Hey America! by: Howard Frankson


 

Howard Frankson

Re-shared with the permission of Howard Frankson. 

An urgent message regarding global warming and rising temperatures. 

 My grandfather was a gentle-man, whom everyone called “Boss Jim”, a successful farmer, rancher, and chiclero, who never spent his time procrastinating about the supernatural, or wondering about things beyond his control. Yet one night while he lay dreaming, something or someone came a-calling, and prompted him to start muttering in his sleep, saying “ghost? ghost?” and then shouting: “Oh hell, ghost!” Startled from his sleep he awoke my grandmother, who was a practical woman, brooked no-nonsense, and was called “Miss Night” for her jet-black tresses that flowed down her shoulders, reminding everyone of the phrase “Black-as-midnight”. She was no gentle-woman though and brooked no nonsense from her husband or any of her five surviving children. It was not uncommon for women in rural Belize, then known as British Honduras, to have many children, and lose one or two in or around childbirth. And a primary ambition of youth growing into adulthood in colonial British Honduras was the urge to migrate to the United States of America, then simply called “America”. America and Great Britain were, and still are, inseparable friends, and neither us or them, could have imagined a Donald Trump ever assuming the presidency of that northern country, with his policy of “America first”, which in effect translates as “America alone”; misrepresenting the words of the Statue-of-Liberty which say: “give me your tired, your poor, your hungry, yearning to be free.” Donald Trump cares not a whit for the fortunes of others. And even though no American bank will advance him credit, in his son’s own words: “they receive all they need from Eastern European sources”; namely Russia. Through Deutsche Bank. The assets of Russian oligarchs support his questionable endeavors and give them access to American markets, in which to launder their dirty money. “It is no wonder”, the press says, “that he never questions, or objects to, (Russian President) Vladimir Putin’s adventures on the global stage”.

Speaking recently, someone said pointedly that “Trump seems to suck all the oxygen from any room he enters into”, in which statement I agree wholeheartedly, and wish we could shift our deliberations to other subjects, which are crying out for attention. Such as “Global Warming”, which is not a new topic, but it generally does not receive the attention it deserves. In February, twenty-twelve, Valeria Espinoza posted a blog on Belize hosting a workshop for scientists from the region who were studying the effects of climate change on small island states. Though Belize is not considered a “Small Island State”, we do have many small islands that are affected equally with our mainland by global warming. The purpose of that workshop was for scientists to share their findings on the effects of the global phenomenon, and how it was impacting small economies like Belize’s. While Belize, in nineteen ninety-two, became a signatory to the United Nations convention on climate change, and as a party to that convention, the country reports on steps taken to implement necessary controls of greenhouse gas emissions. However, the country has stated that it does not want to follow in the unsustainable footsteps of the developed countries in their use of fossil fuels, and in the way they utilize their land resources. So, we are saying, “Hey America, yes, we want to aspire to your ultimate goals, but we’ll do it with a much greater understanding of what is required”. And, “it is generally accepted that the major industrialized nations like yourself, are the culprits of the phenomenon — this global phenomenon called climate change.” In fact, Belize is contributing less than one-thousandth of a percentage point to global emissions of greenhouse gases, and is in fact, absorbing more than we emit. “So we are one of the good guys in the convention; but unfortunately, we are one of those countries that are suffering the most from climate change. Being a low-lying state, we face problems of erosion and sea-level rise. Climate change is warming our seas, and affecting our coral reefs. It has caused pine bark infestation that is decimated our pine ridge forests. And it is producing outbreaks of dengue in the country, so in fact, we are facing the worst part of climate change, though we are not doing anything to contribute to it. So, we might say, the international community has a moral obligation to assist Belize in overcoming climate change.” The United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change was entered into force on March twenty-first, nineteen ninety-four.

Here is a simple definition of global warming: And yes Mr, Trump, it is really happening. Over the past fifty years, the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history. And experts say the trend is accelerating: All but one of the hottest years in NASA’s a hundred and thirty-four-year record have occurred since the year two thousand. Climate change deniers, like Donald Trump and his scientific cronies, have argued that there was been a pause or a slowdown. in rising global temperatures, but several studies, including a twenty-fifteen paper published in the journal “Science”, have disproved this claim, and scientists say that unless we curb global warming emissions, average US temperatures could rise by up to ten degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. In the United States, the burning of fossil fuels to produce electricity is the largest single source of heat-trapping air-pollutants, producing about two billion tons of CO2 every year. Coal-burning power plants are by far the biggest polluters and the second-largest source of carbon pollution is the transportation sector, generating between one and two-thirds billion tons of CO2 emissions each year. Curbing dangerous climate change requires deep cuts in emissions, as well as applying alternatives to fossil fuel in industries worldwide. Hey, America, the good news is that thanks in part to new energy-efficient technology, and the use of cleaner fuels, we have started a turnaround in CO2 emissions in the United States, actually decreasing from twenty-0-five to twenty-fourteen. And scientists continue to develop new ways to modernize power plants, generate cleaner electricity, and burn less gasoline while we are driving. The challenge, to be sure, is to put these innovations to good use and have them adopted universally.

Scientists agree that the Earth’s rising temperatures are fueling longer, more intensive, heat waves, droughts; heavier, unscheduled rainfall; and more destructive hurricanes. In twenty-fifteen for example, scientists said that an ongoing drought in California — the worst water shortage in that state in twelve hundred years — had been intensified by over twenty percent by global warming. They say that the odds of similar droughts occurring in the future had doubled over the past century. And in twenty-sixteen, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, announced that it is now possible to state confidently that certain weather events, like soaring heat waves, can be attributed directly to climate change. Ocean temperatures on the Earth are also getting warmer. This means that tropical storms, like those that frequent Belize, can accumulate more energy. So global warming could turn a category three storm into a more dangerous category four. In fact, scientists have found that the frequency of North Atlantic hurricanes has been increasing since the early eighties. As is the number of storms that reach categories four and five. In twenty-O-five, hurricane Katrina, the costliest hurricane in American history, hit New Orleans, and the second most expensive, Hurricane Sandy, hit the East Coast in twenty-twelve. The impact of global warming is being felt across the globe. Extreme heatwaves have caused tens of thousands of deaths around the world in recent years, and at our current pace, some experts say, will cause sea-levels to rise several meters over the coming fifty to a hundred years. Each year, scientists learn more about the consequences of global warming, and many agree that environmental, economic, and health concerns are likely to increase if current trends continue.

