(Aria) I landed in Belize on March 6, 2012 and I was confronted with the political season from the get go. People were coming in to vote; there is was no doubting that. I saw political agents picking people up from the airport. My friend who is an avid UDP supporter and I met up in Miami. Her dad gave me a ride from the airport and the funniest thing he said was “Aria, I am not sure who you are coming here to vote for…should I just drive you in the woods somewhere and leave you there until the day after elections…” I laughed, maybe he was serious.
I had the opportunity to speak to several people regarding voting and I was a bit surprised at what people were telling me. I spoke to several people in Freetown who abstained from voting because they were not going to vote for no chineyman and not going to vote PUP. I even tried to reason with people about the importance of voting and people were adamant. I also spoke to well- known PUP (never voted Red) supporting family who told me they voted UDP because they don’t want Obama money encouraging homosexuality and Lisa M Shoman was going to change the laws. I met people who thought Dean Barrow wanted to take over Belize forever and were afraid of him…and all I thought was “how did we become so ignorant with the burst of information sources in Belize?” It seems to me that people were making choices based on fear and misinformation. I concluded that we are such a lazy society that we just sit and depend on other people to bring information to us without demanding sources, facts or evidence. So, it seems that politicians were playing on the fears and ignorance of people this election season and they played a dangerous game encouraging fear, spreading misinformation. It is really should not be just about winning, because fear and ignorance have been the biggest contributors to some of the worst atrocities in the world.
During my trip, I did meet some intelligent young people: kids who were savvy and open minded and were clear on the issues and mistrusted the information of the politicians, kids with no affinity for any party; kids who will represent the new swing voters in 5 years. I also met Andre Alamina, our winner of the twocanview essay contest. He was impressive in person, an intelligent humble young man who already knows what and where he wants to go in life. I see a light of hope for these youths since I met so many negative, fanatical older people who have accepted fear and hate were crucial voting factors.
I also noticed that some friends were so entrenched in the political game, that they avoided me, the ones who thought that politics were more important than friendship. It made me reflect. Why are we so divided in our society over something that really doesn’t impact us as much as we think it does? Of the 300,000 people voting, I bet 299,900 people lifestyle remains the same regardless of political party empowered, so it is truly a phenomenon and psychology that should be examined.
The highlight of my trip was meeting Mrs. Kim Simplis-Barrow. She was elegant and beautiful and very accommodating. She openly shared her struggles and pain and I see a fighter and a woman who will triumph. She transcends the political divide. She is something special. She has already touched the lives of many families who suffered in silence and took the shame away from the debilitating effects of cancer treatment.
We (Faye and I) also met the Prime Minster, the Rt. Honorable Dean Barrow. He was very charming and accommodating and we met him in the midst of a crisis…dealing with the incident at Chetumal that “didn’t really happen.” I see why PUP hate him too…He is a formidable opponent and when juxtaposed against their leaders, there really is no comparison.
After that meeting, Faye and I met Glenn Tillett , who took us to Chaps in Buttonwood Bay. (Best tacos and margaritas I have had in Belize). To our surprise, Joe Coye was also there and after hours of conversation, drinks and tacos, I must say Joe was quite the charmer, story teller and philosopher. I am still waiting for the “rat in the cellar” analogy. A story he teased us with all night but never quite told.
Just before the night was over, the Hon. Said Musa (former Prime Minister of Belize) walked in. He also came over and exchanged pleasantries and took pictures with us. I was left with a favorable personal impression of all the politicians for that day. It is definitely a different picture from the thieving lying scoundrels that I have passively come to accept.
I realize, politicians are intoxicating individuals, I see why people enjoy being around them, why people become fanatical followers and also why people are many times disappointed when they fail to deliver. When I met Justice Clarence Thomas in the DC, I got the same impression about him. The sense of power and confidence exuded from him. He was a powerful Supreme Court judge and his essence was electric. However, if you don’t step back from their flattery and charm, you too may get caught up in the hypnotic gaze and fanatically follow them.
I guess I am most disappointed after the elections were over; it was quite disheartening to read Belizeans advocating and waiting on the sidelines for the Prime Minister to fail. I think that people think that supporting a political party is like supporting a basketball team or football team. They fail to see that if any Belize government fails, then we all fail. If you are celebrating crime increases, or price increases or devaluation, then you fail to see the big picture. What affects Belize will affect you, regardless of your political color or affiliation. It will affect you regardless of your race or ethnicity. We need to stop with the herd mentality when it comes to politics. Just because PUP or UDP says something doesn’t make it true. Investigate and ask questions. If a policy is good, it doesn’t matter if you are PUP or UDP, we should be encouraging good policies and discouraging bad ones. Opposition does not mean that we oppose everything. Opposition is there to act as a check and balance of the government of the day, not to criticize everything and find a way to dismantle every good idea.
So my ultimate thoughts on the elections: It was an election where bribery, racism, offshore drilling, immigration, corruption and every conceivable underhanded commercial or tactic was used by two parties. PUP crying foul because they lost by a razor thin margin is as hypocritical as any party can be. So my cynical side asks: if both parties cheat, is the contest really unfair?
