Letters — 24 August 2006

Dear Editor,

The September celebrations are upon us and I feel impelled to add to the many worthy comments made by Clinton Luna in these pages about our national anthem. He has often called it the Belize City anthem, and many have taken exception to this, saying that it is the anthem “for all Belizeans.”

But certainly there are references in the anthem — the anthem we are all expected to sing, to accept as standing for us – that clearly cannot relate to “all Belizeans.” How can we sing “Our fathers, the Baymen” when the Baymen are not the fathers of us all? How can “all Belizeans” sing “our manhood we pledge to thy liberty” when all of us are not men?

Do not these references tell many Belizean children that they are excluded from the “we / us” who are referred to in the anthem they are required to sing daily in school? What does this do to their forming psyche, to any sense of civic duty or belonging?

We should not presume that the anthem, or any aspect of culture or society, having once been adopted, can never be changed. Someone can come up with something better suited, something more universal that all Belizeans can sing with pride, if it is necessary to have a National Anthem.

Mr. Luna replaces “Sons of the Baymen” with “Sons of the Belizean Soil” in his own references, a replacement I personally feel comfortable with. Does this detract in any way from those who do happen to be descendants of the Baymen? I should hope that they would not feel so.

My suggestion, and what I teach to my daughters, Belizean children that they are, is that if they choose to sing the anthem, they may sing, “our honour we pledge to thy liberty.” This simple change of one word could increase the stake Belizean girls and women feel in the nation without diminishing, I would hope, the feelings of Belizean boys and men. I believe that for most men, their “honour,” anyway, is essentially equivalent to their “manhood,” but it does not exclude the importance of the honour of girls and women to the life of the nation.

Singing this upholds, too, the concept of “honour” as something needed to preserve our “liberty.” Daily events reported in this paper would seem to point to the truth of this.

There are a few other sentiments expressed in the anthem that are hard to rationalize, hard to explain to intellectually curious children as you strive to bring them up with integrity as Belizeans. For example, I have often wondered how all the talented woodcarvers, furniture makers, shipwrights, carpenters, bush men etc. of this nation feel to sing “no longer will we be hewers of wood.” And if “our fathers” were “the Baymen” and “sires” are “fathers”, how can it ever be said that the blood of the Baymen “brought freedom from slavery’s oppression’s rod”?

Perhaps someone, perhaps a native Belizean, can come up with revisions, or alternate patriotic songs, which would more capture the hearts of Belizeans. If so I, an immigrant Belizean, would welcome it. In my native land, many people mistakenly believe that “America, the Beautiful” is the, or a, national anthem, while “The Star Spangled Banner” (written by an immigrant) is actually the official national anthem. Nothing is wrong with this. There are many other patriotic or nationalist songs written by others during the course of that country’s history that have become part of the national consciousness. Why? Because they captured the feelings and imaginations of the people.

It has been commented in the past in the editorial pages of this paper that the so-called founding fathers erred in not calling in the artists and musicians of this nation to get their input in creating a national anthem for the new nation 25 years ago and more. I am saying that although 25 years of history has its own weight, it does not mean that things are written in stone and cannot be changed, if the people want the change.

This goes beyond the national anthem, to the very structures of society, which we can see that Belizeans are challenging today and are seeking to change today with inquests, commissions of inquiry, new political parties, independent candidates, people’s movements and the like. This gives me reason for hope, in a nation that has, at times, been a very difficult place to come to terms with as my adopted homeland.

Let us keep up this activity and all respectful questioning of what has come to be accepted as tradition – or “just the way things are done” – in the spirit of remaking the nation continually, as a place where hard work and honesty really can create a better life for ourselves and our children.

Long live Belize – if it be an honourable Belize!

Naomi Burn

Biscayne Village

<[email protected]>

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Letters — 23 August 2006


But certainly there are references in the anthem ? the anthem we are all expected to sing, to accept as standing for us ? that clearly cannot relate to ?all Belizeans.? How can we sing ?Our fathers, the Baymen? when the Baymen are not the fathers of us all? How can ?all Belizeans? sing ?our manhood we pledge to thy liberty? when all of us are not men?


Do not these references tell many Belizean children that they are excluded from the ?we / us? who are referred to in the anthem they are required to sing daily in school? What does this do to their forming psyche, to any sense of civic duty or belonging?


We should not presume that the anthem, or any aspect of culture or society, having once been adopted, can never be changed. Someone can come up with something better suited, something more universal that all Belizeans can sing with pride, if it is necessary to have a National Anthem.


Mr. Luna replaces ?Sons of the Baymen? with ?Sons of the Belizean Soil? in his own references, a replacement I personally feel comfortable with. Does this detract in any way from those who do happen to be descendants of the Baymen? I should hope that they would not feel so.


My suggestion, and what I teach to my daughters, Belizean children that they are, is that if they choose to sing the anthem, they may sing, ?our honour we pledge to thy liberty.? This simple change of one word could increase the stake Belizean girls and women feel in the nation without diminishing, I would hope, the feelings of Belizean boys and men. I believe that for most men, their ?honour,? anyway, is essentially equivalent to their ?manhood,? but it does not exclude the importance of the honour of girls and women to the life of the nation.


Singing this upholds, too, the concept of ?honour? as something needed to preserve our ?liberty.? Daily events reported in this paper would seem to point to the truth of this.


There are a few other sentiments expressed in the anthem that are hard to rationalize, hard to explain to intellectually curious children as you strive to bring them up with integrity as Belizeans. For example, I have often wondered how all the talented woodcarvers, furniture makers, shipwrights, carpenters, bush men etc. of this nation feel to sing ?no longer will we be hewers of wood.? And if ?our fathers? were ?the Baymen? and ?sires? are ?fathers?, how can it ever be said that the blood of the Baymen ?brought freedom from slavery?s oppression?s rod??


Perhaps someone, perhaps a native Belizean, can come up with revisions, or alternate patriotic songs, which would more capture the hearts of Belizeans. If so I, an immigrant Belizean, would welcome it. In my native land, many people mistakenly believe that ?America, the Beautiful? is the, or a, national anthem, while ?The Star Spangled Banner? (written by an immigrant) is actually the official national anthem. Nothing is wrong with this. There are many other patriotic or nationalist songs written by others during the course of that country?s history that have become part of the national consciousness. Why? Because they captured the feelings and imaginations of the people.


It has been commented in the past in the editorial pages of this paper that the so-called founding fathers erred in not calling in the artists and musicians of this nation to get their input in creating a national anthem for the new nation 25 years ago and more. I am saying that although 25 years of history has its own weight, it does not mean that things are written in stone and cannot be changed, if the people want the change.


This goes beyond the national anthem, to the very structures of society, which we can see that Belizeans are challenging today and are seeking to change today with inquests, commissions of inquiry, new political parties, independent candidates, people?s movements and the like. This gives me reason for hope, in a nation that has, at times, been a very difficult place to come to terms with as my adopted homeland.


Let us keep up this activity and all respectful questioning of what has come to be accepted as tradition ? or ?just the way things are done? ? in the spirit of remaking the nation continually, as a place where hard work and honesty really can create a better life for ourselves and our children.


Long live Belize ? if it be an honourable Belize!



Naomi Burn


Biscayne Village


<[email protected]>

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