Here’s to you Mr. President…The (in)famous Hawaii salute
By Michael Benjamin
As the distinguished pastor cruised through the village, his eyes fell upon a tot, not more than two feet tall, at the door of one of the residents. The lad was on tip toe and was valiantly attempting to reach the button that triggered the doorbell. Amused, the pastor parked his car and went over to assist the young man. He reached up and shoved his index finger onto the button and the chimes resonated inside. Satisfied that he had done his good deed for the day, the pastor turned to the child, “Okay, what happens next?” With a mischievous grin the child replied; “Now you have to run!”
Almost every child would reminisce on those days when, life devoid of pranks and practical jokes, became dull and mundane. I was the consummate joker and one day my English teacher, Ms Branch, disgusted with my behavior asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up, Mr. Benjamin?” Without missing a beat I blurted, “Miss I want to be a practical joker.” Unperturbed, my Form Mistress waited patiently until the laughter evoked by my response had subsided and shot back, “Then I hope you aspire to be the best joker that was ever born.”
Personally, I remembered the days as a practical joker when I frequented the Headmaster’s office so regularly that I was easily mistaken for one of the auxiliary staff. Each prank was rated from mildly humorous on one end of the continuum to dangerously hilarious on the other. Once caught and chaperoned to the Headmaster’s office, those categories experienced startling twists and the practical joker in me would take a well deserved rest from activities, at least up until the searing pain in my rear subsided.
Of course, nowadays teachers are forced to invent all kinds of dissuading ploys, devoid of the use of the wild cane, to maintain discipline within the school system, otherwise they are summoned by the bigwigs in Brickdam and it is curtains for them.
Just about a year ago, while visiting my Alma Mater, good old ‘Multi’, I noticed a youngster engaged in deviant behavior. “Young man,” I chided, “during my school days, behaviour of that nature netted the culprit six tight ones on his backside.” Without missing a beat, the youngster replied, “Sir, in your days, things were different, these days when a male teacher tells you to bend over, you have to wonder just what type of whipping you are bending for.” While that child has a point, (pardon the pun), his casual and humorous response simply underlines a decaying system precipitated by the modernized teaching methods and adaptations that preclude the teachers from employing corporal punishment as a disciplinary tool.
The raging debate continues about the viability of corporal punishment in the school system and whether the quality of students churned out of the system is indicative of the inability and/or reluctance of the relevant authorities to implement suitable disciplinary tactics to enhance the learning process.
The contention of the purists is that children spend most of their adolescence in the classroom and therefore, teachers should be given the leverage to mould and socialize them in ways conducive to that of a law abiding product. One cannot also, ignore the moral upbringing of those children and undoubtedly, the authorities within the education sector must aspire to leave a legacy that promotes sound moral and other behaviours.
The recent brouhaha where a young man was dragged before the courts to answer a charge where he is alleged to have stuck out his middle finger at a presidential convoy has triggered vociferous outcries and the social and political activists have come out with mixed views. The general consensus seems to suggest that the authorities are reacting much too harshly to a gesture that could have several interpretations unless accompanied by any vile epithet.
Sometimes, issues ought not to be determined merely by which party is right and which is wrong. As human beings, we ought not to adopt an unbending disposition to every small, insignificant aberration. One wonders if the justice system is not inadvertently setting a certain precedent that might have demeaning and counter-productive effects in the future.
Language evolves and sometimes an offensive gesture of word in one country could be complimentary in another. That is why the elderly Christian in the following narration could thank her lucky stars that she is not a Guyanese. She went into a local Christian bookstore and saw a “Honk if you love Jesus” bumper sticker. Feeling particularly sassy that day because she had just come from a thrilling choir performance, followed by a thunderous prayer meeting, she bought the sticker and put it on her bumper. “Boy, I’m glad I did! What an uplifting experience followed!” she reminisced. She remembers stopping at a red light at a busy intersection, lost in thought about the Lord and how good he had been to her and didn’t notice that the light had changed.
“It is a good thing someone else loves Jesus because if he hadn’t honked, I’d never have noticed!” she said. She then noted that indeed, lots of people actually love Jesus because while she sat unmoving in the lane, the guy behind her also honked like crazy before leaning out of his window and screaming, “For the love of God! Go! Go! Jesus Christ, Go!” She remembers thinking, “What an exuberant cheerleader he was for Jesus!”
Suddenly, it seemed as though she had started an epidemic and everyone started honking. Impressed by such a response, she leaned out of her window and started waving and smiling at all these loving people. “I even honked my horn a few times to share in the love!” she recited. Then she realized the mix of celebrants. “There must have been a man from Florida back there because I heard him yelling something about a “sunny beach… I saw another guy waving in a funny way with only his middle finger stuck up in the air. Then I asked my teenage grandson in the back seat what that meant, and while he admitted his ignorance, he suggested that it was probably a Hawaiian good luck sign or something.”
The woman admitted that she had never met anyone from Hawaii and was unaware of their customs. “I leaned out the window and gave him the good luck sign right back,” she gushed.
She also remembers that a few persons were so caught up in the joy of the moment that they got out of their cars and started walking towards her. “I bet they wanted to pray or ask what church I attended but that was when I noticed the light had changed. So, I waved to all my loving sisters and brothers, grinned joyously and drove on through the intersection. I noticed I was the only car that got through the intersection before the light changed again and I felt kind of sad that I had to leave them after all the love we had shared, so I slowed the car down, leaned out of the window and gave them all the Hawaiian good luck sign one last time for good measure and then sped away.”
It would have been an interesting sight had this woman been a Guyanese. She would have left these shores with quite a tale to tell.
In regards to the development in the local matter, we are now being told that the police are reinstituting the appropriate charges on the youth. We have also been told that President Jagdeo has suggested that the wrong person has been charged for the wrong act. He feels that it is the driver of the vehicle that should have been hauled before the courts for failing to give way to the presidential entourage. Amidst such a comedy of errors, it might be to the benefit of all concerned if this matter is just forgotten. Maybe, a simple apology would suffice. After all, this is an election year and that young man might have only been showing solidarity to his president of the day the good old fashioned way——with a Hawaii good luck gesture.