Maybe I was too young when I went to America. And that’s funny, because I stuck out three years burning the midnight oil at Dartmouth College because the racist ex-Dean of St. John’s College Sixth Form, Zinkle, said I was too young and immature to get the scholarship. That’s what he told the American Consul in January 1965. American Vice-Consul at the time, Lombardi, told me they were giving me the scholarship even though Zinkle said this in his “recommendation” against me. Maybe they thought Zinkle was an ass, like I did, and a lot of people did.
– pg. 5, NORTH AMERIKKAN BLUES, Evan X Hyde, Benex Press, 1971
During the years between 1970 and 1974, and then again between 1981 and 1984, I had experienced what it was to be in conflict with a Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. George Price, in the Belizean system of governance, and these were rough times for me. Having supported Rt. Hon. Manuel Esquivel, then, in his run for United Democratic Party (UDP) leadership in late 1982, and in his run for the Prime Minister-ship throughout 1984, I believed that I was focused on avoiding any kind of contention with him for as long as I possibly could. It is no joke to find yourself in personal confrontations with a Prime Minister. Been there.
It is one of the regrets of my public life that Dr./Mr. Esquivel and I were drawn into disagreements which gradually became a personal vendetta. A personal vendetta with a Prime Minister was the last thing I wanted, and I feel that a substantial part of the blame lies with those immediately around and closest to Mr. Esquivel. They encouraged him with foolishness. At the same time, it may be in the nature of the political system we have that the editor/publisher of such a newspaper as Amandala, will find it difficult to avoid clashing with the Prime Minister, whoever he is.
The thing is that Dr. Esquivel, the second of two Jesuit-trained Prime Ministers that Belize has had, has been looking more and more to political observers like a leader who controlled corruption around him and did not dedicate himself to the acquisition of wealth for himself, his family and his cronies. So that, his two terms as Prime Minister suggest strongly that Mr. Esquivel and his predecessor, Mr. Price of the People’s United Party (PUP), also Jesuit-trained, were cut from a bolt of cloth different from the educational and philosophical cloth from which the Anglican-trained Prime Ministers who followed them, Rt. Hon. Said Musa and Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, were cut. There is a significantly more materialistic, money-grubbing aura which has surrounded the Musa and Barrow regimes than the aura of the Price and Esquivel leaderships.
On Tuesday afternoon this week, I was hosting a European visitor (sometime in the future I will go into details about my university professor guest), and I took him on a brief, history-driven, tour of the old capital. On passing my high school and junior college alma mater, St. John’s College, I retraced my steps and drove into the Landivar campus to flesh out my conversational discourse about the school and the Jesuits.
While at SJC between 1959 and 1965, the Jesuit with whom I ended up having the most problems was the late Ronald Zinkle, a mathematician who was a native of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Some years ago, incidentally, an older friend with a Catholic background mentioned to me that Mr. Esquivel, who taught physics at SJC, had been very good friends with Fr. Zinkle. I thought that an interesting piece of information.
When my class began our second year of Sixth Form at SJC in August or September of 1964, we were joined in two buildings, one for classrooms and the other for science laboratories, which were on the eastern side of the campus and had been previously used to house the SJC Internos, students from Central and South America, we were joined by a large first year class which included young lady students, mostly graduates of St. Catherine’s Academy. These young ladies essentially became the students who made SJC co-educational for the first time in its history.
I have never discussed the wicked details of the hypocrisy and treachery which Zinkle exposed in my personal case at the time when I was awarded the first university scholarship the United States had ever given Belize, in early 1965. But I can tell you that I know female students from the aforementioned first year class who had experiences with Zinkle which seriously alienated them from him; in fact, I would say, those experiences made them hostile to him and bitter with him.
These were not male to female experiences, as such. (Fr. Zinkle had a female student favorite to whom he directed his attentions.) They were experiences where he was not fair to them, and actually victimized them.
When my personal experiences with Zinkle became sources of anger on my part, I began to stay away from classes between January and June of 1965. I was only a full-time student between August/September of 1964 and the end of that first term in December of ’64. I missed a lot of the “beefs” the young lady students were having with Fr. Zinkle.
Amidst my wranglings with Zinkle, nevertheless, I had been ungentlemanly in my behavior with the girls on a couple occasions. Locked in my single room on the Dartmouth College campus in my first year there, I felt the need to apologize to the lady students. I felt that if I wrote Zinkle and apologized to him, and the ladies, for my behavior, he would put my letter on the bulletin board, and then I would get my apology across to the girls. In fact, what happened was that he did put my letter on his bulletin board, but there were girl students who thought I had been a copout or traitor for apologizing to Zinkle. I thought I was using Zinkle, but the initiative didn’t work out exactly how I intended.
I believe that Zinkle subsequently victimized two younger brothers of mine, one seriously in fact, especially during the UBAD era, but the Jesuits ended his reign early by replacing him with the late, great Signa Yorke as the Dean of the junior college.
I didn’t intend to go the Zinkle way in this column. I wanted to ask myself the question publicly, for your benefit, whether the Jesuits left an imprint on me where my personal values are concerned, or whether this is just a case of yours truly’s DNA. I am referring to my outlook on material things and money. I appreciate money and material things for sure, but I am not dazzled by them.
I always thought that the Jesuits did not really influence me, because I had a specific role model in the person of my maternal uncle, who was my hero. But, I have come to believe that there must be something different where Jesuit education and Anglican education are concerned. This is not to say that we have not seen prominent SJC products who have behaved in a greedy, corrupt, and materialistic manner. And, the Lord knows, I can call names.
In conclusion, I will leave you with this. A few years ago, the Jesuits agreed to introduce the teaching of African and Mayan history in their high school. I believe the initiative was driven by lay members of the Landivar faculty, but I am sure the Jesuits would have had the final word. Agreeing to African and Mayan history was an act of humility by the mighty Jesuits. It is clear that, having withstood the UBAD/Kremandala crusade for such history for more than four decades, they could have continued how they were going. But, the Jesuits decided to change course.
The Anglicans and Methodists have refused to do likewise. And remember, the Minister of Education, for the last ten years, has been an Anglican. The Prime Minister, for the same extended period, has been an Anglican. They both have rejected African and Mayan studies. Weighed in the balance, as the preachers say, they have been found wanting. I can assure both Mr. Barrow and Mr. Faber that history will ask the question: why?
Power to the people.