the time prime minister) Sir John acknowledged the fact that we had never sought independence from Britain; that in truth Britain, to use his phrase, “cut us loose” to fend for ourselves, having sustained us first as a colony, and later as an associated state.
It was quite hilarious listening, as if to stories at a wake, to the tall tales told during that recent gathering of prime ministers for the purposes of NTN. Talk about myths and legends and “skewed” accounts. Then again, what else to expect when the moderator of the prime ministerial get together was that epitome of virtue, especially famous for his involvement in the Helenites Building scandal, not to say the secret arrangements of Grynberg—for which this poverty-stricken country could pay most dearly. I’m talking of Mr. Earl Huntley.
During the particular TV show “former prime minister Mikey Pilgrim” proffered his take on the Labour Party’s position on Independence back in 1978-79: in effect that the SLP (his party of the moment) was never against Independence; only with its timing. Imagine that: a slave arguing for a postponement of his freedom!
It would’ve been more enlightening had Pilgrim offered an account of how he had himself made history by becoming our country’s first and only “interim prime minister.”
The following—from Lapses & Infelicities—offers a hint. From 1979 the Labour Party had been at war with itself, determined as was George Odlum to replace Allan Louisy as prime minister. The then powerful Chamber of Commerce had carried out its threat to shut down the country. A public statement by the agriculture minister Peter Josie had added fuel to the bonfires of vanity. The Chamber took the minister’s words as “more proof that the political instability and uncertainty in Saint Lucia has been brought about, ironically, by the government.”
The unions joined in the protest. They addressed to the prime minister himself their letter underscoring “our denunciation and condemnation of the manner in which matters of state, the economy, in particular, have been handled by the government. Consequently we have found it necessary to call for the dissolution of parliament as the only solution to the current political crisis.”
On January 14, the then ballsy Chamber wrote to the governor general Boswell Williams: “Since our letter to you on April 24, 1981 the situation has worsened, culminating in the attempted passage of immoral legislation indicative of the state of mind of members of the government and their determination to remain in power in the face of the declared opposition of the vast majority . . . We call on Your Excellency to exercise your powers under the Constitution to rescue the country from crisis by dissolving parliament.”
Three days later, a joint group comprising representatives of the political parties, the church, the private sector and the unions determined the situation was of “such gravity as to require an urgent solution.”
The prime minister, Winston Cenac, expressed his commitment to “the concept of a national government that would unite the people.” He decided to resign with immediate effect.
“So that there might be a smooth transition,” Cenac pledged his support for Michael Pilgrim as “interim prime minister.” When all present expressed similar support they went down on their knees to be led in prayer by Father Patrick Anthony.
Pilgrim was sworn in as prime minister on 22 January 1982, together with his Cabinet Leo Clarke, Alfred JnBaptiste, George Louis, Cromwell Goodridge, former PM Allan Louisy, former UWP education minister Allan Bousquet, and Mervyn Combie of the National Development Bank. They held their first Cabinet meeting on January 26. Three days later the Voice announced: “The terror of Mr. Odlum’s thugs has begun again, just before an election campaign . . .”
But that’s for another show. During the recalled recent NTN show it seemed all of that had been forgotten, water under the bridge, in the best interest of unity and truth and all these wonderful things.
But to return to the Father of the Nation and the Father of Independence. Interesting isn’t it, that Helen was born of two males, an irony that brings to mind the matter of homosexuals demanding the same rights as regular citizens, including the right to marry fellow homos and be accorded every consideration synonymous with traditional marriages. Oh, I know, we’ve not reached that point but we will, dear reader, we will.
When we do, will we determine it wrong that Helen should continue to have two fathers and no mother? And while we’re here, how does a child address its homosexual parents? Which of the two men is Mommy? Which of the two gay ladies is Papa?
I’m writing this and thinking, Damn, Rick Wayne, you better borrow Velon John’s “Rambling” title for the purposes of this column. I mean, I was thinking this piece is all over the place. What the hell is its focus? And then it occurred to me that what I’m writing about here is a country gone stark raving bonkers.
Which brings me to my final ramble: the publicized matter of a local MP who has apparently sued the government of the United States. Nothing unusual about that, let me quickly add; all varieties of Americans regularly seek to take their government to court. In this instance, however, the complainant is himself barred from setting foot on American soil and it should prove quite interesting how he manages to make his case in absentia.
Moreover, it is most doubtful that the US government would have a difficult time saying why it pulled a visa (not that such a precedent is likely to be set!). What confounds me is this: if the complaining MP has evidence supportive of his claim that local individuals conspired to provide the US embassy in Barbados with false information that led to the revocation of his visa (he actually indentifies some of them), then why not sue them for slander or libel right here in Saint Lucia?
Equally interesting: why haven’t the named bad news bears decided to sue the MP? Is it possible his allegations are true? I promise you, this last item will be more deeply analyzed down the road!