Friday, November 29, 2013

Speaking out about
being Vex about Haitians
arriving in The Bahamas

by Obediah Michael Smith

Act I

1
Whoever happens to overhear me confess I couldn't care less. For so long now they have made being Bahamian seem like a travesty: an identity that is constantly interrupted. Every time a ship of them comes - whether they are apprehended or not - they upstage what was happening- whatever we might have been doing. Whatever we might have been engaged in, as if knocked over or knocked out of our hands.

2
In addition to however many are apprehended, detained and deported, without end haunted by those escaping into the country- escaping through the bushes. Almost impossible to go a day without Haitians on your mind. Haitians haunting Bahamians - haunting the Bahamas without end.

3
That is what is unfair. That Is what is unwelcome, the interruption they are. How is it that Haitian is the theme of Bahamian life? Hardly a thing- hardly a thought more constant. Impossible to get Haitian off Bahamian minds. Inserting themselves upon the agenda whatever your plans were.

4
Haitian on the menu as it were, along with the fish of the day - along with conch chowder and whatever else you were fixing to serve - planning to serve - Haitian in the mix. It is that intrusion that I detest.

5
Impossible to know my country apart from theirs - apart from them - undocumented here and there, any and everywhere among the population.

6
Want to bring structure- improvement- uplift to the citizens of the country. Want to inspire them to excel. Want to put this program and that program in place for their advancement but the Haitians keep-a-coming and so much of the nation's energy and so much of its resources running out running after them.

7
It is the national structure you see that cannot get erected. Haitians flooding in like bad weather; ruining, wrecking what had been put in place and painted. Trees and lawns and landscapes disfigured and shingles off roof tops. This the sort of setback to attend to without end: a step forward and two back with illegal Haitian immigrants to deal with- to have to do with- to have to fill your hands with. What else can we at one and the same time do with hands filled with Haitians apprehended?

8
How debilitating it is, the energy it draws out- attention it draws away from so many Bahamian matters - a vexing problem. Relax- less vigilant- turn our backs upon Haitians entering undocumented and soon there would be more of them than us. It is just that we have other stuff to work on - to deal with but can't because of how unrelenting is their surreptitious invasion.

9
I have for sometime now, in silence, seeming to be tolerant, knowing of their plight, thrown my hands up regarding the idea of identity, a Bahamas for Bahamians. In my heart, I've decided that these 700 islands, its capital especially, is not mine but free for all.

10
You see, I wanted a lab, enclosed as it were, to do my experiments - with all of my Petri dishes containing my experiments, undisturbed unless I disturbed them; a record though of all the little changes of whatever transpired, but over run as these islands are, with Haitians invading, all of my experiments are spoilt, shifted this way and that. Security I needed, conditions I needed to insure the integrity of the outcome of my lab experiments is over and over again compromised.

11
This country now is at best Haitian-Bahamas. We are all at best Haitian-Bahamians. They have a country to themselves, the western side of Hispaniola. They do what they do with it - did what they did with it now they want to do what they want to do with ours too.

12
I see it as unfair, their unending intrusion. Always shocking to discover that in their substandard living conditions- living on the edge as they are- here in other people's country illegally as they are and they'd have, in so many instances, in excess of half-a-dozen children.

13
Haitian dilemma, without end, inserted and inserted is our dilemma as well. Forced upon us as it is, we are made to wear an outfit whether we like it or not.

14
I have for a long time not known what it means to be a Bahamian. I have not been allowed to be. I do not try to be. I have become comfortable being or I have to settle for being something ambiguous.

15
Attempt to hold fast- to hold on to Bahamian like a stick in my fist I was tenaciously clutching; find the stick is a shitty stick I do not wish to grip; I do not wish to grasp. Let them have it, I seem to have said some time ago. Some time ago, it seems, I flung it down; I flung it away - this idea of a Bahamian identity.

16
I am just one among the diaspora of millions of the continent of Africa; without country, without nationality. Their independence is their independence. They acquired it in 1804. What I thought was our independence - acquired in 1973 - is not ours really; not free to pursue our destiny without Haitians without end jumping on board; escaping from the mess they've made so far of their national experiment.

