FROM THE BOUNDARY: Buffalo soldier – Part 6

July was a sad month, wasn’t it? We lost three Barbadian mahatmas who each contributed so much, in their different ways, to our island story. Each touched my own life, two in personal terms which spoke not of race, of difference, but with the warmth of honest hearts, honest endeavour, honest kinship.

With Owen Arthur as Prime Minister we all knew we were in safe hands. He attended my ordination (with others) to the priesthood at St Peter’s Church in 2003. That was very kind of him. Thereafter, whenever I saw him – so often in the supermarket – he would always smile and wave. I shall never forget him. People like him ever breathe hope for the world. God bless you, Owen.

And bless you too, Carl, Carl Ince – the first Ombudsman – a good and faithful servant of our Master. Soft spoken and kindly, he was one of those distinguished Barbadians who gave their unqualified support to UWI’s Poverty Law Programme; well, when it had one. When I retired it wasn’t carried on, and so hundreds of our people were denied access to free legal services. So much for “excellence”. Carl was one who genuinely cared. You’d find no ego, no self-interest, in his knapsack, just a surfeit of devoted service. I once got Roger the Beggar, my brother, to have his photo taken with me outside Carl’s office. For me, it was a symbol of the values, and the friendship, we shared.

The way to wholeness is never easy. It entails much sacrifice. We all understand the gifts for acceptance which cricket has given us and the thorns and stones we’ve met on the journey to ‘black wash’, to ‘HERE WE STAND’. We know that through cricket, this shared adhesive, we reached for fraternity, for oneness, and the world heard; that through it the peoples of the old Empire have exorcised their ghosts and now accept their divine right to personhood. Sir Everton, with all the angels, played an indispensable role in that. As a kid I remember him – all the Ws , in fact. They thrilled the crowds – black AND white. I saw them. Yes, ‘Cricket lovely Cricket …with those two little pals of mine…” My love for the game was born with them. It was their gift. I’m sorry that even at the funeral the ‘centre of excellence’ couldn’t resist the commonplace stuff for which he’s become renowned. References to “colonial oppression” and the like had no place there. Isn’t it time he try the more excellent and modest way, the way of ordinary folk who insist ‘I know who I am, and life is calling me’? God bless you, Sir Everton, and thank you.

The promised land may call us too with every new gateway, every opportunity which spells LIFE. Why don’t we try a new thing?  Instead of shrieking for apologies and money from the successors of colonisers of long ago, why don’t we signal, like a huge jet taking off, our forgiveness to the world for it all and so finally proclaim that freedom which is the right of every man? Do we really need to bully, to abuse? We’re more than any of that, aren’t we? We’ve come of age. Why diminish the nobility which comes from all our struggles? ‘I forgive you’: the way of Christ. In economic terms, I think it would be more productive: the way of Caesar. The ‘Grand Absolution’ might just prompt the very practical acts of contrition we seek. Indeed, they might be made the precondition for it.

It won’t happen. Too much ego has been invested in hate. Yet even the thoughtful Editorial (12 July) in this newspaper, ‘The Justice of Reparation’, recognises that legal arguments simply won’t work. And moral arguments? ‘You can’t judge the past with the eyes of the present’ applies as well to those. Besides, for starters you’d have to burn the Old Testament!

Go safely, then – until the next time.

John Lewis, from the boundary: “You are a light…Never let anyone…diminish your light…Release the need to hate…Hold only love… knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won.”

Barbados Advocate

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