The story has been told about a certain member of parliament who dreamt that he was addressing his colleagues in the House only to wake up and find out that he was! Was North West St Ann MP Ernest (Ernie) Smith dreaming when he spoke in Gordon House recently, or was he for real when he addressed the issue of homosexuality?
Needless to say that his often vituperative, sometimes thought-provoking, but for the most part outlandish utterances have created an intellectual nightmare for those of us who embrace fair play and basic common sense.
Using the protective cloak of parliamentary privilege, the learned gentleman lambasted “gays”, describing them as being violence-prone and should therefore not be allowed to have licensed firearms. And as if this was not enough, this esteemed lawmaker (because that is what each parliamentarian is) then went on to intimate that the Jamaica Constabulary Force was being overrun by homosexuals. In essence, a “straight” lawmaker versus “bent” law enforcers?
A soap opera in the making indeed! Mr Smith further went on to add more fuel to his already inflammatory speech by saying that because a Gleaner story purporting this to be so was not denied publicly by the JCF, then it may well be so.
SMITH… needs to rewind and come again
The eminent and astute attorney-at-law that he is, Mr Smith well knows that if he had made such a statement outside of Gordon House, he could have faced a libel suit of tremendous proportions, whether from individual members of the police force or collectively. His seeming attack may well be deemed by many as an act of cowardice. And what about the legal tenet which deals with the presumption of innocence? Why should we assume that the majority of policemen and policewomen in the JCF are homosexuals without the evidence to corroborate such a claim?
In any event, homosexuality is not a crime in Jamaica; it is buggery, the act of two persons, usually men, having anal intercourse. An archaic law which most enlightened countries have expunged from their law books. One is not aware that every police station in Jamaica is a “romping shop” of whatever kind and from my own observation, the JCF comprises many decent, Christian, morally upright men and women who have sworn to uphold the laws of the land. You see, the word homosexuality is a generic term although most people tend to think that a homosexual is automatically of the male species. And this is a very important point to make because part and parcel of the homophobic mentality in Jamaica is that lesbians are usually more tolerated than male homosexuals. In fact, many so-called heterosexual men get very turned on watching lesbian women “romping around”.
And there’s the rub (no pun intended)!
My question to Mr Smith and those who support his misguided posture is: How does he propose to rid the society of homosexuals, whether those in the force or otherwise? Years ago when the United States Army was faced with a similar predicament under then President Bill Clinton, a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was developed. Who in their right mind in Jamaica would willingly admit that he or she is gay?
And how does one identify a homosexual? This is risky business because even when two men are caught in the act, this does not automatically mean they are both gay. After all, it is well known that some straight men do go to bed with a homosexual counterpart for money, a job or other favours.
Contrary to the popular perception, not all homosexuals are effeminate or prissy. Some of the most macho men in our society behind closed doors are quite comfortable being on the ‘down low’. On the other hand, not all men who behave or look like women are homosexuals. Some years ago, I had to counsel a male student of a prominent high school who had been ostracised, ridiculed, neglected and vilified by his father (a policeman) because he acted and spoke like a girl.
The young man was adamant that he was not gay but because he had grown up with his single mom who saw him as the apple of her eye he had somehow developed these traits. Today, that young man, thanks to my counselling and his strength of character, has graduated from university, is working and is happily leading a heterosexual lifestyle.
Unfortunately, he has not been able to forgive his father for the way he was treated by him, so they are yet to be reconciled.
Against this background, Mr Smith should have been more responsible in his remarks, lest he become, whether wittingly or unwittingly, an advocate for gay-bashing or even worse, the eradication and persecution of such people in the society, because innocent lives could forever be damaged or lost. Would he want that on his conscience? And what if someone who was so treated came to him for legal assistance, would he refuse to handle the case? In other words, in the same way a person who is deemed to be homosexual should not be given a firearm licence, should that person also be denied legal representation, assuming that no Jamaican lawyer is homosexual?
On a lighter note, perhaps the wily Mr Smith is hoping to get into a Bruce Golding reshuffled Cabinet by the back door?
After all, the Jamaica Labour Party leader had stated vehemently when asked during a BBC interview about accommodating gays in his administration: “Not in my Cabinet!” Mr Smith’s unrelenting stance on the issue of homosexuality should therefore put him in good stead with Mr Golding, thus making him a most suitable candidate for the post of minister of national security! By the way, is Mr Smith aware that some, if not all European countries are averse to approving loans to other countries which openly persecute or discriminate against people of varying sexual preferences, particularly homosexuals? It is in the fine print!
The bottom line is that we need to create a kinder, gentler and more tolerant society. Homosexuals ought not to flaunt their wares, so to speak, on John Public, but the fact that a person is thus sexually challenged should not mean that he or she is less of a human being. Not all homosexual men prey on young boys, and there are latent homosexuals who never get involved with men as well as some gays who do not engage in buggery. If one is to go by Mr Smith’s theory, though, then we would have to adopt the Animal Farm philosophy that all men are created equal but some are more equal than others. Is this in line with the JLP espoused tenet of equal rights and justice for all?
It has been said that it is better to keep one’s mouth shut and be deemed misguided than to open it and remove all doubt. Mr Smith needs to rewind and come again. In the meantime, all well-thinking citizens should say to our good friend, “Moutamassi Ernie, kibba yuh mout!”