(Faye) Well Aria, I had some similar experiences. When I landed in Belize on February 24, 2012, obviously it was not for the same purpose. I was here for my brother’s funeral. But of course, politics was bubbling frantically. I had to travel up and down the Hummingbird Highway, the Southern Highway and the Western Highway, not to mention I was staying at the Pelican Beach Resort, so I was right next to the airstrip and I saw politicians come and go. The PUP machine was out in full force. Everywhere I looked in the South and West, gigantic blue and white flags covered trees and buildings. They were so large, that some voters jokingly said that instead of flags, the PUP should have made them into blankets for the homeless. On every lamp post was smaller, but no less distinct and impactful, blue and white posters. Sometimes, as I drove along, trucks carrying supporters to and from rallies almost ran me off the road in their zeal to get where they were going. Oh yeah, y’all need to NOT do that. It doesn’t speak well of your leadership qualities. The impression left is that of bullies. It wouldn’t do for you to get into accidents with people being flung out of the back of your trucks. Bad press, no bueno.
Along the way, I heard speeches being given; rallying cries shouted over bullhorns and secret support being whispered in the ear of politicians. I heard one PUP campaign manager definitively claim victory, reassuring whoever was on the other end of the phone that all the effort was not for naught. And he was working tirelessly, driving all over the countryside from morning till night, even going to immigration several times to ensure that certain supporters received their nationality. As for UDP, I heard a lot of complaints in the south. From the Rosewood issue to the bloody annoying as hell pedestrian bumps all along the flippin Placencia road. Seriously, that stretch added an hour to my drive time instead of the 20 minutes it should have taken to drive from Placencia to Maya Beach. I call them the “check if you left your wreck behind” bumps. I have to agree, they got to go. And the irony? Not a pedestrian in sight for flippin miles. And yes, that is a jab at my Uncle Melvin. Madafish!
My specific gut stabbing moment though, was driving through Dangriga. I know we are poor. I grew up there, but what I saw was just overwhelming. I don’t mind unpaved roads, ok? I understand that garbage barrels can and will get full to over running. I know that wooden houses sag and roofs rust BUT my goodness! It’s like as a collective people, the whole town is just depressed, so depressed, that noticing things like garbage on their steps is too much. Or noticing that the school is falling apart is too much. Or noticing that the grass is taller than I am is too much. It was seriously distressing. People walked slowly as if in unison, they all decided, it’s too much to even walk with purpose. And the only businesses that seem to have business were the Chinese grocery stores, and there were plenty of those. I am glad that the Chinese are finding success, but where are my Garinagu?
On a more positive note, there were many things that one could say is progress. Some will disagree I am sure but one cannot please everyone. The Kendall Bridge is being built…the road to Placencia is a flippin blessing! There is so much money to be made alllllll along the way: Hopkins, Silk Grass, Seine Bight…I am so happy that we have a highway finally! I remember it taking 8 long hours to get to PG one time because it had rained and our bus got stuck twice in the mud. Despite the poverty in some places, there is obvious development all over: Belize City; Belmopan; San Ignacio, Placencia, Caye Caulker, even some parts of Dangriga.
My old school Ecumenical looks bona fide with benches, a cafe and nice little flowering bushes and trees dotting the landscape. Did I mention all the damn vehicles everywhere? And laptops and cell phones! SO…we do have access to information. I don’t want to hear that “we didn’t know” cas u damn well know what your neighbour is doin’ the minute she does it. So start paying attention to your political/socio-economical world.
Oh! And Prince Harry was a cutie-pie! Definitely worth the long hot wait! It was so much fun…made me feel like a little school girl again, I swear. I saw so many friends and family out there. And who could forget the two foot cow with no tail? He just walked up to my dad and said, “Awnisin?” like old times 🙂
This is a sentiment I heard toooooo many times: “me nah wah mess wid politics! me nah gat time” or “why bother? nobody nuh wah give me nuttin?” SMH my answer to that? “You better!” It is just so irresponsible not to be involved in our community in some way, shape or form. When our neighbour succeeds, so do we all. So the flip of that is: when our neighbour fails, so do we all. We can’t say crime is the police’s problem. That criminal is our damn son, our uncle, our mother, our aunt. We can’t say the school is the government’s problem because it is our children sitting in dank classrooms, bellies hungry while they swat at flies and struggle to read what is written on termite eaten black boards. We can’t say that the cancer victims and diabetics need to just go to the hospital to die because they deserve to be treated with dignity and their families need them to survive. We can’t just shake our heads and pump our fists when yet another little girl is raped, scarred for life. We need to take care of her and let her know we love her. Don’t shun her and pity her like she is a whimpering dog. She is strong and can overcome.
I heard desperation, I felt depression and I saw helplessness. Belize can be better but you gotta believe my people, in YOURSELVES. You’ve been downtrodden for too long but your voices ring in the night and your hopes shine on for all to see. Grab your life by the balls and take control of it. Stop waiting for that knight on the white horse. He ain’t coming. You have been your own hero all along.
(Aria) Our trip ended on a high note. Faye and I spent the last two nights in Belize at the beautiful Caye Caulker which was illuminated with the full moon. Caye Caulker still offers the laid back rustic life for travelers who are weary of the rat race. It is a place where I can see myself running to time and time again for mental relief and visual ambience. (visit the split and look for our www.twocanview.com logo written on the railing).
Belize is our homeland and like every Belizean home or abroad, we all want the best for our country. I believe in dissent as an important part of democracy but let’s elevate the debate to a professional and civil level. Passionate should not mean rude or personal. Disagreeing should not be diminished to mean and disagreeable. And my Belizeans start demanding verifiable information and stop accepting gossip and propaganda when making crucial voting decisions. We must elevate ourselves first and everything else will naturally follow. I love my blue friends and I love my red friends and I love my color blinded friends. But most of all I love Belize and I anticipate each government job is to create a better future for ourselves and children; to ensure the safety and security of its citizens; to provide a means for success we can take advantage of; and to ensure we remain a jewel. Let’s strive for utopia and let’s climb out of the gutters of politics in Belize.