Melting glaciers, early snow melt, and severe drought will cause more dramatic water shortages and increase the risk of wildfires in Western America. Rising sea levels will lead to coastal flooding on the Eastern Seaboard, especially in Florida, Belize, and in other low-lying areas such as the Gulf-Of-Mexico, and some Caribbean Islands, including Bermuda and The Bahamas. Forests, farms, and agricultural projects will face troubling new challenges, heat waves, heavy downpours, and increased flooding: All catastrophic factors that will damage, destroy, or displace agricultural projects, fisheries, and industry. Destruction of habitats, such as coral reefs and Alpine meadows, could drive many plant and animal species to extinction. Allergies, asthma, and infectious disease outbreaks could become more frequent due to increased growth of pollen-producing plants, higher levels of air pollution, and the spread of contagions, and conditions favorable to pathogens and disease-carrying mosquitoes. In recent years, China has taken the lead in global warming pollution, by producing about twenty-eight percent of CO2 emissions. And Donald Trump’s United States comes in second. Despite only having just four percent of the Earth’s population, it produces an astonishing sixteen percent of all global emissions, as much as the European Union and India combined. The United States has taken tentative steps to reduce global warming. But in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change, it needs to do a lot more — together with other countries — to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, and to start using cleaner energy alternatives.

In twenty-fifteen, the US Environmental Protection Agency pledged to reduce by nearly a third, CO2 emissions from power plants, by twenty-thirty through its ‘Clean Power Plan’ initiative. But under the Trump administration, the EPA proposed repealing this plan to curb climate change. And similarly, while under the Obama administration, the US Department Of Transportation, DOT, proposed CO2 pollution and fuel economy standards intended to cut emissions into the twenty-twenties, but under the Trump administration, the DOT is working to roll back those clean vehicle safeguards that protect the climate and our health. Fortunately, state and industry leaders recognize that clean transportation must remain a priority if we are to address climate change and protect public health. Regional efforts are helping to boost the electric car market, which saw a substantial increase in sales between twenty-sixteen and seventeen, and Wind Power employment grew by thirty-two percent, while solar-power jobs increased by twenty-five percent. Globally, at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris, a hundred and ninety-five countries, including the United States, at the time, agreed on pollution emission reduction provisions, with a goal of preventing the average global temperature from rising more than one-and-a-half degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial age average. As scientists believe we must remain below a two-degree increase to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts.

And while in twenty-seventeen, President Trump announced that his country was withdrawing from the Paris climate change agreement to eliminate “harmful and unnecessary policies, such as the Climate Action Plan”, the American people are forging ahead without him. Through initiatives like the US Climate Alliance and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, America is still participating. And Climate Mayors, state, business, and local political leaders have pledged to honor and uphold the goals of the Paris Agreement. More than twenty-five cities in seventeen states, with populations totaling more than five million, have adopted resolutions that will enable them to produce a hundred percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar power. Additionally, a new initiative from former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has registered in Alabama to run for the presidency in upcoming elections, gives the urban sector of this movement a boost. He is asking mayors from the most populous cities in the country to share their plans for making their buildings and transportation systems run more cleanly and efficiently. The twenty cities that show the greatest potential for curbing dangerous CO2 pollution that’s driving climate change will share in a technical assistance fund provided by his philanthropies and partners. Individual efforts at curbing climate change can be achieved by making conserving energy a part of the daily routine. When shopping for refrigerators, washers, and dryers in America, or throughout the English-speaking Caribbean, choosing products with the US government’s “Energy Star” label that meet a higher standard for energy efficiency than the minimum federal requirements, can make an appreciable difference if a sufficient number of residents undertake to look for cars with the highest gas mileage and lowest emissions.

Howard A. Frankson — Belize

 

 

How is Belize Governed? by Aria Lightfoot


Referees

Ask the average Belizean about football or basketball rules or refereeing, especially when their respective teams are playing,  and you will get the most knowledgeable analysis of where the referees went wrong, what the players did wrong and what the rules are.   Ask the average Belizean if they have ever read their Constitution and you get blank stares, outright nos and many admit they have never seen it or know where to find it.   A country with a very young population and no idea what rules apply to the country, the leaders or any idea how the governance is structured or what rights are afforded to them should concern everyone.

I designed a course on good governance and of the 50 students I have engaged so far, less than 10% read the constitution or knew where to find the constitution. A few years ago the media visited tertiary level students and asked who was the first prime minster of Belize and many students shockingly had no clue. This cluelessness should cause deep shame on us all.

Constitution of Belize

Belize right now is operating with serious constitutional violations and the people of Belize have been less than vocal about these violations. The Referendum on the ICJ highlighted one of the worst abuses of voter disenfranchisement, voter mis-education and constitutional violations regarding our borders.  Belizeans allowed a large injection of foreign money from the US and UK; actions that would cause protests, court challenges from watchdog groups,  court injunctions, congressional or parliamentary inquiry within the US and  UK,  sailed thru without much fanfare in Belize. A friend advised that shouting constitutional violations to a people who have no clue about their own constitution is a waste of time.

In fact, it made me think deeply about this issue. If you think about it, no prime minister that have lead Belize or vying for leadership of Belize was born in an Independent country. They are all products of colonial governance and training. They have no idea or true consciousness around equality, human rights, constitutional supremacy, rule of law and ethics and every time they open their mouths to explain or excuse  their abuses, it shows.

Many of  our leaders, legal community and watchdog groups  were predominantly  shaped in a society of privilege, wealth and class. They are gate keepers who protect the status quo.   Our constitutional rights are a negotiating tool for them.  Our leaders exerted a great deal of effort to achieve Independence but had no plans for  post independent Belize; no vision went into building the nation state of Belize once Independence was achieved. Our country became independent of the colonial masters and then elected leaders worst than the colonial masters.

We should not be surprised when Prime Minister Dean Barrow threatened to cut off the head of corruption with his double edge sharpened machete but did not form any steering committee to actually tackle corruption. It should not be surprising that leadership is void of solutions for an independent democratic society. It is should not be surprising that the nation state of Belize is heavily indebted, poorly managed and infected with corruption and failing institutions.  For Belizeans “da just wah lee breeze”!

I challenge the media and voting population to ask every politician about their knowledge of the Belize Constitution and I would wager that more than 50% of politicians are themselves clueless about the rules that govern Belize and simply taking orders from the most dominant politicians.

