I’ve given my sons this joke, if you want to call it that, a few times over the decades. I remembered it yesterday because my younger brother, Ronald, the kidney specialist who has been our family’s success story for decades, popped in from Arizona to do his consultancies at the KHMH, and when I went next door to visit him, he himself was being visited by Roman Catholic nuns, Sister Dianne and Sister Sarita.
Religion is a confusing thing around me where my family is concerned. My father, the eldest of five children, was the only one amongst his siblings who was baptized and raised as a Roman Catholic. My mother is a devout Methodist. My paternal aunt, Grace, is a Baha’i. My wife is a Jehovah’s Witness.
That said, Sister Sarita is the older sister of the late Sister Francine, who taught me at Holy Redeemer Boys School in Standard VI, and whom I loved deeply. When I went away and became critical of the Catholic Church’s educational curriculum on my return home, I knew people like Francine would slaughter me, but that didn’t change my affection for her.
Francine was a sort of thuggish person, and I say that with love, whereas Sarita, her eldest sister, was the essence of aristocracy. The sweet Sister Dianne, of American origin, was the one who enabled Ronald, who left Belmopan Comprehensive School, a high school, to edit Amandala for a couple years in the middle l970s, to attend university in America. At the time, I was running the streets. Amandala was struggling. Ronald would have to explain to me again just why he decided not to go to St. John’s College Sixth Form, or any other Sixth Form for that matter, which is what all successful high school students do. Anyway, this Sister Dianne got Ronald hooked up with a scholarship to Notre Dame, probably the leading Catholic university in the United States. This was early 1980s?
Anyway, to make a long story shorter, Ronald was living with me at the family home at #1 West Canal Street at the time of the Belize City Council election in December of 1977. There’s a long story involving that election, perhaps the main thing personally being that I had publicly retired from party politics in November of 1974. Nevertheless, in mid-1977 the ruling People’s United Party (PUP) had invested in Cream, Ltd, the new offset company which was going to print Amandala, and they began to bring pressure on me to become one of their CitCo candidates. I yielded, half-heartedly.
When I ran last amongst the 18 candidates of the two major parties, just nine years after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from an American Ivy League college, it was Ronald who gave me the news when I awoke the morning. He was on the phone with his good friend from Compre, Eamon Courtenay, and so I said to him from inside my bedroom, “We lose no?” “Yes,” he said. “I run last no?” “Yes,” he said.
Well now, it wasn’t surprising, but it was traumatic. My self-defence arrogance kicked in. I took a bath and chose my attire carefully. My clothes were beige, as was the flamboyant pimp hat someone had given me somewhere. I got on my bicycle and began the ride down Water Lane, Baghdad Street, and Vernon Street across Central American Boulevard to Partridge Street and Amandala. I remember there were a few passersby, presumably supporters of the winning United Democratic Party (UDP), who seemed as if they were about to shout something derisive at me. But I was clean, Jack, and I believe they were nonplussed. That was the purpose of the smooth threads on that workday morning. You can’t take me make pappyshow, Jack, because I am clean to the bone.
As to the more fanatic of the UDP, I got my revenge with our newspaper’s participation in the PUP’s shocking 1979 general election victory. I then turned around, in violation of all sensible thinking, and began fighting with the PUP the following year, with our newspaper ending up as one of the important partners in the UDP’s general election victory of 1984, which constituted Belize’s first change of government in the era of modern party politics. Beloved, I would say I’ve been there and done that.
Power to the people.