Diana McCaulay

Blog - SnailWriter

I promise to love you for the rest of my life

Posted by Diana McCaulay on November 3, 2012 at 6:45 PM

Two male students from the University of Technology (U-Tech) were said to have been caught in a ‘compromising position’ in a bathroom on the evening of November 2nd, 2012 – it is not known what they were doing and all a mob needs is a rumour. A growing crowd of other students chased the young men across the campus. One of the students escaped. The other sought refuge in the security guard post on Hope Road and what happened next was filmed by a cell phone camera. It is dark and the figures are shadowy, but it is clear that a crowd of hundreds is gathered shouting anti gay curses, demanding blood. There is laughter and an air of salacious excitement, what happen, some voices ask? One voice asks to be let in on the fun. The video camera steadies and the inside of the security post can be seen through the glass. The three security guards seem unsure what to do, but soon two of them beat the clearly terrified young man. The crowd roars. There is the sound of breaking glass.

 

It seems to me a Pontius Pilate moment, if I remember my Bible correctly. An innocent man delivered up to a judge of sorts, a baying mob outside. The judge seeks to appease the crowd with a beating but it is not enough. And we know the end of that particular story.

 

Other facts emerge. There had been car thefts the night before, a recurring problem on the U-Tech campus, leading to a horrific mob killing in 2003. Some people seem to have thought the man being chased was a car thief, as did the security guards, at least initially. Students found the young man’s photo and plastered it all over the Internet, destroying any hope he can continue to live a normal life in Jamaica, at least for the foreseeable future, and jeopardizing the continuation of his education. The guard company, Marksman Ltd., fired two of the guards the same day, the fate of the others is still under investigation. U-Tech issued a statement condemning the attack. YouTube took down the video, only to have it reposted over and over again. Social media erupted with blogs and comments. Petitions were started.

 

The title of the YouTube video I reluctantly watched was “Beat the Fish 2!!!” (sic) “Fish” is one of many odious Jamaican slang terms for a homosexual. The day after the attack, Friday, I was utterly unproductive at work, constantly refreshing the Facebook pages and blogs I follow, to see what was being said. There were no public comments following the articles published in Jamaica’s two daily newspapers. This was highly unusual. I wondered if, at long last, the editors of our mainstream publications had decided not to give hate speech any oxygen. But the lack of comment was short lived.

 

It’s personal for me. My son is gay. Every hateful, bigoted, violent remark is flung directly at him. I miss my son every day of my life, but I am so glad he does not live here. The question is: Why do I?

 

I had my Jamaican passport with me on Friday, because I needed to make a photocopy. I noticed it on my desk and I held it. I felt, still feel, deeply ashamed to be Jamaican. I felt complicit in this attack because of my long ago decision to remain here, to claim my Jamaican nationality, my Jamaican identity. Now, too late, I want to rescind that decision. I don’t want to be identified as part of a nation that defends and supports an anti gay stance as being cultural, as being Christian, as being an aspect of our sovereignty, our right.

 

It occurs to me this is why the separation of Church and State is vital. It seems harmless, even positive, when people say: Jamaica is a Christian nation. Public prayer at virtually every function seems relatively innocuous – oh sure, there might be people of other faiths in the room, but Jamaica is a Christian nation, right, they’ll understand, they must adapt to the majority’s wishes. But it is not innocuous. As they always have been, religious beliefs are being used as justification for the abrogation of the human rights of some. Religious beliefs belong in places of worship among those who share such beliefs and nowhere else. They must not have the weight of the State behind them.

 

In an interview with Cliff Hughes on Nationwide News Network on Friday, I heard the Minister of Education, Hon. Ronnie Thwaites, strongly condemn the U-Tech attack. Well and good, Deacon Thwaites. But it was you who recently pandered to the mob in the withdrawing of educational materials trying, however clumsily, to deal with the issue of respect and tolerance for gay people.

See Annie Paul’s post Gay Bashing in Jamaica a National Policy? for more on this issue

 http://anniepaul.net/2012/11/03/gay-bashing-in-jamaica-a-national-policy/

 

I am tired of pretending that all aspects of our culture are defensible. They are not. There is much about being Jamaican to be ashamed of – our violent and bigoted speech and action towards gays and lesbians tops the list.

