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The star, boycott and the curious cat
It was a bright and beautiful Monday morning in Kingston, Jamaica, and as I scrolled through my WhatsApp messages, I saw a picture of a concrete star being put down at the Argyle International Airport (AIA), which was supposed to be officially opened later that day in my homeland of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Right away, I was startled and thought, “A star? At AIA?” Wasn’t that an inappropriate symbol to be placed at a national project given its political association as the symbol of the Unity Labour Party?” Before I could think further, I saw another WhatsApp message, this time with a picture of a post made from Xtreme FM, titled “New Democratic Party would not attend Argyle Airport opening”. Then, as more questions flooded my mind, a discussion quickly ensued amongst other Vincentians who were also living abroad and me, and two questions were posed: “Why is the NDP boycotting the AIA opening? And if the boycotting of the AIA is because of the concrete star, would it have made a difference if the star was painted yellow?” As jokingly as those questions were posed, I realised that they were still serious questions that I wanted answers to. Being the “curious cat” that I am, I decided that I would seek answers by posting the questions on Facebook, which was, for me, the most accessible means to Vincentians and political commentators in SVG, including active members of both the NDP and the ULP.
Enter the Facebook Heroes from Team Yellow
Upon making the post, I had not realised the chain of events that I had set off and what would follow. As if my Facebook posts were some act of villainy, and as if they were carefully watching Facebook and for villainous posts from their laptop watch towers, tam ta na naaa, some Facebook Heroes swooped in quickly to reprimand me. With a response time that put that of our Police Force to shame, the Facebook Heroes from Team Yellow, swiftly alluded that my questions were somewhat out of place or seeking to cause mischief. Then as if they would punish this cat for his curiosity, they put to use their superpowers of wit and their virtual martial arts of Facebook comments and punched me with a “Come better than that”, then kicked me with a “Don’t post the questions without your response. Your response is the important part.” Wham! Bam! Zoom! I was even hit with a special combo move when they said, “Are you someone’s mouthpiece?”, “Don’t start the post”, and even a “Wheel and come again.”
Enter the Facebook Heroes from Team Red
By the time the Facebook Heroes were done serving their dose of what I think was their version of virtual justice, I felt that I was paying the price of being a curious cat. In fact, I even felt that one of my proverbial nine lives was lost. However, still very curious and determined to really get answers, I added to my post that I, too, was interested in getting a response, and if there were other reasons unrelated to the concrete star that influenced the NDP’s decision to boycott the AIA opening. Then to my surprise, as if there was some sort of bat signal put out on Facebook, more Facebook Heroes appeared, but this time from Team Red. They too possessed superpowers of wit and were also masters of the virtual martial arts, Facebook comments. However, this time I would not be the target as they went on to engage the other Facebook Heroes from Team Yellow. They hit the yellow team with a “isn’t the star beautiful?”, “They should paint the star red too”, and a slew of other acrobatic witty comments.
Like the airport scene out of Captain America Civil War
As I sat at my laptop looking at the Facebook Heroes engaging each other, I couldn’t help but see the similarity to the airport scene in “Captain America: Civil War”. For who may not have watched the film, the airport scene was one of the most epic superhero showdowns and, guess where it took place? Yes, at an airport. It was almost as if the Facebook Heroes from the Yellow Team and Red Team where re-enacting the scene, except that it wasn’t in a movie, it was on Facebook, and it wasn’t at an airport, but it was about one. What ensued was an aggressive exchange that didn’t seem to be aimed at providing answers the questions I had posed but rather aimed at determining who was from the better team or who had the better plans to see SVG be protected and move forward. Surely, both teams did not seem to have the power of objectivity, or impartiality but the force of bias, partiality intolerance, and I dare say bigotry seemed to be strong in some of them. But akin to the plot in “Captain America: Civil War”, weren’t all these Facebook Heroes supposed to be on the same team? In fact weren’t we all Vincentians and part of Team SVG? I came to my senses and I realised that it was I was witnessing what was SVG’s own Civil War.
On a Serious Note
Certainly, what started out as a bright and beautiful Monday morning had now turned into one full of disappointment and heartache. Was it that my country was really so politically divided that persons were so plagued by political blindness and bias? Was it that persons were forgetting what it is to be Vincentian and what it was to lovingly and respectfully disagree with each other on political matters? Was it that my countrymen, or at least some of those who I have on Facebook, were really so short sighted that they would not realise that fighting against each other would NOT move the country forward? I even wonder if my question was “Why is there a concrete star at the AIA, and if it is a political message?”, or something to that effect, the result of fighting and bickering between ULP and NDP supporters on m friends list would have still happened. I am no longer a curious cat, but a concerned citizen of SVG who can’t help but feel concern and worry for my country. If the discourse held on Facebook is a representative of the climate in SVG, I cannot help but worry and hope that some way, somehow there can be a drive for national unity and that even the so-called “Facebook Heroes” can one day genuinely join hands in long lasting unity.
I am glad to know that the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Godwin Friday and other members of the NDP did indeed attend the opening of the AIA. Whether out of protocol, good will, or for a political showing, it certainly was indeed a move toward creating some sort of unity in SVG. As it regards to the concrete star, I really would love to know why it is there, who authorised it, and if there would be a symbol of a key placed there as well, or, if the government is being witty and intend to paint the star in an NDP shade of yellow. Also, with there being numerous concerns regarding the construction of the airport, if they haven’t started already, I would love to see Vincentians move from simple Facebook commentary and seek real answers. Nonetheless, kudos must be given to Prime Minister Dr. Hon. Ralph Gonsalves and his team for pursuing such an ambitious project and sticking it through, despite the challenges. Certainly it must have taken grit, resilience and audacity to stay the course despite numerous setbacks and high political tensions surrounding the airports construction. I only hope that the airport will be managed properly, and that it will fulfil the hope that has been bestowed on it as being a game changer for SVG.
Finally, I hope that regardless to persons’ opinions and feelings about the AIA, all Vincentians would be pressin’ gas together towards a better SVG, and that love would be in the air for all of us; love for each other despite differences in political persuasions, and most of all love for country.
Franz E. M. George (firstname.lastname@example.org)