The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT -

I looked for­ward with un­com­mon in­ter­est to Tues­day evening’s State of the Union re­port, and not only be­cause it would be Barack Obama’s eighth and last as Pres­i­dent of the United States. The om­ni­scient talk­ing heads had for most of the day fo­cused on re­ports that Iran’s Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard had taken ten Amer­i­can sailors pris­oner— from the eru­dite per­spec­tive of lead­ing Fox News an­a­lysts, an un­for­giv­able in­sult close to a dec­la­ra­tion of war. I could hardly wait to hear what the man who had taken out Osama bin Laden might have to say about his Ira­nian coun­ter­part Has­san Rouhani.

As it turned out he of­fered not a word on the day’s hottest topic. But what he did say more than made up for the omis­sion. First there was his ac­knowl­edge­ment that this be­ing “an elec­tion sea­son ex­pec­ta­tions for what we will achieve this year are low.” Nev­er­the­less he hoped “we can work to­gether on bi­par­ti­san poli­cies like crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form, and help­ing peo­ple who are bat­tling pre­scrip­tion drug abuse.”

How could I stay fo­cused af­ter the above-quoted words had been spo­ken? How could I have re­sisted com­par­ing the Pres­i­dent’s elec­tion-time ap­peal with our own prime min­is­ter’s an­nounce­ment that this com­ing elec­tion will be “be­tween the Saint Lu­cia Labour Party and the Chas­tanets?”

Per­chance some may wish to re­mind me that the re­called state­ment was di­rected at a par­tic­u­lar son and father, per­mit me to un­der­score an­other ir­re­duc­ible truth: the prime min­is­ter’s war dec­la­ra­tion au­to­mat­i­cally tar­geted thou­sands more than just one os­ten­si­bly sup­port­ive father and his po­lit­i­cally am­bi­tious son. It was un­de­ni­ably a warn­ing to their rel­a­tives, close and dis­tant, wher­ever they might be.

The prime min­is­ter’s con­ceiv­ably cal­cu­lated cri de

guerre also rep­re­sented an omi­nous mind­set: all were fair game who march—or are sus­pected marchers—to the UWP drum, in­clud­ing cit­i­zens who in­sist on march­ing to their own beat.

What the prime min­is­ter said about Allen and Michael Chas­tanet sug­gested that in the mind of our na­tion’s premier law maker the Con­sti­tu­tion of Saint Lu­cia that guar­an­tees us the right freely to as­so­ciate is not worth the pa­per it’s writ­ten on.

But back to Obama’s fi­nal State of the Union ad­dress. Said the Pres­i­dent of the world’s rich­est and most pow­er­ful coun­try, as if point­edly ad­dress­ing mini-minded monar­chs of failed tiny states: “We need to re­ject any pol­i­tics that tar­gets peo­ple be­cause of race or re­li­gion . . . The fu­ture we want: se­cu­rity for our fam­i­lies; a ris­ing stan­dard of liv­ing and a sus­tain­able, peace­ful planet for our kids. But this will only hap­pen if we work to­gether. It will only hap­pen if we can have na­tional, con­struc­tive de­bates. It will only hap­pen if we can fix our pol­i­tics.”

Ad­di­tion­ally: “A bet­ter pol­i­tics doesn’t mean we have to agree on ev­ery­thing. But democ­racy does re­quire ba­sic bonds of trust be­tween its cit­i­zens. It doesn’t work if we think the peo­ple who dis­agree with us are mo­ti­vated by mal­ice or that our political op­po­nents are un­pa­tri­otic. Democ­racy breaks down when the av­er­age per­son feels their voice doesn’t mat­ter; that the sys­tem is rigged . . . We have to re­duce the in­flu­ence of money in our pol­i­tics. We’ve got to make vot­ing eas­ier, not harder, and mod­ern­ize it for the way we live now.”

