Basil Waite, in a not untypical fashion, spouted a lot of heat in the Senate the other day. But the shadow education minister didn’t generate much, if any, light. At least, not light focused on the substantive issue of the debate: The state of the Jamaican family and the proposal by Warren Newby for a commission to study the issue.
However, reflecting on the state and nature of the Jamaican family, its evolution and seemingly deepening dysfunction is a deep, complex and weighty matter that demands serious thought. And thinking is hard work.
We are not surprised, therefore, that Mr Waite, as is so often the case in Jamaica, chose to pander to the populist and the popular. So, rather than dealing with the substantive issue, he, by and large, went gay bashing.
Worse, Basil Waite, whom we believe has aspirations to the leadership of the People’s National Party didn’t start from the basis of fact. He instead set up his own, fluffy, weightless figures, then knocked them over.
Agitating for recognition
Mr Waite’s spurious assumption is that if Mr Newby’s contemplated commission didn’t clearly define what comprised a Jamaican family – presumably with great urgency – then it won’t “be long before we have some of those same groups (homosexuals) agitating for recognition as a family. So, we need to prevent that … ” he said.
Basil Waite, in this regard, serves as metaphor for a political class whose failure at leadership makes it malleable to a fundamentalist construct of the world, which it believes provides the route of least resistance to high office. In that regard, it is easy to buy into a bigotry that is so rampant in Jamaica, no matter how backward and regardless of the consequence. Indeed, it is this acquiescence to the loud, the callow and biblical literalists that informed Prime Minister Golding’s “not in my Cabinet” declaration against homosexuals, rather than a rational, sophisticated response befitting of a modern, tolerant society.
In today’s world, it is only the most backward, unsure, hypocritical or opportunistic leader who would presume to legislate the nature of people’s relationships, or would want to send the state on a voyeuristic expedition into people’s bedrooms. So, neither Mr Golding’s hubris in that BBC television interview nor Mr Waite’s barely disguised Old Testament harrumphing about gays campaigning “for specific rights” is of specific social or economic value to Jamaica.
The most extreme of harassment
It is more likely to be detrimental, serving to institutionalise the notion of the otherness of people with whose lifestyles we do not agree and fair game for the most extreme of harassment, including the usurpation of their fundamental rights, with little protection from the State. It is small wonder that two men murdered last week were killed because they were deemed to be gay.
Jamaica does not have the luxury of building a cocoon around itself and operating in splendid isolation from the rest of the world. Gays operate in all walks of life, in finance, commerce, industry and government around the world. And, who is to say who is gay in Jamaica’s government structure?
In that regard, it is nonsense, if Mr Waite would care to think about it, to maintain archaic laws against homosexuality.
What, after all, is the fear? It is not as if people become gay by contagion