 

A month ago, I went to England, where my son lives, to attend the celebration of his civil union with his long standing partner, another man. The registrar who conducted the ceremony began with a simple statement about relationships between gay people. She said these unions had existed for centuries but only now was it possible for them to have legal status. My son and his partner had written their own vows and the last one was a simple one: “I promise to love you for the rest of my life.” Two honest, productive, fine young men, one Jamaica's loss, promising to love and honour each other, to walk with each other through life. I thought there should be a banner above where they stood, something huge, big enough to be visible all the way across the Atlantic in my homeland asking this simple question: WHAT EXACTLY ARE YOU AFRAID OF?

 

Also Sticks and Stones by Petchary http/petchary.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/40922utechbeating20121101c.jpg

 

 

Categories: None

Post a Comment

Oops!

Oops, you forgot something.

Oops!

The words you entered did not match the given text. Please try again.

Already a member? Sign In

16 Comments

Reply Karen Kennedy
7:09 PM on November 3, 2012 
Diana, What you have written is heartfelt--and so very true. It is a shame your son could not live in Jamaica without unwarranted harassment. Bless you--and bless him and his partner.
Reply Kamla
7:43 PM on November 3, 2012 
I so loved this piece. Thanks for writing it. I have thought about this problem so many times and cannot think of a solution. Peace, love and understanding is for everyone, not just a select few. Thanks.
Reply Susan Goffe
7:49 PM on November 3, 2012 
Thank you for this post, Diana. Friday was a terribly rough day. I have to believe that one day it will be different. But until then, so many people are hurting.
Reply Marolyn Gentles
7:54 PM on November 3, 2012 
Diana,
Its been a while. A beautifully written piece. Thanks for sharing and much peace and love as you deal with living in a society you work so hard at fixing even when as a mother the same society rejects a piece of your heart.
Marolyn-Lucy
Reply Nicole
10:24 PM on November 3, 2012 
I thought about our recent conversation when I heard about this. Thanks for writing this piece.

Nicole
Reply Diana McCaulay
9:05 AM on November 4, 2012 
Thanks everyone. It's been a tough few days. For a long time I've told myself that I could only manage standing up for one thing - the environment - but this latest attack was just too much. I have not really talked publicly about my son before, and the blog was published with his permission, and the permission of his partner. I have more things to say - about U-Tech, about the role of religion, about the absence of leadership on this matter, so .. more to come. I appreciate your support, as I'm sure I will have to deal with lots of horrible comments as well.
Reply Deanne Bell
9:59 AM on November 4, 2012 
D,

This is emblematic of our culture of barbarity.

And our brand of hypocrisy which says we're loving Christians until evil is meted out on certain others - gays, lesbians, untold numbers of poor black Jamaicans. Then we do not call such acts violence. We reframe them as justly deserved.

Its an astonishing form of society we claim to practice here.

D
Reply Joy Crawford
10:37 AM on November 4, 2012 
i bless you on your journey my sister
Reply Emma Lewis
10:48 AM on November 4, 2012 
Dear Diana: First of all, thanks for referring to my blog and to Annie's. But most importantly, thank you for having the courage to write this from your personal perspective. As the mother of a beautiful son, I am sure I would have felt compelled to do this also in your position. Love is the answer to all this - not fear and ignorance, leading to blind hatred. Hatred is too heavy a burden to bear, as Martin Luther King said. I wish your son and his partner much continued love and happiness together. Isn't it SAD that he cannot live in the country of his birth. Isn't it SAD that our leaders have barely responded at all, and only with great ambivalence. People always hate what they fear. But as you say, why the fear? And the role of the church is something that requires a great deal more open, honest discussion. No room for hypocrisy, now.
Reply Mark Clifford
11:08 AM on November 4, 2012 
Diana, thanks for this post and for publicly sharing your son's story (with his permission). Please continue to lend your extremely articulate and passionate voice to this/these issues.
Reply karis chin
8:01 PM on November 4, 2012 
Keep strong Diana....this was never going to happen without a war...they need to fight and we need to fight for them....but we have to stay positive...it has to be done in the context of our culture.....Sounds like some of us are ready to start the fight if the bravest of us will start.
Reply Marlon
1:57 AM on November 5, 2012 
Tears, happiness, optimism and inspiration. Sometime ago I got disenchanted and lost all hope that there was anyone left in Jamaica that was not caught up in the fervor of destruction and annihilation. I too left.
Reply O'neil
1:38 PM on November 9, 2012 
This is a very beautiful and heartfelt piece. I was truly moved.
Reply Daniel Townsend
2:35 PM on November 14, 2012 
Hi Diana,