The Pres­i­dent rang my bell when he said: “I can’t do th­ese things on my own. Changes in our political process will only hap­pen when the Amer­i­can peo­ple de­mand it. What­ever you may be­lieve, whether you pre­fer one party or no party, our col­lec­tive fu­ture de­pends on your will­ing­ness to up­hold your obli­ga­tions as a ci­ti­zen.”

Then there was his ref­er­ence to “those voices of fair­ness and vi­sion, of grit and good hu­mor and kind­ness . . . voices that Dr. King be­lieved would have the fi­nal word— voices of un­armed truth and un­con­di­tional love.”

At least four times this week, as I pored over the text of Obama’s in­spir­ing fi­nal State of the Union ad­dress, I con­tem­plated our own sit­u­a­tion. I thought about our prime min­is­ter’s demon­strated con­tempt for the very at­tributes that make Amer­ica, with all its ob­vi­ous car­bun­cles, the great­est

Democ­racy doesn’t work if we think the peo­ple who dis­agree with us are mo­ti­vated by mal­ice or that our political op­po­nents are un­pa­tri­otic. Democ­racy breaks down when the av­er­age per­son feels their voice doesn’t mat­ter . . .

coun­try in the world.

While the US Pres­i­dent had lauded “the pro­tester de­ter­mined to prove jus­tice mat­ters,” our own leader of govern­ment seems al­to­gether un­both­ered that Borde­lais is bust­ing at the seams, mainly on ac­count of too many pre­sumed in­no­cent cit­i­zens for years de­nied their day in court—an­other kick to the go­nads of our Con­sti­tu­tion. Mean­while, our pa­thetic jus­tice min­is­ter on his way to yet an­other pre­dictable se­nate talk shop, fires off ver­bal blanks at jeer­ing dis­senters in Con­sti­tu­tion park.

Even as I write (Thurs­day morn­ing) dom­i­nat­ing my thoughts is an un­prece­dented lunchtime con­fer­ence ar­ranged by the EU del­e­ga­tion based in Bar­ba­dos. Their diplo­mat­i­cally stated pur­pose is to in­form the press about what had tran­spired at their ear­lier dis­cus­sion with the prime min­is­ter about “gross vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights” al­legedly by mem­bers of the Royal St. Lu­cia Po­lice Force over four years ago. Al­though he has made sev­eral con­tro­ver­sial pro­nounce­ments on the is­sue, the prime min­is­ter has al­ways been care­ful to do so with only his cam­era crew present. De­spite sev­eral ap­peals, he has re­fused to make him­self avail­able to the press—not even af­ter the di­rec­tor of pub­lic pros­e­cu­tions pub­licly de­clared the IMPACS re­port sub­mit­ted to her by the prime min­is­ter ab­so­lutely de­void of ev­i­dence sup­port­ive of its al­le­ga­tions.

Then there’s the Juf­fali af­fair. One week ago, in the wake of a re­quest from the UK For­eign and Com­mon­wealth of­fice, the govern­ment an­nounced that a Saint Lu­cia del­e­ga­tion had gone to the UK “to dis­cuss the Juf­fali case.” Since then, not a word, not a word, not a word.

At his party’s most re­cent con­ven­tion the prime min­is­ter promised there would soon be news con­nected with the Gryn­berg scan­dal—al­beit dis­ap­point­ing to some, he said. Again, since then not a word, not a word, not a word.

It’s al­most as if the prime min­is­ter were goad­ing pro­test­ers against his govern­ment’s coun­ter­pro­duc­tive poli­cies, not to say his pal­pa­ble con­tempt for the Saint Lu­cia Con­sti­tu­tion, to take the law in their own hands—in which case I sug­gest he heed the words of St. Teresa of Avila: Be very care­ful about your in­te­rior thoughts, es­pe­cially if they have to do with prece­dence!

Yes, in­deed, it serves to be care­ful what we pray for!

It’s a good thing a man’s de­meanor is no safe in­di­ca­tor of his thoughts or his char­ac­ter. Far more re­veal­ing are his words and ac­tions—as doubt­less Prime Min­is­ter Kenny An­thony

and Pres­i­dent Barack Obama know well!

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