This lack of knowledge about our governance also highlights a failure within our educational systems to teach our children about their rights and how the rules are structured. It is not surprising that a people so ignorant of their own rules are subjected to daily abuses, rising poverty and disillusionment about the system. It should not be surprising that Guatemalans are protesting on Belize soil while Belizeans have remained relatively quiet. It is not surprising that Guatemalans are illegally becoming Belizeans and running for national office. It is not surprising that the Cabinet is acting ultra vires of their constitutional powers by signing off on these abuses; and it is not surprising that all these abuses are met with inaction and tribalism. We should not be surprised that mostly foreigners are running all the money making industries and turning Belizeans into a service class.

Carl Sagan said “The gears of poverty, ignorance, hopelessness and low self esteem interact to create a kind of perpetual failure machine that grinds down dreams from generation to generation. We all bear the cost of keeping it running, illiteracy is its linchpin”. Belizeans are illiterate about their constitution, their rights and their responsibilities. If we truly want a corrupt free nation where leaders work for the betterment of society and work to build the nation we must attack this illiteracy with an urgency as if we truly want to save the nation state of Belize for many generations.

The constitution can be found here:  https://www.oas.org/juridico/mla/en/blz/en_blz-int-text-const.pdf

democracy2

What democracy is NOT

The Definition of Insanity by : Joseph Monsanto Joseph discusses the growing scandal of Guatemalans unconstitutionally granted Belizean Citizenship


Joseph Monsanto

Joseph Monsanto

I recently read an editorial on the Reporter’s website from last week’s paper. And honestly, while it makes some valid points about the need to resolve the situation with Guatemalans, who have Belizean citizenship illegally; I disagree with the position that the Opposition and the Government must accommodate them to be able to become Belizeans and keep their Guatemalan citizenship. The gist of the editorial is to find a fair and equitable solution for the Guatemalans, and Belizeans, so that the Guatemalans who wish to become Belizeans do not contravene Section 26 of the Constitution, can be Belizeans, despite not renouncing their citizenship from Guatemala.
There are several problems with this position, and while it is a sentiment I share that it must be fair, there are obstacles in the way of this happening. Namely, the position of the Guatemalan government, stating that every Guatemalan will always be a Guatemalan national, and that they will not do anything to render their citizens stateless. A very similar problem exists with the Guatemalan claim, in which despite recognising Belize as an independent nation, Guatemala’s congress cannot or will not repeal their claim to our territory, and their courts have made such constitutional amendments in the past notoriously difficult.
Let’s start with why is it that the debate is so prominent. As all of you know, the visa and immigration scandal that erupted in 2013, which many of us know as Pennergate, exposed the corrupt dealings of various government ministers in the Dean Barrow Administration, and exposed the practice of granting Guatemalan nationals Belizean citizenship, and this was done to pad voter rolls in general elections. Let’s be honest, this happened during the Musa Administration as well, but it was especially pronounced during this period, and we are dealing with the consequences of that today. The Senate Select Special Committee has exposed quite a bit of illegal activities taking place under Elvin Penner’s watch as Minister of State for Immigration. Among those is granting Guatemalan nationals, who did not renounce their nationality to Guatemala, Belizean citizenship. Dianne Locke, the Immigration Director, testified in 2017 that before changes were made by the Immigration Department in the wake of the scandal, there were no efforts to verify that those Guatemalans who became Belizeans took any steps to formally renounce their citizenship in Guatemala. And even after those changes, she testified that absent any notification that the Guatemalans would reject the paperwork from the immigration committee, that the Guatemalans would not respond to anything that the department would send to the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry, regarding renunciation of Guatemalan citizenship. This was further complicated by the response to the Government’s inquiry to the issue before us. Guatemala believes once someone is Guatemalan, they are forever Guatemalan, and that even if it was to facilitate Belize’s process of nationality, they cannot render a citizen stateless. If one views Guatemala’s reply through their history, then such a stance, especially in context of what is happening in Myanmar(Burma) with the Rohingya makes sense. But if you look at their official policy position regarding Belize, and their ongoing claim, then you would be of the belief that such a policy is used to infiltrate Belize, to influence their politics, and their policy, so they can be friendly to Guatemala. Such a goal was the reason why the prohibition on Guatemalans becoming Belizeans exists, outside of the exceptions of being married to a Belizean or being born in Belize.
Let’s come to the crux of my disagreement with the editorial. The Government has not displayed any willingness to work with the Opposition, or civil society on this issue, or for instance, the 9th Amendment. The Barrow administration in 2011, pushed a constitutionally dubious amendment, that would have stripped the right of judicial review from the courts on constitutional amendments, as well as other provisions that would have allowed the government to control Belize Telemedia Limited. The provision that would have stripped judicial review was declared unconstitutional some time later. The Government has also been unilaterally signing agreements with the Guatemalan government regarding the change to the referendum law, and de-linking the referenda for Belize and Guatemala, without consulting the Opposition. Since 2015 GOB and the Opposition have not seen eye to eye on the matter of the Guatemalan dispute, with the Government consistently saying that the People’s United Party is playing politics. The facts however speak to the politicisation of the dispute being the handiwork of the governing United Democratic Party, and therefore the bungling of the referendum result, as well as Belizean discontent surrounding the Sarstoon river and isle is squarely on their hands. I do not have the confidence that the Government believes that it is in the best interest of Belizeans and Guatemalans who have Belizean citizenship, through the schemes of ministers during Pennergate, or otherwise trying to become Belizeans legally, to resolve this, by working with the Opposition. Their history on the 9th Amendment, and the history of the Government working unilaterally on what was traditionally a national issue is the guide here. I believe that the Government will rush through an amendment that will nullify section 26 (3), and allow Guatemalans to keep their citizenship, as they become Belizeans. Appeasement is the order within the Government, especially if you consider the representation Belize has on the dispute with Guatemala. The Opposition, while they believe that any one who is a Belizean must be able to vote on this issue, would be remiss not to challenge this glaring problem, especially given the controversy this caused from 2013. However, given the statements from the Leader of the Opposition, do not hope for a productive solution for this issue.
Given the complexity of this issue, I have a few solutions to this issue, should they be taken seriously. Guatemalans should be allowed to become Belizeans, should the paperwork that acknowledge the renunciation from Guatemala City is given to Belizean authorities. This is the easiest and clean solution for those Guatemalans who legally go through the process of becoming Belizeans. But given Guatemala’s Congress, their courts and their government, this is unlikely to happen. Another solution is to clean up the voter registration list and scrutinise it for Guatemalans who have gained citizenship during Pennergate. While this seems to be what the Government is doing, I am not going to hold my breath, because there has yet to be a case tested in court over a Guatemalan gaining citizenship during that time. And the fact that they announced the date for the referendum, and the voter re-registration exercise, suggests to me that they have not taken this issue very seriously at all. We must also look at the possibility of disenfranchising those Guatemalans who have gained citizenship through Pennergate. While it is a potentially unconstitutional move and very controversial, there is a valid national security reason for it. Given the fact that the Government has facilitated this activity, albeit through the illegal activities of some government Ministers, one could make the case that such a move to disenfranchise this group of Guatemalan-Belizeans is a necessity. But the editor is right. It is a complex issue that requires an elegant solution to this problem. However, given the past 10 years, and recent history, I do not believe that the Government is one for elegant solutions, unless it is expedient and benefits them.

Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Belize and Leader of the Opposition


 

OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER OF BELIZE

AND LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

 

June 16, 2017

 

The Rt. Honorable, Dean Barrow, Prime Minister

The Honorable, Johnny Briceno, Leader of the Opposition

Belmopan, Belize

 

Dear Sirs,

 

Belizean Citizens Abroad (BCA) is an organization committed to bringing together Belizeans living abroad in a non-partisan manner. Our goal is to empower and strengthen the democracy of Belize by working with ALL Belizeans at home as well as the Government of Belize on solutions and issues of concern to the community of Belizeans living overseas. As such, we are currently advocating for the equal rights of born Belizeans with dual citizenship.

We are asking for bi-partisan support for an amendment bill to remove the discriminatory provisions in our Constitution limiting the citizenship rights of born Belizeans who gain dual nationality and to reintroduce the same amendments as section 4 and 5 of the BELIZE CONSTITUTION (SEVENTH AMENDMENT) ACT, 2009 that purported to amend Sec 58(1) and 63(1) of the Belize Constitution. These discriminatory provisions in our Constitution limit the POLITICAL rights of born Belizeans and hamper our ability to solve many of the problems that Belize face in an ever-changing globalized world.

The Constitution of Belize contradicts the idealism of equal rights and equal protection under the law by establishing underclasses of citizenship.  Furthermore, the Constitution is in contravention of the very idea of human rights.  According to the United Nations Human Rights International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 25 – every citizen shall have a right to take part in the conduct of public affairs and to vote and be elected in periodic elections.

It is a travesty that foreign-born individuals who become Belizean dual citizens have more rights than born Belizeans who gain an additional citizenship.  This literally means that born Belizeans are second-class citizens in our own country.  Currently, there are thousands of born Guatemalans who have acquired Belizean citizenship enjoying more rights than born Belizeans who have acquired dual nationality.  This is so even though our Constitution bars Belizean citizenship to members of any country that claims Belize.  How can it be that despite a clear constitutional prohibition, a born Guatemalan with dual Belizean citizenship status can become Prime Minister, set policies, hold national decision-making positions determining Belize’s future, but a born Belizean with “dual citizenship” cannot?

BCA is ready and willing to work with both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to table a historic, bi-partisan legislation to remove sections of the Constitution that limit rights for born Belizeans. We further ask that individuals originating from any country that claims any part of Belize be prohibited from attaining Belizean citizenship with only few, if any, exceptions. BCA strongly believes that the ministerial discretion granting citizenship to members of countries that claim Belize should be restricted with much clearer and narrower guidelines.

Finally, we urge Belizeans at home and in the diaspora to contact their respective Area Representatives and encourage them to support a national bi-partisan effort to amend the Constitution of Belize protecting the equal rights of ALL born Belizeans.

Respectfully,

Belizean Citizens Abroad
Email: belizeansabroad@gmail.com

 

President: Mario Lara

Vice President: Joseph Guerrero

Treasurer: Al Smith

Communication Director: Debbie Curling

Secretary: Aria Lightfoot

Dear Teenage Girls….by: Kiah Pastor


 

IMG_7464

Kiah Pastor

Dear Teenage Girls of Belize,

There are a couple tragedies currently in the media that has hit close to home therefore I’d like to speak on one. There was a situation that occurred where a 13 year old female sent nude photos to a man and he then threatened to expose them if she did not have sex with him. Well she ended up having sex with him twice.

We live in a Society where men glorify women and their bodies but there is a very fine line between being human and appreciating a woman’s natural physique and then just being out right disrespectful. In Belize, most cases it’s being disrespectful. But as a child having your body go through changes, you’re left some what confused. Why should I as a teenager not show off my newly developed breasts if they’re so many older and more developed women on social media also showing off their bodies and getting glorified by not only men but other females as well. Do you see my point? Nudity has become a part of pop culture. Nudity has become art. Nudity has been accepted in every case EXCEPT when it has been shared against your will. The amount of guys I’ve seen preaching about “having self respect” and telling girls to stop sending nudes to young boys are the same guys I recall have asked me to send them a nude when I was between the ages of 12-16.

Almost every male will vow they’ll never associate themselves with younger girls but they’re so many of them who love it! It’s the idea of being with a female who doesn’t have a set of boundaries mostly because they don’t know what the boundaries should be. The idea of not being with a female you need to break all sorts of walls to get through to because she hasn’t been scarred by other men in order to build those walls up in the first place. And lastly it’s the idea of having a body that hasn’t been touched. The inferior feeling of taking it all away. Men love dominance.

Now let me redirect my energy. It’s not solely the men of our society’s fault but also the women. We should work hard as women to be advocates of true self confidence and self love. We should be more willing to reach out to the younger girls around us and be a big sister figure to them and be there to advise them so they don’t need to figure it all out on their own. This is very hard because there’s a lot of adult women themselves who don’t have self respect nor show true value of themselves as women but that’s okay! You don’t need to be in that space forever! You don’t need to be vulnerable to these men. You don’t need to use sex to feel powerful and you don’t need to showcase your body to get attention. You do what you’re confident with not what you feel is pleasing to others. Where do you think promiscuous women are stemmed from? Sexual acts that occur in early stages of life. Let’s make an effort to be the best examples to younger girls and to show them how they should react when put in compromising positions! You’re not alone!

From a young woman building herself back up,
Kiah Lisani Pastor 💓

Anti-Cyber Bullying Message – Click here

What is Cyberbullying? Click here

OPEN LETTER TO MR. BELIZEAN RICE AFLATOXIN EXPERT by: Dr. Bernard Bulwer


BulwerA MESSAGE TO MY FELLOW BELIZEANS … who understand the context of the “rice-aflatoxin” headlines that keep popping up in our local Belize news. Note that some things are best expressed in a language that only Belizeans would understand, i.e. our “social glue” … the Kriol language.