-------------------------------

Act II 


1
It is arriving and arriving that annoys- that is the problem. Were it at a store to buy, one would be happy but to a play after it has started is certainly interruption - is certainly a nuisance to who is enclosed and watching already as well as to the players; those arriving, seeking seats, while the play is unfolding and there are lines in abundance to struggle to hold onto and in addition, the spell that the drama or comedy might have cast like thread or threads of one color or another or of several colors broken- snapped as those arriving late are added or add themselves.

2
The other metaphor or analogy is this, when something is being baked or cooked and there is a recipe of ingredients and amounts to make what you or baking or cooking and there is more and more continually arriving that you are forced to incorporate. But are  the citizens themselves not constantly having children you might suggest to challenge my logic and I counter by saying: The children of the citizens themselves are like the ingredients that have been prescribed giving off or releasing flavor and already are expected. Come in through the front door and accounted for is one thing to deal with but what wants to sneak in through a back door and ruin the batch the batter without the cook- the baker knowing what he or she is dealing with is another matter.

3.
It is akin certainly to a thief intruding knocking over, overturning anything and everything, rooting up in what is in your draws- your precious valuables- caring nothing for your order and heartless- carries off something that is priceless: ruby or diamond or some gold or silver piece that cannot be replaced. What was stolen attached to some memory or some experience - steps that cannot again be taken.

4.
I am aware thought that the fault might be in piling up on earth what might be attractive to thieves or what can rust. The Holy Bible I know has warned against such a practice. Is to be Bahamian one of these same sort of luxuries that we have no right to? No right to a nation to ourselves - no right to a nationality?

5
But before moving off and moving on, one last analogy. A class to teach and another and another student assigned to it or students, already assigned, arriving after the lesson has commenced - interrupting and to be added- to be incorporated- to be certain that all included are on one same page.

6
You see, it is not that my heart is hard. It is not that I am unwilling to let who must, come in from the cold.  It has more to do with maintaining structure, avoiding mayhem. Mayhem enough among the citizens themselves to be corrected- fixed- made sense of. Is nation no more than castle made of sand and wave after wave comes in and wash down what was worked on- wash away what was built upon all day - or is a nation made of sticks and some force or other or some bully can come by and walk upon it or with a gesture, knock it down- knock it over - make naught of what for you was plus - of what for you or so you thought was adding up to something?

7
One thing the invaders throughout history against whom you must prepare defense, who came to plunder - to rape and slaughter - burn cathedrals, libraries, kill priests, librarians, women, children - come to lay waste what is to you infinitely valuable and to them worth nothing and to be trodden underfoot - blood to be spilled - wine to swill or to drink or to bathe in - land to claim or to do whatever they wish with.

8
This is another sort of invasion though it is invasion nonetheless and has to be defended against. Some might say that I am sewing the sort of seeds that painted the sort of picture of Jews that lead to there being gotten rid of - that lead to their extermination in such large numbers after first being rounded up contained in ghettos like cattle in pens- like Indians in the USA on reservations upon a continent to which, in its entirety, they once lay claim.

9
Bahamas which we now call ours, before Columbus came, belonged or was home to Taino, Arawaks and Caribs, called Indians by  Columbus. It was not long though before they were relieved- not just of these islands that were claimed for Spain but they were relieved of their lives as well.

10
So you might say that  as far as history goes, there are no clean hands. All hands are dirty with bloody deeds. Without end boarders shifting- changing like rivers- lakes- like everything that is alive, evolving. Who lays claim to this or that area of real estate - assigned to it one name or another - designated it a country- a nation- independent with flag and anthem with boarders to defend- a line to cross and you're in Russia, Germany, Spain or France or you're in Guatemala, Mexico, Costa Rica.

11
Where are the boarders in the water between The Bahamas and Cuba? I understand that it was this dispute that was very much responsible for the sinking of the Flamingo in 1980. Boarders must be established and defended. 

12
I have my country and I have my yard. How tied they are. How tired I get of people encroaching, littering, standing, sitting or just making too much noise on or near my property. I even call the police about persons near by lighting fires - filling up my house with poison, stink smoke that chokes me, makes me sick, leaves me coughing, sneezing.

13
All that I have written here is just that- coughing sneezing- stuff that I am hawking up and spitting or you might say that I have merely blown my nose- a lot of snot into tissue paper.

--------------------------------------

Act III

1
How is it that what athletes have to say we so urgently need to hear? Artists on the other hand are seldom interviewed. Voices we without end hear are those of athletes, politicians and preachers. Well, in addition, thank God, we hear the pop songs of our musicians, their rake and scrape and their calypsos - included among them Phil Stubbs and KB.

