As I’m watching the Weather Channel reports on Hurricane Matthew this Sunday morning pre-dawn, I’m thinking a couple things.
One is that the meteorological science is much advanced. Matthew got big early in its move westward from the distant eastern Caribbean, so that we Belizeans could watch the formation and growth of this monster when it was at least a week away from us. With the memoires of Category I Earl’s devastations from two months ago still fresh in our minds, there were a couple mature Belizean ladies I spoke to who were very worried. There were days when it appeared on the television screen that Matthew was headed towards Belize. As I’m writing, however, the storm has begun the northward turn which had been so confidently predicted by the weather scientists, after first slowing down.
Older generations of Belizeans were remembering that the Category V storm which changed our lives and, in fact, Belizean history – Hurricane Hattie, had actually headed past Belize to Cuba, in late October of 1961 as classically recorded in song by the late Cleveland Berry, and then Hattie ran into cool air which essentially had the effect of reversing its direction from north to south. In 1961, we Belizeans were not as confident in the predictions of the weather scientists in Miami, because this was a time when we were hearing of their silver iodide experiments on seeding hurricanes, and overall it seemed that the American scientists had decided to play with natural fire, so to speak. 55 years after Hattie, the weather scientists know a lot more than they did back then.
Incidentally, Stretch Lightburn, who is about nine years older than I, is back in Belize from Canada (he moves between these two homes). We were visiting Tony Wright a few days ago, and Stretch painted a verbal vignette for us which was striking. He had flown to New Orleans just three days before Hattie as a young welder on some kind of assignment, and he was therefore able to see refugee Belizeans flying in to New Orleans with pretty much only the clothes on their backs and slippers on their feet.
Most of these refugee Belizeans, to whom the United States threw open its doors as long as they had relatives in America, never returned to Belize. These Belizeans were Stretch’s generation and my generation. Their grandchildren are totally Americanized. As I’ve grown older, I wonder sometimes how many people around my age are in my reading audience. That is because, to repeat, it was Belizeans my age who fled after Hattie. Those who didn’t leave then, left a few years later as America sought young male bodies for their Vietnam War. In the case of the Righteous Crowd, a group I mingled with socially before I left Belize to study in 1965, of the maybe thirty or forty members of the Righteous I think I can probably count on one hand those of us who remained in Belize.
Anyway, I’m being sidetracked. The second thing that struck me Sunday morning was all the danger Matthew presented to Haiti, which was badly devastated by an earthquake a few years ago. At the time, the American television evangelist, Pat Roberston, made an asinine comment to the effect that God was punishing the Haitians for swearing a voodoo oath when their leaders began the slave rebellion in 1791. Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 were worse than the Haitian earthquake in 2010. So, who was punishing Japan? Who was punishing Europe when so many millions and millions murdered each other in World War I and World War II? Who is punishing me and you, beloved, when we grow old, become feeble and sick, and die, as all of us must? Pat Roberston was saying to Christians all over the world that his Christian God was punishing heathen Haiti. Did Belizean Christians denounce Pat Roberston? Perish the thought.
No matter how black I personally may believe I think or how black I may wish to be, the fact of the matter is that my ancestry is half European. This has a reality and relevance in certain aspects of my life. For instance, I am not completely comfortable with African religions, which require one, it appears to me, to give one’s soul over to the spiritual. Please, allow me, I am generalizing; I am trying to make sense out of a world where spirits rule. Sense is not a part of that equation.
My personal religious journey began with Roman Catholicism. I then grew to love Methodism, which is my mother’s religion, even while I was growing close to Islam, because I had had people close to me in UBAD who were Muslims. When Odinga Lumumba returned to Belize from Africa as an orthodox Muslim late in 1980, he proceeded to have great spiritual influence on me. During Odinga and after Odinga, I was also much influenced by the late Leroy Taegar, whose unique spiritual tradition is being carried on by his son, Sean.
Finally, and currently, I have an older brother from the streets whose vibes have a soothing influence on me. He is not trained as a pastor and belongs to no kind of organized religion, whether Christian, Muslim, or otherwise. In fact, he has no idea of the fact that he is a kind of spiritual guru for me, but this is how it is.
If your religion does not work towards your liberation, then it may be contributing to your enslavement. You can be as militant in the socio-politics of Belizean nationhood as you want to be, but once you are any kind of apologist for Pat Roberston and similarly racist evangelicals who masquerade as followers of Jesus Christ, then you will ultimately fail in the struggle. You have to get your head sorted out, Jim.
Power to the people! Remember Danny.