February 15, 2016
Boston, Massachusetts

Dear Mr. conscientious, self-proclaimed philanthropist, public health and nutrition expert;

Your persistent, self-serving, Belizean rice-aflatoxin scaremongering is not in the best interest of the Belizean public. As a Belizean health professional, I feel a sense of responsibility to weigh in on this matter, and put things in perspective.

My fellow Belizeans, the real threat to your health is not, and has never been rice aflatoxin-related (liver) disease. Our biggest food threat is our near wholesale abandonment of many healthy traditional food choices in exchange for the highly-processed foods found in supermarkets.

“Soh I really noh like how you come da my country, mek latta money from my people by profiting from your highly-processed food enterprise, and pan tappa dat, yuh di persist and di try tek my people fi fool.”

The scientific and public health evidence is clear. Highly-processed foods and sweetened drinks, with their toxic trans-fats, artificial additives, and excess sugar are direct causes of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. These are the number 1 food-related killers in Belize.

Belizeans, start eating more natural foods, avoid those foods that have labels on them (especially highly-processed foods).

Start to grow more of your own food, even in the city. Home boys, start organize yourself in the community and start planting, raise your fowl, go fishing, and barter with your neighbours. No shortage of work to do. Who come from country and have land need fi go back da country and plant. Stap di give people who no like unnu unu money. Deh no kay bout unnu. Stop being active participants in your own demise.

Your health is your biggest earthly investment. Remember, “Your Doctor Can’t Make You Healthy.”

Pay or Die: The Crisis facing the Medical Industry in Belize By: Aria Lightfoot


pay or dieLike a recurring nightmare, almost every week in the media, victims of  serious medical problems are asking for donations from the Belizean population to assist with medical care. Many need long term life saving surgeries, cancer treatments, kidney treatments, or some major medical intervention. Treatments can cost upward in hundreds of thousands of dollars to a million dollars for effective lifesaving measures to take effect. It plays out as a desperate last ditch attempt from victims to save their lives; and in reality, the public could never realistically sponsor these cases unless of course there is some major overhaul in how we administer medical care to the public.

I recall my mother’s own plight with the Belize medical system. She initially received medical treatment in Houston and Canada because of help of her sisters but when she returned to Belize, I recall Dr. Pott telling my aunt that he would not “waste his time” to treat her (as he had promised the Canadian doctor he would) because she was going to die anyway. My aunt was devastated and in tears desperate for some medical intervention. It was the Belmopan community, her family, friends, church members and nurse Johnson, who helped my mother transition into the next world.

A few years later, my aunt lost her healthy baby boy at the Belize City Hospital, because she did not use the private hospital system.  Her baby had a healthy heart beat at the doctors office however, he did not practice at the public hospital and when she went into labor,  neglectful nurses were not around when her baby began to crown and the doctor who was expected to be there,  was absent. It was a series of unfortunate events.  The baby was perfectly formed except he was blue.  When I was pregnant, my aunt gave me money so that I did not have my son at the public hospital. She did not want a similar fate and treatment for me…my medical care was excellent.

About three years ago, my cousin Albert who was my age, suffered kidney failure. He was retired early from the Government of Belize with limited money; but he needed $4000.00 a month for kidney treatment. More money was needed for his treatment than what he actually made when he was working fulltime. He needed three dialysis treatment a week but managed maybe one and not weekly. When finances ran its course, he died of kidney failure.

Currently I have another cousin undergoing expensive kidney dialyses; she is no longer working and her finances are depleted;  her health continues to decline as she desperately attempts to save her life. I donated some money to her, however it felt like a symbolic act because it will not realistically cover even one needed treatment; she also needs three a week.

Recently Patrick Jones, journalist and long time media personality, is facing a fate of inadequate finances for life saving medical treatment and so he must turn to the public for intervention…I highlight these cases to demonstrate that we need a major overhaul of our medical system and we need to overhaul how we administer life saving medical treatment for all citizens regardless of their immediate ability to pay.

The private hospitals in Belize have found its cash cow and they are pariahs on society. Medical victims are in crisis and desperately in need of major medical intervention and doing everything to stay alive. They borrow, beg and sell all their assets and when they can no longer maintain financially, they die. The private hospitals with life saving technology will not treat anyone who cannot show cash first and foremost. Even more offensive is that tax payers money have played a major role in educating doctors and sponsoring private hospitals

What has the Ministry of Health in Belize done to curb this crisis? The entire  medical system is shameful. I would argue that the practice of treating a patient to the point of bankruptcy and then no more offends the idea of medical care. Should medical care be a profit driven industry ? 

Doctors in Belize seem to have forgotten their Hippocratic oath:

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

Months leading up to elections in Belize, the unions showed their strength by demanding pay increases and even Uniform allowances and most were successful in their demands; however none have taken up the task of universal health care or demand that doctors who practice publicly and privately offer the same level of care regardless of ability to pay or place of treatment.

Winning Entry : Citizenship – Why I will vote on November 4th, 2015 written by: Jaime A. Burns Jr.


Citizenship – Why I will vote on November 4th, 2015

I have never bore witness to a purer, more innate sense of patriotism than that of the collective Belizean people. Belize boasts a national haven of resource, both human and natural. “Mother Nature’s best kept secret” remains only on the fringes of secrecy, because our earthly divinity is rapidly becoming world renowned and internationally beloved. Who then, will be selected as caretakers of our Belize? Furthermore, who will be held accountable for those choices? How do we vet and vie the candidates who seek to subscribe to the guardianship over the “Land Of The Free”? Democracy – the process which harkens our participation and gives content to the speech of the populace; therein lies the engine of our governance. My vote is my voice, and I will vote on November 4th, 2015.

In direct opposition to the carefree cliché, ignorance is not bliss, certainly not when it comes to general elections. To abstain from voting when you possess the eligibility to cast a ballot is tantamount to being wilfully mute in the discourse of our national regime. Your voice is inevitably drowned amidst the ones of those who practiced their right and adhered to their responsibility to see the one, true victory present itself on Election Day: democracy. Some vocally defeat the value of their vote, convinced that their say will not sway an election. If I may contravene from a logically-parallel perspective: one vote is resonant in adding to or subtracting from the eventual majority or minority. If there is strength in numbers, then there can certainly be weakness in few. I, for one, crave progress so mightily for Belize; my vote is my strength, and I will vote. I would be remiss not to mention, however, that even in the abstinence of voting, the candidate who is elected is nevertheless your representative. Still, refraining from voting diminishes your stake in assessing the performance of your representative, for you veiled yourself in silence when the remainder of your fellow constituents lent their voice on your behalf. Ergo, accountability – your vote is your solemn invocation of your involvement in computing Belize’s prosperity.