Thanks for writing this and sharing your story with us. Its been a very long time, thanks for sharing your story with us.
Reply Orville
11:41 PM on November 25, 2012 
Diana, that's all well and good. But your purpose might be better served moulding your son away from that corrupt, ungodly and unnatural way of life.
Reply Jonathan Chambers
8:55 AM on November 30, 2012 
Dear Orville,

We haven?t met, my name is Jonathan and I am Diana?s son. I read your comment and felt I should respond directly. You suggest I am Ungodly, Corrupt and Unnatural, and I?d like to talk about that.

I am, in fact, an Atheist. I became an Atheist because I grew up with Jamaica?s religiosity, being told by priests and teachers and peers that I was disgusting, simply for wanting to fulfill my sexual destiny as I saw fit. I see how religion is used to marginalize people all over the world and that a sense of Divine Right is a near universal starting point for the suppression of basic Human Rights. I decided that I could not align myself with an institution that holds such contempt for humanity. Indeed, I think that the Galilean Carpenter, whom we can all admire and who called upon us to love each other, and to withhold judgment, would feel so ill at ease with religion today that he would question his own sacrifices. Goodness and humanity exist without the intervention of a higher power, and great evil has been done in the name of a higher power. I should be clear, I have no issue with those who lead lives of faith, but I won?t be told I am corrupt or unnatural as an article of faith.

With regard to ?corruption,? presumably you mean corrupt in a philosophical sense ? a deviation (another word in the homophobic lexicon) from an ideal. Really, in this context corrupt and unnatural mean the same thing.

Same sex attraction is evident in most animal species, including the higher primates. Human sexuality is widely considered to be of genetic origin, exhibiting some fluidity in specific environmental situations. It is not a ?choice.? But, I suspect you?ve heard that before.

So, I?ll pose a different question instead about a different circumstance:
Should a White Woman be allowed to marry a Black Man?

Today we say they should be allowed to marry; only a bigot would think otherwise! But, had you posed that question in the southern United States in the 1950?s and 60?s, the answer would be no ? and the law would be on your side. The Jim Crow Laws upheld segregation and miscegenation in many States and God was used to justify it as much as He was used to condemn it.

"If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God's word and had desired to do the Lord's will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn the line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line."
Rev. Jerry Fallwell?s comments on school desegregation in 1954

The religious endorsement of racism was so strong and so bombastic in America that until the 1970s the USA had legalized apartheid trumpeted by Men of God.

So with that knowledge ? I?d like you to define this ideal you are so concerned that I have strayed from. Because the Bible talks about many ideals: Being male, light skinned, Jewish, Gentile. A Master / Slave relationship is considered natural. Eating shellfish is considered unnatural. We have left many of these ?ideals? behind, in fact, we now find some of them contemptible. So there is no ideal, and you don?t mean unnatural, or corrupt, you mean different. And difference is something that I celebrate.

My parents taught me these values: Honesty, Integrity, Love, Forgiveness, Acceptance, Curiosity, A love of language and knowledge, values that are too infrequently part of the Christian faith. And I hold on to these qualities in my daily life.

Despite having never met me, you?ve made assumptions about me. You made assumptions about my way of life, having (I assume) no experience of it, and you chose to condemn me publicly. This is dangerous. Condemnation without understanding or rationale is zealotry. It is destabilizing and it is only comfortable because yours, in Jamaica, is a popular viewpoint, which may not always be the status quo.

I continue to hope that reason and humanity will have their day in Jamaica.