I’M not all that excited about joining the talk, discussion, debate and argument about the differences between male and female, man and woman, he and she, persons and people, gender balance and gender neutrality. Nor am I that moved by all the similar talk and action about sexes and sex, LGBTI and all the other associated abbreviations. Not that they don’t matter. They do. But the associated happenings and results are moving much too fast for me to keep up with.
It’s like all the talk about whether Independence is Independence if it wasn’t fought for – the argument that people and nations that didn’t battle and shed blood for their freedom are less free or less appreciative than those that did.
I think every people everywhere deserve to be sovereign and there should be no colonies where people’s lives and destinies are decided and controlled by others elsewhere. I will respect the status quo everywhere until the people affected change it however they decide – and when they do, I will respect their decision until it is changed by them and every time they change it.
When it comes to Saint Lucia, I have since 1979 refused to accept certain things about our Independence, especially the date on which it was proclaimed. Other things that concern me about it, too, include the process leading to and by which we were “granted” independence, the positions adopted for and against, the happening on the day itself and the treatment of the date thereafter.
Every year since 1979, I have written my positions on any or all of the above. This year, however, I have a new humbug.
I don’t know exactly how and, therefore, I have been advised to be careful about the phrasing used to describe my concern and my recommendation on how to address this problem, which is not at all new. In fact, it’s as old as we have been independent – all of 39 going to 40 years.
It’s one of those things that stare us in the eyes but we don’t see, that speak loudly into our ears, but we don’t hear, that we know so well but just don’t give a second thought to.
It’s about one of our national symbols.
No, not the flag or whether the black should have been over the white; not our national pledge that was changed only after it was revealed that it had been plagiarized from Jamaica’s; and certainly not the fact that some people will still say our national dish is “Pyrex” and others will confidently tell you it’s chicken backs.
None of the above…
My bone this year is about our National Anthem.
No, not about why it wasn’t written by a born Saint Lucian; not about why it is sung like a hymn, not about why it wasn’t and isn’t accompanied by an official Kweyol version.
None of the above, either…
Instead, simply, it’s about the fact that while it starts with reference to “Sons and daughters of Saint Lucia”, it goes on later to ask God to “Guard her sons from woe and harm.”
“Her sons”? So what about her daughters? Don’t they deserve blessings and guardianship, too?
Like I said at the start, I don’t want to go into all that talk and thought and argument about whether our island is a “he” or a “she”, a “him” or a “her” – or what’s the difference between a nation that’s named after a man or a woman. Is Saint Lucia our “Motherland” or our “Fatherland”?
I raised the issue with a friend who warned me, upfront, that my earlier indication that I would be writing an article calling for making our national anthem gender neutral could or would carry with it some unintended complications, as gender neutrality might not be what I am actually thinking of.
I learned, thankfully early enough, that this particular phrase is more about the physical neutrality between a man and a woman, an issue with trans-gender connotations, while what I am thinking of calling for is instead gender balance – as in ensuring that both men and women are equally considered in the human equation.
So then, proceeding with my understanding of the need to be careful to be more balanced than neutral in my coinage, my question is: How do we gender balance our national anthem?
I don’t really know exactly how, but I do know that we are not the first or only country with a national anthem that is not balanced in its references to men and women or its sons and daughters.
Canada has had that problem for as long as it has been independent and it is now about to address the issue. But, God forbid, I do not want us to go the Canada way in addressing it.
The Canadians accept that their anthem is unbalanced, but it has taken longer than any Canadian has lived to agree on how to address it because the politicians in the Canadian parliament have been unwilling and therefore unable to agree on how to do it and who should do it. The parties fought over it, the houses of parliament wrestled over it – and now they have agreed to disagree, so they agree to let Canadians have a big fight over it through a referendum.
No, I don’t support that we should go that way. If we agree that our national anthem is imbalanced, then let us get it balanced in the easiest possible way — by letting those who can balance it just do their job. If it requires a decree by the Governor General or a majority vote in the Parliament, then let that be done. We didn’t have a referendum to adopt it broken as it is, so we don’t need a referendum to fix it.
We don’t even need to ask a question about it: it is imbalanced and should therefore be balanced. If we don’t fix it now, we will simply be passing the buck to a future generation. The anthem and its imbalance belongs to all of us – those born before and after 1979 – so let us, all of us, just fix it.
Let’s just do it — and consider it as Case Closed!