September 26, 2020

Grenada needs a National Heroes Day not American mimicry


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arley-gillBy Arley Gill From Caribbean360

ST GEORGE’S, , Friday October 10, 2014 – October 25th will be another holiday to commemorate “Thanksgiving Day’’ in . In the October 2nd editorial Caribupdate Weekly, the editor put forward sound reasons why Grenadians should give thanks.

The editor cited our gratitude for surviving natural disasters that have occurred in the month of September and our political upheaval, specifically in October 1983. It made for excellent reading.

However, the designation of October 25th as Thanksgiving Day is a distortion of Grenada’s history, ranking with the notorious claim once taught to us that, “Christopher Columbus discovered the West Indies’’; or “the Caribs were war-like people’’.

The Grenada Thanksgiving Day is nothing more than a mimicry of Americanism. Now, there is no doubt that some Grenadians have good reasons to be thankful for the illegal invasion of Grenada in 1983. The political detainees, of course, are more than justified.

So, I understood Lloyd Noel’s response many years ago when I published an article called “Thanksgiving What’’; as well as Tillman Thomas’ response when, as a member of his cabinet, I suggested that this issue of Thanksgiving Day needs to be reconsidered. Noel and Thomas were imprisoned without trial and regained their freedom with the US invasion.

happy-thanksgivingMoreover, it is conceded that Grenada was politically unstable during ‘83 period and even the new leaders – post-Maurice Bishop – cannot claim to have worked out all the next steps. So, it was uncertain days; there is no question of that. But, how did we make the quantum leap to declaring Thanksgiving Day?

The notion of Thanksgiving Day, no doubt, was taken from the Americans. Thanksgiving Day is a holiday celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November every year. It became an official federal holiday in 1863 when, during the US Civil War, then President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day. This was the first Thanksgiving Day in the modern era.

One can look back to the 1600s when the early peoples celebrated their version of Thanksgiving Day. ‎There are Thanksgiving Days celebrated in other countries like Canada, and India. However, the American Thanksgiving Day must be considered as the “mother’’ of all thanksgivings.

Thanksgiving in the US is even considered bigger than Christmas Day to the Americans. It means so much to the history and culture of Americans. It goes a long way in galvanizing the American people. It inspires a nation and it brings out the best of America. Can we say the same for Grenada?

Apart from the fact that our nationals are glad for another holiday, there is clearly no national fervour for Thanksgiving Day in Grenada. Outside of the small official ceremony, which includes a church service on October 25th, nothing really happens. It does absolutely nothing for the healing of the nation; the psyche of our people and our citizens certainly does not engage in thanksgiving.

It is my respectful view that October 19th be declared “’’ to replace this misnomer of a Thanksgiving Day. I propose October 19th because it was on that day, a Grenadian Prime Minister died along with other leaders of our country in 1983.

October 19th is our national tragedy, unlike the 25th which, essentially, is the commemoration of a foreign power invading our country. In other words, there should be a paradigm shift in our consciousness as a people; the shift should give rise to more introspection than the “out-trospection’’, which Thanksgiving Day provides.

National Heroes Day is not just an occasion to focus on the 1979-83 Revolution and its senseless demise on October 19th. It is a significant day in our history which should not be ignored and should be used as a convenient date to focus on men and women who gave so much to this beautiful island of ours.

It should shine the spotlight on all of our National Heroes, beginning with the Kalinago peoples who fought heroically to defend against the colonization of our country in 1651.

Then, there are other heroes like Julien Fedon, Buzz Butler,T. A. Marryshow, Eric Gairy, Dame Hilda Bynoe, Slinger Francisco (Sparrow),Maurice Bishop, Junior Murray, and Kirani James. I guess the debate about our heroes will continue; and I expect structures will be put in place for nationals to ultimately decide who our national heroes are.

This National Heroes Day should be a focal point for the awakening of the consciousness of a nation. All schools – primary, secondary and tertiary – must give essential teaching time to Grenadian history and its people. I am advocating serious learning – not a mere mention.

It is my considered view, that the most important sector of the new economy is the, “consciousness of our people’’. It is that consciousness that will truly transform our economy. It is this consciousness – not public sector reform – that will change public servants’ attitude to work.

It is this consciousness – not labour negotiations – that will change our workers’ attitude to punctuality and productivity. It will make us fully aware of the reasons we pay taxes; it will make us more appreciative of our visitors; and it will be the catalyst in transforming the tourism sector and not merely looking to a new hotel or additional flights.

National consciousness and awareness are what will ignite and motivate our people to national development. Further, our relative underdevelopment is not merely because of economy of scale and lack of serious natural resources, or our exploitative colonial past; yes, they are all contributing factors. But, I proffer that the axis for our underdevelopment is the lack of a national consciousness.

A National Heroes Day will go a long way in refocusing our people and our attitude to national development.

Arley Gill The views expressed in this column are solely those of Arley Gill. Arley Gill, a lawyer and magistrate, is a former Grenada minister of culture.

IMAGE: happy-thanksgiving Arley Gill

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