Trick and treat

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Halloween came early this year, and in the unlikeliest of places. The ghoulish celebration is traditionally marked on the thirty-first of October in the United States, but for some strange reason, it was celebrated right here in the Constituency of St John’s City West this past weekend, some two weeks before its official due date. So there he was, the Treater in a High Place, suddenly strutting all around the constituency, in a pathetic attempt to crash the United Progressive Party’s (UPP) Business Pull-up, and rain on the next representative of the area, Alister Thomas’ parade. He was dressed in a silly-looking red and black shirt, handing out treats to those who wanted treats, and perhaps threatening tricks to those who demurred. At one point, he danced a same-sex dance with a shirtless hooligan, and at another point, he did a sort of disjointed jig, feigning a carefree spirit, much like a dog standing upright on its two hind legs. It was not difficult to imagine that those who bothered to watch the mirthless pappy-show, could only scratch and shake their heads at his unravelling.  It was not a pretty picture.

To be sure, no one would have been surprised if he’d begun barking like a rabid dog. Not that many of his ordinary pronouncements and utterances are not akin to the midnight howls of a frightened dog baying at the moon.  As the election draws closer, the day of reckoning, if you will, he has been of a melancholy humour, snarling at his enemies, real and imagined.  A few days ago, after he was accused of ‘treating’ by many outraged citizens, he ‘woofed’ that he would like to tell his accusers off in stronger language. But, have no fear, folks, his nasty bark is worse than his bite.

Consider the following example of his recent big bluff. In a bit of video footage making the rounds, he is seen surreptitiously slipping something to a lady, and strutting away, like Clint Eastwood. He pushed out his chest in arrogance and pride, never mind the disgusted chants of opprobrium from many of the onlookers. One onlooker, a courageous young man from the area, heaped scorn on those who had taken the treat from him. Said the courageous young man, in a voce dripping with disdain, Meh shame ah aryou! Meh shame ah aryou!” Some who had taken the treat, tried to sneak away. They were embarrassed. And the courageous young man continued hurling invective and expressions of derision in the direction of the Treater in a High Place, and those who had fallen for the filthy lucre. Some said that they were going to use the treat to buy beer for all the folks on the block. So sad!

Anyway, the Treater in a High Place looked back at the courageous young man like a ‘Bad John,’ then he turned around, again like Clint Eastwood, his chest out, his jaw clenched, and strode back purposefully to the courageous young man. Good grief! This was going to be high noon in Point! When he reached in front of the young man, he mumbled some nonsense about “Take that off!” referring to the video taping. The young man pointedly refused, and the Treater in a High Place humbly walked back to his vehicle, like gentle Jesus, meek and mild. (Chuckle) Clint Eastwood would not have been proud.

This is what his Highness has come to. He cannot run on his record of achievement in the area. He cannot run on the many ways in which he has empowered the people of the area. He cannot run on the many promises that he has made and kept. This will be the sum total of his campaign – trick or treat!!!

The Halloween tradition in the United States is marked by children dressed in scary costumes, knocking on doors and yelling, “trick or treat!” The inference is that if candy and all sorts of other sweets are not forthcoming from the homeowner, the children will create mischief by means of all sorts of devilish tricks. For purposes of the Treater in a High Place’s election campaign, it will be either to trick the electorate with more false promises, or treat them with cheap trinkets and small amounts of cash. The Treater in a High Place is not interested in the upliftment and empowerment of his constituents. After all, if they were to become empowered and uplifted, they would immediately reject him and his brand of ‘beg-beg’ politics. The Treater in a High Place is at his diabolical best when people are at their worst – he likes it that way! He likes it when people have to beg and prostrate themselves for crumbs from his sumptuous table. By strutting around the constituency and pretending to be Santa Claus, he is able to keep his impoverished constituents in his orbit. And of course, maintain his seat in Parliament. It is a cheap trick!

Which begs a whole host of questions? Why can’t something be done to prosecute those who hand out treats (treating) to the electorate in exchange for their votes. As written, our laws ensnare not only the ‘treater,’ but the ‘treatee.’ And of course, the treatee (the person receiving the treat), will not admit to having accepted a treat, because he will be placing his or herself in legal jeopardy. He or she will never testify against the person who handed him or her the treat, again, because of the potential for legal jeopardy. Hence, the gleeful way in which some in places of election oversight summarily dismiss all allegations of ‘treating’ as, “Well, we have no evidence.”Something has to be done about the way the law is crafted.

Some may argue that the handing of trinkets and cash to one’s constituents is part of the daily business of politics, with representatives being attentive to the needs of their constituents. The thing is that many of these representatives have been AWOL these past four years. They refused to answer calls from their desperate constituents, and they have suddenly become focused and attentive because an election is imminent.  Something has to be done to tie the sudden generosity of representatives to a quid pro quo for votes. Again, the election laws have to be revisited.

In the days and weeks and months ahead, there will be more tricks and treats handed out to constituents by others in high places. Much like their leader, they will be banking on pretense and deception, in the grand tradition of Halloween. After all, they have precious little else to show for their stewardship these past four-plus years. Now, while in the United States the trickster can be a ghoul, a ghost, a goblin or a witch, here in Antigua and Barbuda, the trickster and treater could be a jumbie (zombie), La diablesse (Ladjables) or a soucouyant. Be not deceived, folks. The soucouyant is a shape-shifting person that will suck your blood, much like those in high places have been sucking the lifeblood out of this nation of Antigua and Barbuda. The Ladjables will appear as a beautiful, smiling well-dressed politician, but her intent is to harm you. Underneath her dress is the leg of a donkey.  Her beautiful face can sometimes turn into the face of a horse.

We will not be fooled, and we are not scared. As the older folks often said, “Jumbie know who foo frighten ah foreday marnin!”

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