Can Bay Islanders Unite?

September 1st, 2008
by George S. Crimmin

[private] v6-9-Speaking OutOver the past couple of decades I have watched with chagrin as the entire range of customs, beliefs, social forms and material traits of my ancestors have gradually eroded. Principal of these has been our language. English is the language of business and trade. If you cannot at least speak English, it is very difficult to move up the professional and occupational ladder. You are stuck where you are. Today, here on Roatan, the English language is on its death bed–a victim of the lack of understanding, common sense, mental dullness, and myopic vision of our elected officials in recent years.

We have seen fit to elect representatives lacking in the basic understanding of the significance of preserving our cultural heritage. Everywhere else south of the River Grande, you encounter people eager and hungry to learn English. In fact, in some of our neighboring countries, you can find schools offering English instruction on almost every city block.

But, let’s get back to us here in the Bay Islands. A certain tension or friction has always existed between the dark-skinned Bay Islanders and those of lighter pigmentation. In other words, there has always been a racial divide. I know it has also been taboo to even mention this. Well, let me put it to you straight!

Either we overcome our destructive intolerance of each other, or we are all doomed. We either survive together as one people, or we shall all perish separately! In our collective best interest, we must find common ground. I have used this quote before, but I believe it is important: “Remember the banana; when it left the bunch, it got skinned.”

The bulk of our misgivings can be traced to the lack of competent leadership in the recent past. Our leaders have driven Roatan into a ditch, and we need an experienced driver to get us out. Our local politicians have traditionally not been consensus builders and have frequently played one side against the other. In simple terms, they divide and conquer. They have also been quick to denigrate those who oppose or disagree with them.

As our actual numbers continue to shrink in relation to the immigrants from the mainland, our need for mutuality and cooperation becomes even greater. We must not allow the dynamics of race to interfere or dissuade us from unifying our people in a common cause. And what cause can be more important than self-preservation?

We are an endangered species, on the verge of becoming extinct. At a crucial time as this, leadership is paramount. President Harry S. Truman wrote: “Man makes history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still.” In our case, we may have actually digressed during the past decade. We have suffered a total collapse of leadership and we cannot look to Teguicigalpa for help. Past and present Honduran governments are riddled with corruption. Unbiased opinions are consistent in their indictment and agreement that nothing is likely to change in the foreseeable future. There appears to be no credible efforts to rein in corrupt officials, and no serious bid to rid our country of its extreme, regrettable corrupt practices. Basically, we are on our own. We must depend on each other.

I spent many years in a region of the United States called New England. Few sights evoke as much attention or awe as that of a large flock of Canadian geese winging their way in V-formation to the North and South. They speak of the changing seasons as well as the value of teamwork. What many don’t know is that when a goose gets sick or perhaps is wounded by a hunter, it never falls out of the formation by itself. Two other geese also fall out of formation with it and follow the ailing goose to the ground. One of them is often the mate of the fallen bird, since geese mate for life. Once on the ground, the healthy birds help protect the injured bird, even to the point of placing themselves between the injured bird and possible predators. They stay with him until he is able to fly or until he is dead. Only then do they launch out on their own.

If only we Bay Islanders would care for one another as well. For our collective survival, we may have reached that moment in time when this kind of behavior is necessary. I am a child of the fifties and sixties. During that period, many areas were embroiled in racial hatred, bigotry and discrimination. I know from personal experience what it was like and could relate incidents that would astonish you. However, that is in the past. We need to build a bridge to the future. We must be bold and daring in our approach to both healing and resurgence.

A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for. Besides, we cannot discover new oceans unless we have the courage to loose sight of the shore. My fellow Bay Islanders, we share a common history; and I believe we all cherish our children’s and grandchildren’s future. To secure that future we need to come together as one. Despite being a mosaic of different people, unity is our challenge. There is a saying that goes: “He who cannot forgive, breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.” Can we depend on each other? I believe the answer is yes! Can we find unity? Absolutely! What’s more, I believe we must! [/private]

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