September 11 attacks moved Americans to grief and horror - and moved our
nation to war.
revealed the cruelty of our enemies, clarified grave threats to our
country, and demonstrated the character of our people.
a moment of great testing, the spirit of men and women in New York City,
at the Pentagon and aboard Flight 93 became the spirit of our country.
The terrible illumination of these events has also brought new
clarity to America’s role in the world.
In great tragedy, we have also seen great opportunities.
We must have the wisdom and courage to seize them.
greatest opportunity is to create a balance of world power that favors
human freedom. We will use
our position of unparalleled strength and influence to build an atmosphere
of international order and openness in which progress and liberty can
flourish in many nations.
President George Bush on September 11, 2002
Year later, more than 3,000 deaths later, while living under the constant
threat of terrorism and plummeting stocks, that’s how the American
leader summed up the traumatized country.
at home, one non-functioning government later, many kidnappings later,
unemployment that feeds rising crime, a limping health sector, a tottering
education system, the swelling numbers falling under the poverty line, the
rising functionally illiterate people, the hopelessly self interested
politicians, how can we sum up this country?
are pelting comments like rain. Even
the ole talk is less light-hearted. Despite
the projected mini oil and gas boom, we don’t plan too much ahead. We pronounce, not discuss.
It’s fight or flight.
A political party activist: “Panday lost his chance to unite this
country and Manning, too, missed that bus.
Mottley may do it for us, but by now we know once they get into
power, people don’t count.”(flight)
A prominent businessman waiting for his Chinese takeaway one evening: “With
all the kidnappings, my brother doesn’t even want to leave his house
these days, even for work. (flight) I can’t live like that. I just came back from Florida from visiting my family.
I like it there. I feel safe there, but despite everything, I
couldn’t wait to get back here” (he gestured towards the pink
twilight) because this is home. Where
else am I going to? (flight)
The father of two grown-up children: “When my kids say they
don’t want to vote because they are disillusioned, I tell them get a
party card: get involved, because if you do, then you will always have a
voice. You will not be among
those who have given up.”(flight)
A vegetable vendor in Maraval: “Business is really slow.
We are not seeing so many of our customers.
They’ve gone away.” “But
maybe they will come back when it’s safer.” (flight)
The news editor of a radio station describing the last sitting of
Parliament: “Well in about 10 minutes Mr. Manning announced
elections. Outside, people
from both sides shouted at one another for a while, and it was over.
No, we are nothing like Guyana or Jamaica.” (flight)
A university student: “The tone of the political advertising is
calamitous since it is feeding fear and outrage and polarizing people.
Politics is not about people, out quality of education, health
care, employment, crime, or over the fact we live either in moving jails
(our cars) or stationary ones (our offices and home) but about political
A sportswoman: “I still run in the Savannah in the afternoon.
People still ride their bicycles, listen to music, work, hold
exhibitions, play basketball, plan weddings, go on hikes, and fall in
love. I refuse to see my country through the myopic and distorted lens of
criminals and politicians.”
speaking randomly to these citizens, I was filled with shame over the
are a bright, articulate people with plenty guts: a people who despite
being worn down, are stoutly resisting the dismal spectre of a country
being led by politicians who continually pour our rivers of plenty - our
human and natural resources - down dirty drains either because they lack
the imagination to think big, or are drunk on power.
the past we used to say confidently: “We’re no Guyana…we’re no
Jamaica,” but now we falter because although we are not either yet,
we’re on a slippery slope that can lead us there.
this: If the American media are able to instill a fierce nationalism and
sense of identity in the people of their sprawling country daily, why can
we not do the same? Their cry
of “freedom” unites them. What
is our battle cry? We don’t
want to vote out of fear or rage, or spite.
We may be small but our people are heroic, and will not settle for
that paltry, cheap sloganeering.
media must set the agenda for unity, democracy and development.
For a country in crisis (and we are on the cusp) developmental
journalism is required. The
divisive, petty voices must be edited out, to be replaced by the clear
ring of the voice of the people.