Men and women who both possess and present the integrity, interests, goodwill, and compassion of Belizeans are oftentimes the ones who solicit our confidence. The Belizean citizenry, however, must confront the political stigma that concurrently connotes itself with elections; i.e., corruption. It can be defeated, but only when we are willing to inject the vaccine of diligent democracy to provide for governmental health. My vote is my vaccination; I will vote. Naïveté assumes immunity from corruption; national pride compounded by wilful virtuousness asserts the fervent combat against it. My vote is my fight; I will vote. My sincere respect for the legacies of great Belizean figures – Phillip Goldson, George Price, and even Antonio Soberanis – and my gratitude for the historic strides they effected, shames any inclination on my part to abstain from the rectitude of voting. My vote is my honour; I will vote.

While most people may assess any government on a utopian premise, I implore them to accede to the position which accepts that harmony is the ideal goal, but success through respect is the realistic one. Administrations will perpetually contain divergence – we toil for the attainable synergy of all comprised, which eludes us. Admittedly, in the history of Belize, we have elected both martyrs and tyrants to our government. I feel we have been too complacent in granting communal clemency to the latter. As for the former, I have bore witness to manifest proof of the absolute and inherent patriotism in the blood of the Belizean people. That bloodline must live on, and my vote is my life. I am Belizean; “I am Belize.” On November 4th, 2015, I will vote.

 

Submitted by:

Jaime A. Burns Jr.

Force Ripe Baby: Written by and reprinted with the permission of Lisa M. Shoman


Lisa M. Shoman

Lisa M. Shoman

This is important. It is about domestic violence/ violence and abuse of women and girls in Belize. It is not pretty, and it is long, but I ask your attention.

FORCE RIPE BABY

“Every woman is entitled to the free and full exercise of her civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and may rely on the full protection of those rights as embodied in regional and international instruments on human rights. The States Parties recognize that violence against women prevents and nullifies the exercise of these rights.” Article 5, BELEM DO PARA CONVENTION 1994

This starts and ends with personal anecdotes but it is not about me. It is about the abuse that women in our Jewel have endured and still endure. It is about a culture, and it cuts across all classifications, ethnicity, economic class, education level, rural/urban. This does not present solutions. It is meant as provocation.

This is about unmasking. It is about facing our evil because I think we have lived with it so long, we don’t even really see it anymore.

At age 12, I had a young woman’s body. I don’t recall being proud of that fact, rather, instead of running around freely and energetically like the skinny tambran branch I’d been at 11; I began to slouch inward, and I stopped running. Generous breasts hurt when they bounce, and attract attention from people. People like your mother’s friends who call you “force ripe” in accusatory tones – as if you had wrapped yourself in brown paper with a banana to achieve ripeness. People like your father’s friends who suddenly began to ask for a big hug for “Tio “.

No, I was not hurt, but I was abused. Abusers by adults who could not leave my innocence alone anymore, because my body was “force ripe”. It didn’t get better either. It got worse.

Random men on the street would shout things, demanding acknowledgement , insisting that I smile at them, sleep with them, eat them, allow them to eat me – all without shame. And this was mostly when I was walking to/ from primary and secondary school in my white uniform. Comments about “poke” and “bread” were commonplace. No, I was not hurt, but I was abused. And I became an angry child/young woman with a smart, sharp, even vicious tongue. It was all the defence I had.

Why start there? Because a smart, sensible woman who is friend and mentor, seemed genuinely surprised that this vulturine hovering around girls who had developed early and could pass the 100-pound test, didn’t happen only in her home village.

What 100-pound test? The one where men consider you “ready”, she explained, once you weigh 100 pounds. But she seemed rather shocked to learn that an urban, middle class kid with educated parents had faced male abuse that was overtly sexual in nature, and the corollary female disapproval and suspicion that runs with it.

This came up because we were discussing the recent case of the 14-year-old Belizean child, found in Mexico, drunk, nude and raped. The question was asked – where were the parents? Her mother? Speculation about her background began. And somehow it ended up at my force ripe angry tween self and the 100-pound test.

That 14 year old child was abused, her faith, trust, and personhood viciously violated. She was severely hurt. And no one since has made any outcry, me included. What can we say? Better yet, what can we do? Do we even WANT to do anything? Are we unfeeling? Numbed into paralysis? Or is it something even more insidious, in our culture that still demands that women must be quiescent flesh, fair game for consumption of any kind by a man? Yes, that is angry feminist talk. But it is also true.

Week after week, reports of men arrested for “having sex” with minors appear in newscasts – and those are the few who are caught. Inevitably the comments on social media get around to accusing the girl child of being “wah lee hot crutch”, selling herself for money and gifts, “wanting it bad”, of being immoral, force ripe, and reckless. It is standard commentary, virulent, heat seeking and laser-sharp. It is lacerating.

The men can be bad. The women commenting are worse. The victim is abused again, verbally raped by adults, all of who, in Belize are legally obligated to protect her. Yes, ALL.

The law mandates, albeit without penalty, all adults in Belize to report all forms of child abuse. Of course, we noh bizniz. Or rather, few care, fewer see, fewer yet do report.

Both men and women in Belize watch young girls like brown hawks riding the thermals on a lazy afternoon. Like the hawk, both see prey. Women with suspicion, men, avidly. This is our ugly truth. It is so etched in our culture that it is perceived as normal, natural, inevitable. We never question it, let alone condemn it.

Girls (and women) are reduced to the sum of their flesh, breasts and butts, legs and thighs like poultry parts. We are like that old Suzanne Vega song where “backs are cheap and wings are nearly free.” Hearts are offal, along with livers and kidneys.

No wonder, too many girls and women in Belize end up in violent, abusive relationships with men who repeatedly abuse their human dignity, denigrate them as persons, beat them unmercifully, rape and sexually assault them, isolate them, keep them economically vulnerable, hold them hostage to their children, imprison them in their home, stab them multiple times in front of their children, shoot them, kill them. All because they fail to be cooperative flesh for the abuser.

