Editorial: Independence

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The 2018 edition of our annual independence celebrations was a fairly low-key affair. This is generally the case when the anniversary count does not end with a zero or a five. For some reason, we tend to think those are more special, but we should not reserve our celebrations for those anniversary counts that are divisible by five or 10; every year should be celebrated with vigor.
While the festivities were not over-the-top like those ‘special’ years, it was special for one unique reason. This year, our Independence Day came just days before the country heads to the polls to vote on whether we should abandon the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as our final court of appeal and adopt the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). For anyone thinking that the timing of this vote and our independence celebrations is coincidental, think again. The timing of this vote is an attempt to wrap the CCJ under the banner of final “independence” from “colonial rule.”
So that we are not bashed with the hollow arguments surrounding race and self-loathing, let us be clear that, in theory, the CCJ is a good and necessary evolution of our democracy and our Caribbean unity. That said, there are serious lingering issues relating to our lower courts and the CCJ itself that are not being discussed; for reasons we do not understand.   Why are the issues being ignored or glossed over, and why are real discussions surrounding the CCJ remaining out of earshot? Meaningful debate on the pros and cons remain elusive and, instead, the public is fed a daily diet of jingles and racially provocative propaganda through memes, videos, etc., on social media.
Let us take a look at one of the more recent pieces of race baiting making the rounds. It is a one-minute video that tells the ‘story’ of an Antiguan slave by the name of Grace. Without any historical references, we have to presume that this is an expression of ‘artistic license.’ Apparently, Grace made her way to England and was set free because, as the video proclaims, “the air in England is too pure to tolerate the stench of slavery.” The video, with all its stereotypical racial imagery and sounds, continues with the unbelievable prospect that Grace, after being freed by the English court, was duped into returning to Antigua by her “owners” and immediately upon returning, was made a slave again. There, the video states, she remained a slave until the day she died. According the narrator, this was because the English court proclaimed that the air in Antigua was impure enough for slavery. The propaganda video ends with the question: “Would a court of Caribbean people have kept Caribbean people slaves?”
No individual or group tags the video and takes credit for its content, likely because they know exactly how tasteless the entire presentation is. The insinuation is that the Privy Council of today, passes unequal and unfair judgments that keep nations, such as Antigua and Barbuda, and its people down. Not only that, there is zero effort to educate the people on the benefits of the CCJ versus the Privy Council and, in our minds, it simply plays the race card in an effort to invoke emotion rather than to promote education. If you want an example of self-loathing this is it because this production is a slap in the face of all Antiguans and Barbudans. The content makes it clear that the producers think little of the intellect of the citizenry and everyone’s ability to make an informed decision based on facts. That is indeed sad.
The final bit of the video has the Antigua and Barbuda flag flying in the background with a chain across the screen. It is punctuated with a dramatic snap of the chain as the viewer is persuaded to vote ‘yes’ to the CCJ. Again, the imagery is intended to convince the audience that the only way to true independence is to break the chains of the Privy Council that keep our country enslaved. It is a page out of the new book of political spin doctoring that is sweeping the world. Meaningful debates about serious issues such as immigration, constitutional rights, etc., are rubbished and replaced by an appeal to the most base emotions wrapped in a faux-independence blanket. 
It is interesting that those promoting one side of the CCJ over the other seek the use of propaganda rather than education while staking a claim of independence, when education is the surest path to freedom and the greatest defense of independence.  On November 6, be independent. Vote your opinion on the CCJ and not one that is forced upon you from either side.

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