2
Is it by design that the mentality of the people generally is kept low? Such a large proportion of the population hardly any better off then illegal Haitian immigrants, fleeing Haiti to escape a life where they live too far out upon the edge? On the edge when they arrive here too but I suppose better off.

3
Why are there so many Bahamians so way down under? Can we not at least afford them- provide then with a better education? Is it by design that Bahamians in such large numbers are so poorly educated? It seems deliberate what they are fed and what they are not in terms of knowledge of themselves.

4
So many artists who belong to the people too, they know little or nothing of. Every murder that takes place they are informed of in detail. ZNS keeps count. Who commits a murder we get to know well. There are those Bahamians though who are supremely creative who it seems are kept in some small tight elitist circle and the people generally have little access to- know little or nothing of.

5
We get to know- we get to hear what motivates an athlete- hear of him / of her at every step but what our artists do and why is left a mystery- is kept secret. I know because I must and, I suppose, because I am one of them. I was certainly inspired by such persons though to walk in their footsteps. How many others might choose such steps if they were shown them- if these steps were not so covered over- were not so covered up.

6
It has to be deliberate- policy- some conspiracy why what I do and others in the arts like me are treated as it we said nothing- as if we had nothing to say: I mean people in the literary- visual and performing arts. And to further suggest that we as a group were deaf, dumb, mute- to further suggest that we have said and are saying nothing; without end, consultants from abroad are called in to pronounce on everything nationally about which an important decision has to be made.

7
Should our artists- their scholarship- all there research not inform us first- should all their insight not first be exhausted before the need arose for this consultant- that consultant from England, Canada and elsewhere is called in to insult us? They are omniscient and we are not. They are intelligent and we are not.

8
We are here daily immersed in the experience- living in the life we live, minute by minute, and our insights mean nothing- are worth nothing- are not to be examined first?

9
Should it not be a matter of national pastime to invest in being able to translate what a painter, poet, sculptor, ceramicist, dancer, film maker is saying? Are we not- the majority of us- people with a tradition of the talking drum? Do we not still have Junkanoo and understand its message just as clearly as language spoken?

10
We give the people Junkanoo- all good and well- in fact it is wonderful. What I find interesting about the sciences that is equally true of the arts is that they work in tandem. The arts and sciences as well are symbiotic. They work together. They  reinforce each other. Watch documentaries made by the BBC, the History Chanel, PBS and other agencies and you see scholars from a variety of disciplines, gather to bring a person or an incident back to life - often from the distant past.

11
Why are parts of the equation of knowledge about ourselves being left in the dust as it were- being left to silence? Yes it is important what athletes have to say. It is important that we know their stories but there are other voices - other stories that are as vital- that are just as important to us.

12
As significant as Sidney Poitier is, look at how many Bahamians did not, until recently, even know that he was one of us- knew little of all that he has done to impact - to change and to reshape the now we live in.

13
There are too many among us in the dark. It us partially their fault, certainly, because anyone can himself or herself choose light instead and seek it. What for me is missing though from our wanting to be independent- from our wanting to be a nation is this, persons in leadership who know so very well how to make their children somebody, seem not to know how to address the children of the nation with that same urgency. [Is that blanket not thrown out to cover- to warm and to safeguard all the children because among them are mixed in all the undocumented Haitians? In the nest not just your chicks but eggs laid as it were by other birds - intruders - invaders?]

14
We labor daily to insure that children of our own excel - those of us with means. We are satisfied though that there are those among us who are the have-nots. We are satisfied that there are those among us, fellow Bahamians, who are outsiders. In our independent Bahamas I thought there'd have been none who were outsiders. I thought is was going to be a nation of us and for us. What I thought was possible with independence and with our tiny population, was that we would be a family - that everyone would be special.

15
Where the emphasis has been placed in this society of ours is upon making more money - getting more money but there are a lot of thugs who have money. There are many who turn thugs to get money. Where the emphasis has to be placed for all in our land is upon quality of life and quality of relationships. At the basis and at the heart of this quality of life of which I speak is knowledge. It is with that that we must be armed. It is this that as well disarms.

16
Education- ability to reason softens. How important it is always to have something to think about - to think through - to think out.

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