Iwas at work in my studio last Saturday evening when I took the first five calls, all requesting confirmation of one of the day’s more shocking rumors. By the time I was back at home two hours later I had received several more queries from strangers who imagined I could satisfy their curiosity. Then came the informant who assured me via several whatsapp messages that he had personally investigated the sad news and therefore was in a position to confirm its veracity. No, his detective work had not actually involved a reliable source. At any rate, not a live one.
“It’s on Facebook,” he finally informed me, as if that amounted to an official stamp of approval—and indisputable. And I thought: Ah, yes of course. Why hadn’t I thought of that? Still my aroused curiosity would not be denied. I turned to FB—the Fool’s Bible—and not because I imagined for a second there might be some truth to the arresting rumor. Somewhat more perverse was my motivation to see with my own eyes just how low some people can stoop. It was one thing to declare a person politically dead but to falsely announce his death to the whole world . . . to my mind that required a state of insensitivity synonymous with rocks. Indeed just as I was about to abandon my FB search the evidence popped up that I secretly hoped was nonexistent: a blow-up of former prime minister Kenny Anthony accompanied by news that he had passed away in the wee hours of last Friday morning, the victim of a heart attack.
Enough! Suffice it to say that according to his online mouthpieces Kenny Anthony is alive and well, more than ever determined to save us from ourselves. Especially interesting to me, however, is that our news media that habitually scavenges for headline scraps from the Internet, even when they reek of fake news, had totally ignored the premature death announcement. Some of us can hardly wait to feature in our evening news bulletins and in our newspapers horror images of naked homicide victims grotesquely twisted on bloody beds, lifeless bodies dangling from tree branches, to say nothing of ravaged corpses fished out of the sea. On the grossly exaggerated matter of our former prime minister’s death, however, not a word, not a word, not a word.
I can’t help wondering if there’s a political dimension to the cited false news. If there is it would suggest we’re even sicker than earlier believed. After all, such fake news as cited above can horribly affect close relatives and friends. Imagine being confronted, while casually perusing FB, by a story that a member of your family was run over by a truck on Jeremie Street two hours after he or she left home for work. Yes, dare to imagine that nightmare. Imagine the consequent frantic phone calls, the desperation, the anxiety, the tears, the panic—all to satisfy a degenerate’s need!
I was talking with a friend about last Saturday’s fake death announcement when he said: “What if that story had been true? The press would most certainly ask you to comment. You’d be expected, at the very least, to say something on TALK. Considering your relationship with the man when he was alive, what would you say at his passing?”
The question took me off guard. I chuckled uncomfortably. “Well,” I said, “you know you’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead, right?” But I’ve had a hard time shaking off the effects of my friend’s teaser. What would I say should Kenny Anthony go before me to that place we must all one day go? If I should speak of his history, if I should laud his undeniable academic accomplishments, what would be the popular reaction? No need to think long; I would be called a shameless hypocrite, at the very least—especially by those blinded by loyalty, whether or not displaced.
Sir John Compton comes to mind. At the time of his passing in 2007 I had written, in effect, that he had been by a long way our nation’s most effective prime minister; that he had never been one to bear
grudges; that he possessed a sailor’s sense of humor. Most important (on a personal level), that despite my having earned a reputation as “the scourge of John Compton,” he had deemed me worthy of the OBE—for my “contributions to journalism in Saint Lucia.” I meant every word, notwithstanding our notorious confrontations.
Which takes me now to our under-appreciated second Nobel winner Derek Walcott about whom the news is bad; very bad. And expected to get worse. There is still time to make amends before he moves on. If only the nation could find the courage to come together in his name before we say our final good-byes. But then I know I am dreaming on Monkey Mountain!
Editor’s Note: The preceding was submitted on Wednesday morning. See Walcott Is Dead in this issue.