It isn’t about sex. Sex is the weapon. It is ultimately about power, specifically, male power.

That is why I co-wrote the first Domestic Violence Act. We had no specific law in Belize against any of this in 1988. It is why, with the support of Dorla Bowman and Women Against Violence (WAV), I drafted a model Sexual Offences Bill, and a Sexual Harassment Act in the early 1990s, the latter of which was passed, but has not, to my knowledge ever been used.

It is why I helped to push for, promoted and supported the creation of the Family Court. It is why I welcomed the fact that Belize was one of the signatories of the OAS- sponsored Belem Do Para convention in 1996, which states in Article 3 that “Every woman has the right to be free from violence in both the public and private spheres.”

And still we have failed to change our culture of violence. I feel that I have failed.

I thought, in the 1990s, that all this advocacy and legal work would help to change our culture. When my friend and client, Leslie Maud Smith was murded by multiple stab wounds at the hand of her violent abusive ex on a Good Friday at her home, in front of her mother and young children, days after I had obtained a protection order for her; I thought it couldn’t happen again.

I thought that we would wake up, cry out, shake the heavens and stop this. The outpouring of grief promised it, but did not deliver. I was fatally wrong. More women died, all over the Jewel in ways that were just as brutal.

And fast forward to more than two decades later, where in April 2015, Colleen Sharp was found, battered and shot in her own home at the hand of her husband who committed suicide thereafter. Then in July 2015, just days apart, we learned of the horrific murders of Juana Cardinez-Cowo and Keisha Buller at the hands of men who claimed to love them, in the sanctuary of their home. Ms. Buller’s grandmother and child were at home when the homicide occurred, and reportedly witnessed this traumatic event.

Two days ago, yet another woman, Merlin Elizabeth Herrera Mejia was found in her home with her throat slashed, and her ex is currently missing and wanted for questioning by the Police. She may have been murdered in front of her four-year-old son.

And there have been many, many more Belizean women murdered before them. Do we even remember their names?

And it’s not just the women who have been murdered…what of those who have killed after experiencing unrelenting abuse and violence, like Nora Parham, Cruzita Godfrey, Melanie Staine, Laverne Longsworth, and most recently, Keyran Tzib.

What help did they get? Who heard their cries? Who refused to help? Who said that “dah man an ooman” business? What physical and mental health assistance did those women get?

Yet, the Minister of National Security is proposing, as his sole contribution to deal with domestic violence in Belize, that women who seek to discontinue domestic violence cases should not be permitted to do so by the State, and should be forced to “mandatory counseling”. Why? Is serious counseling available to women before arrest or trial? Will it be available after? Is any form of protection available to safeguard these women who do proceed to testify at trial?

Why is it always the women/victims who are the ones who have to bear the brunt of the criminal justice system and its disadvantages? In an article on the Amandala about Ms. Mejia, the Deputy Commander of the Southside Belize City Police formation, says that “the situation is being monitored and that the Women’s Department is taking steps to address the troubling issue.”
Don’t you feel safer already?

I have had clients who have been isolated from family and friends and forbidden to make calls; who have endured psychological torture on a sustained basis; being called mule, animal and made to feel utterly worthless, ugly and fat despite being rail thin and model pretty. I have known women who have had to beg for money for food, and even sanitary napkins, while being forbidden to work. I know another woman who was locked inside her home and had to escape by tying a sheet over a concrete third story balcony.

I had a client whose senior policeman husband would play ‘Russian roulette’ with her, and who was dragged by her hair in front of her teacher colleagues out of a nightclub by him. She moved out of her own home, only to find him sitting on the bed in her rented room, and her landlord begged her to go back home to the policeman so he could avoid any reprisal. This same senior police officer told the magistrate in my presence that my client wanted no further action. She finally left, one day, in the middle of the day with only her handbag and the clothes on her back, on a one-way flight out of Belize to safety and has not returned since.

I have physically gone to the home of women, and helped them to move out, only to watch them return – to abuse. And these are but a few, in my 25+ years of practice. And yet, I feel like a failure on the issue of violence against women, despite my advocacy and effort at law reform. One woman who I respect deeply, reminded me today that we are in crisis. In her small community alone, eight women in close proximity to her in the past seven weeks have been the subject of domestic violence. It is endemic.

You know a woman/girl who has been abused in her home. What have you done for her? If you did, did it matter? Can we change our violent culture? Do we want to? Or are we more interested in the juicy art of “shush and yerisoh” and the blood sport of “slut-shaming”?

And that brings us to that recent “sex tape” circulated on Face Book and elsewhere. How many of us watched it, instead of reporting it, sharing it, rating the ‘action’ and the ‘actors’ and commenting salaciously? How many condemned the girl?

What about the bullying/cyber bullying over nude photos of so many Jewelizean girls and women, most recently on the internet and in social media? From the one circulated to shame a female politician in the 80s, to photos of girls being circulated on Instagram, examples abound. Seven years ago, in 2008, nude photos of a young teacher on a website featuring Belizeans “babes” almost cost her job and took me about two weeks of persistent harassment of the web host to remove them. It was not obscenity concerns, but privacy considerations that made them remove the photos, because she had not consented, and we threatened to sue.

In so many ways, nothing has changed. In fact, we have gotten worse. We have new and creative ways, unrelenting in the public gaze, to shame and abuse women and girls.

So now we will have to accept that we are the evil. We are the wrong because we just tacitly accept it. We are silent about it. And no NGO/activist/law will fix this. Please don’t ask ME what to do. Ask what YOU can do, because we must all fix this. Fix this culture of treating our women like flesh to be consumed; like subjects over whom male power can be exercised at will.

I hope we want to change this. I hope. I’m not very optimistic, but I still have some hope.

That brings me to my closing anecdote. I was recently invited to a meeting – one where I sit at the table as an equal among equals. I am infamous at that table for my unvarnished speech and ‘firm opinions’. One misogynist in attendance who has long had “issues” with my facy feminist self, decided it was time to try the feel of his boots on my neck. He called me out on an issue, addressing me in that meeting as “baby” and when I protested, as “honey”. I exploded on his head. You might think it a small thing, but that day I was feeling powerful and at the same time, raw.

Raw from the constant battering that Belizean women get. Raw from being 51 and still being treated like “a girl” when I have earned my adulthood and I am due my rightful dignity. Raw, sick and tired from the constant grind of being a badass to just to survive as a woman in Belize without any visible male protector. And yes, I have survived. Survived and even thrived, in my own way – but at a cost.

