AnnieRose Kitchin | Gay talk and culture wars
The list of frightened, bigoted people in The Gleaner’s recent report from St James is long: the ministers’ fraternal; the past president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Lee Bailey; the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (aka the Jamaicans Who Want Everyone to Think As They Do), the Love March Movement, and Jamaica CAUSE have all applauded the recent decision by the mayor, Homer Davis.
And what exactly was that decision? To refuse to allow discussion of a certain subject to be held at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre. In other words, to deny free speech, to gag public debate, to censor opinions.
The reasons adduced by all of these people and bodies are instructive: First of all, according to the mayor, the “sacredness” (I assume he means ‘sanctity’) of the cultural centre has to be preserved. That one had me roaring with laughter. A cultural centre is a ‘sacred’ space?? Really?
I mean, I could understand if one of the above-mentioned ministers did not want to have such a discussion in his/her church, which is violently hostile to the recognition of the human rights of LGBT+ people. However, to declare that the cultural centre would be stained and despoiled by a DISCUSSION about same-sex marriage? What planet are these people living on?
Second, we are told that “the original purpose” of the cultural centre should be maintained. Well, what could be more in keeping with the purpose of a cultural centre than public debate of a controversial issue? Do these people even understand the meaning of ‘culture’ and what role a cultural centre is supposed to perform?
Moreover, it is not even as though same-sex marriage is unknown and is being mooted for the very first time. There are many countries across the world where such marriages are, in fact, part of culture, and indeed, acceptance of the concept of marriage for all is spreading more and more widely.
These worthy objectors, therefore, remind me of nothing so much as a group of ostriches with their heads firmly in the sand and their bottoms in the air.
Third, the most idiotic statement was the one saying that the centre “should not be commandeered by specific-interest groups”. “Commandeered”? By organising an event? The consequence of that piece of logical thinking is that NO ONE would ever be authorised to use the cultural centre for any purpose whatsoever – no associations for the defence of the environment, for the prevention of cruelty to animals, for the organisation of Bible studies, for the prevention of domestic violence, no book clubs, no martial arts devotees, no ikebana fans could be allowed in, since, by definition, they are all “vested interests”, according to the brilliant gentleman who made the statement. No controversial issue could ever be discussed there.
Truly, Jamaica is in the Dark Ages if people entrusted with public office in order to defend the rights of ALL JAMAICANS – and that includes their right to free speech! – and people who presumably once went to school and received an education of sorts can make such ridiculous and illogical statements that are beneath contempt.
AnnieRose Kitchin is a retired international conference interpreter/international civil servant. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.