DEAR MR. EDITOR,
This letter is as much to express my love of Guyana, as to appeal for a large measure of temperance between those of us in the diaspora and those of us “at home”.
Before I write anything else, my love for Guyana is as real as it’s enduring.
By the time I was born in 1945, my father and all of his surviving brothers, three to be exact, had left to study and seek other opportunities in America and England. So that by the time my father returned from Law School, I was almost four years old. I grew up in part, as a child who got things “from away”. There were books, magazine subscriptions, clothes, accessories and shoes that arrived with quiet regularity from either country, giving me the feeling that ‘things’ although probably expensive, were available and didn’t require ordering in advance, queuing up, knowing people in charge or having what we used to call “lines” back then. In the early 1960s, leading up to the country’s independence discussions, at least in my extended family, there were veiled hints at what opportunities could and would obtain if one was given a chance to study abroad. I left, urged by my father and a family friend to leave in 1969 with my newly-acquired nursing training. All through the middle and late 1970s and early 1980s, I harboured hope of returning to Guyana but as far back as that time, homecoming was not, outside of my extended family at least, a welcome mat.
I remember distinctly one visit where, overwhelmed and frustrated by openly hostile and overtly dismissive treatment beginning at the then Timehri Airport, I muttered loudly to the mayor and some of his friends (my acquaintances) that if they didn’t want us back in Guyana, they should make it plain when they come to America to ask for our donations.
So, it was with mild amusement and nothing more that I watched the livestream presentation where Dr. Mohammed made the “ …. abandon….” remark with measured jocularity but which gave me a very familiar sadness. I am totally unashamed of being a ‘bootleg combackee’. Whenever I hear about a bold, brave Guyanese who puts it all on the line to help young Guyanese fulfil their dreams, I cough up a few pennies, buy books, etc., go to fundraisers, whatever I can offer, which, in the grand scheme of things, is not very much.
Not everyone expresses frustration in the most receptive way and offering help in Guyana is often peppered with that frustration. True; it comes across sometimes as condescending. True; sometimes people toss out harshly critical epithets, blanketing everyone and excluding no one. But, at the bottom of all of it, please have no doubt that we (and I include myself wholeheartedly) WANT to help. To read a letter from our country’s leading institution of learning characterizing criticism of Dr. Mohammed’s questionable comment as defamation, came as somewhat of a shock; not shock that criticism is seen as a civil crime in this millennial, super-charged Social-media-driven world we inhabit but that this came from an educational source and not from a political personality. Really, Guys! We ARE GUYANESE TOO!
An analogy: My two trips across The Harbour Bridge were strictly for pleasure but I see the daily frustration with the mechanics and other delays daily commuters face, played out on Social Media. But commuters need the bridge and the bridge needs commuters. No one is suggesting burning the bridge down! Why are we doing that to Guyana’s most precious and scarce resource; its people, including diasporans?
Can we not communicate openly with each other? Criticism is a necessary and valuable tool to progress and while any tool can double as a weapon, viewing them only as such is counter-productive. Very few of us are coming home, hat in hand but in living in much larger countries with much larger populations, we have learned some things that can change Guyana for the better. What can it hurt to give us a chance?
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