To be clear: what I face is nothing at all compared to what my sisters face daily, but that day, it got on my last nerve, as we say and the kraken was released to roar in protest.

Men will continue to try to exercise power over women in the Jewel by whatever means possible – social, political, economic, sexual, religious; because that power is hard to relinquish. It is too hard to stop being a boss when society expects it of you.

As the feminist writer Chimamanda Adichie reminds us, it is not only that women have to raise our girls differently. It is also that we must raise our sons differently, or nothing changes.

Until there is a culture change, women and girls in Belize, indeed in the wider Caribbean, will continue to be force ripe babies, vulnerable to a power dynamic that see us a commodities for consumption in a society that thinks that is normal. And no. It is not. It is not normal. It is not acceptable.

Women are people too – people with dignity, worth and power. Stop trying to “strong” our power away from us, to mash it or beat it out of us. Stop trying to jack our rightful power.

Stop, think, change. Easy to say. Hard to do.

Ed note:

It is beyond an epidemic- it has to change. I dedicate this to the women who have died,  who are suffering and continue to suffer…and especially Earlet

domestic violence

Joseph Sanchez is dead, but who am I? written by: Aria Lightfoot


… I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life.”  Moses

Joseph Sanchez  Murdered cross dresser teen

Joseph Sanchez
Murdered gay teen

Joseph Sanchez is dead but who am I?   Who am I must be the one universal question we have all asked ourselves while staring at the reflection in the mirror staring back at us, mimicking our moves and sending back signals to our brains. We have tacitly accepted the reflected image is actually who we see. Some scientist believe that we would not be able to recognize ourselves if we could actually see ourselves outside of a mirror or picture.   We see a face staring back at us and many times we are left with more questions than answers.  Am I pretty? Am I fat? Why is that flaw so prominent?  Who am I?

Many of us depend on the mirror to help us project the image we consider acceptable or want to share with the world.  Most of us would never leave the house without visiting the mirror for confirmation that we have portrayed the right image.  We take care in what we wear to fit into certain cliques, or professional groups; we look to the mirror to determine our ratio of sexiness or decency; sometimes we want to ensure we are emulating our heroes by copying his or her dress, or hair or make up; we sometimes want to seem intimidating; regal;  sometimes we want to look “fresh” or stand out; but most times we just want to fit in. The way we choose to dress many times gives a glimpse into who we want to be but not necessarily who we are. One thing for sure, we all inhibit some level of insecurity about the image staring back at us, maybe wishing we had the money, or DNA, or will power to change it.  And while the world can see the actual physical manifestation we ourselves cannot see because we can only see it through a mirror or picture;  the world is not privy to our feelings, or thoughts not projected in our physical appearance.

Joseph Sanchez was an 18 -year old gay teenager, barely legal and the same age as my son.  He loved to dance in the Belize Carnivals and did very well in that element. He reportedly preferred to dress in skirts and dresses rather than pants…but think for a minute… so do Scottish men, many men in the Middle East, Africa and India. Here we have a teenager, terrorized by some members of Belize society and then executed. Joseph’s family told the media that he quit school because of numerous death threats and the constant hate he endured. He must have been assaulted on many occasions and decided not to report it. He may have thought his attackers were just another bullying incident he had endured many times.  If being gay was a choice, who would choose to live under such constant threats, terror and judgment? Joseph was said to be mindful of where he went and who he affiliated with and yet he still was subjected to the brutality of a judgmental society gone berserk. Joseph was brutally murdered early Sunday morning January 12, 2014. A knife in his heart sealed his fate.

Growing up I was a tomboy. I loved playing sports. I personally hated dresses because it meant I could not run around and would have to sit properly or risk chastisement. I use to wear my brother’s t-shirts and shorts.  I just cannot imagine that anyone would want to kill me, beat me up or terrorize me because of what I chose to wear. Joseph, a teenager barely into adulthood, digressed from what Belize’s machismo “God fearing” society thought was appropriate dress code and now you hearing the proponents begin to rationalize his murder.  That is disturbing to me.  For those who think that this young man was seeking special rights, then you are clueless about freedom and rights and you have no respect for it.

Freedom does not only encompass your happiness. Let me repeat. Freedom is NOT ONLY ABOUT YOU. Living in a free society means that you will be subjected to images, beliefs, opinions, people and lifestyles you don’t agree with;  things and people you don’t like or support;  but in such a society, the same freedom allows you to equally  live your life as you see fit;  offer controversial and opposing opinions and ideas;  dress in a manner that expresses who you are;  pray as your personal faith dictates;  and be who you want to be,  free from any fear  or terror.  Joseph was never afforded such freedom. The people who chose to rationalize Joseph’s murder are  willing accomplices to his demise. Freedom is in serious peril when we are trapped in ideology.

Joseph Sanchez is today free from all the hate and anger. He is free from fear, he is free from judgment and he has left behind a society that has rationalized their own imprisonment.  There is never, ever a rationalization to kill someone because you disagree or dislike who he or she is.

The Bible thumpers, who continue to quote death verses, consider that God gave Moses ten simple commandments to follow.  Thou shalt not kill was one of the commandments. He did not say thou shalt not kill those I agree with or like. There was no caveat to the commandment. Thou shalt not kill was a commandment handed down by God himself. Yet the self appointed religious leaders and arbiters completely ignore a direct commandment of God and direct their followers to verses in the Bible interpreted by priests who themselves have blatantly ignored and rejected God’s commandment of thou shalt not kill and encouraged their followers to kill in the name of God.

I am completely disgusted with those people in our Belizean society who attempt to rationalize the murder of Joseph or the murder of anyone for that matter and especially those in the LGBT community.  How dare you use God as a foundation for your personal hate?  Joseph was just a kid. He was somebody’s child. He was a fellow citizen and human being and he deserved life and respect even when you disagreed with how he chose to express himself. We are on a slippery slope Belize when we rationalize murder of those we don’t like.

Martin Luther King Jr. said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  When you have lost your empathy for human life, when you rationalize bad behavior, when you have selective morality- don’t be surprised when injustice meets you next.  We need to honor life and investigate death in such a manner to prove that we actually honor life.  We live in a diverse world and only people who believe in acts of genocide, dictatorships and totalitarianism reject the idea of diversity.

You are now at peace Joseph…let those who revel in your death feel the wrath of their own conscience … God please help us find our moral compass because we are lost sheep!