Jamaica and the US: Two reasons to celebrate July 4


Jamaica and the US: Two reasons to celebrate July 4

Friday, July 03, 2020

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Tomorrow, July 4, Jamaica and America will mark two anniversaries that, while not similarly expansive in how they are celebrated, represent significant occurrences in our histories.

In our case, we will observe the 127th anniversary of the birth of National Hero Norman Washington Manley.

Mr Manley, who was born in Roxborough, Manchester, was a top athlete at Jamaica College, a soldier who served in the First World War, lawyer, and advocate. He co-founded the People's National Party (PNP) and served as its first president (1938-1969). He was also premier of Jamaica from 1955 to 1962 and played a significant role in our country's achievement of political independence in 1962.

In recognition of his sterling contribution to Jamaica, the Palisadoes Airport in Kingston was renamed in his honour; the law school on the Mona Campus of The University of the West Indies bears his name; his remains are interred at National Heroes Park with a fitting monument; and the main road through Negril carries his name, given that it was he who opened up that area to tourism.

It took the country a long time, but eventually a museum to keep alive his memory was established at Roxborough. But even before that, Jamaicans would gather there for a commemoration ceremony each year.

This year, given the COVID-19 pandemic, we don't expect that much, if anything, will be held at Roxborough, and even if there is a function the number of people attending will be limited in keeping with COVID-19 protocols.

That, however, should not prevent us from reflecting on Mr Manley's contribution to Jamaica's development, his firm commitment to service above self, and his role in the attainment of self-government for Jamaica.

Indeed, having declared that as the mission of his generation, he famously stated in his final address to the PNP that he was proud to say “with gladness and pride: Mission accomplished”.

Views will vary as to whether we have been successful in accomplishing the mission he gave the generation following him to reconstruct the country's social and economic structures. What we can say without fear of being challenged is that in both areas a lot has been done to improve our circumstances, but many silly political and economic decisions have been taken in the past that set us back.

Our task, therefore, is to ensure that we do not, again, venture down that road to ruin.

In the case of our friends in the US, the COVID-19 pandemic will dampen the celebration of their 244th anniversary of independence. Given the spread of the virus, people are being urged to stay home instead of gathering in large groups to mark the occasion.

That, as one news media puts it, “sounds almost un-American”. But that is the grim reality of a society gripped by a virus that has already infected more than 2.7 million people there and killed over 128,000.

Leaders in many US cities are grappling with how to honour Independence Day while being forced, because of the coronavirus, to limit some of the freedoms so deeply coveted by their citizens.

Hopefully, Americans will see this as an opportunity for introspection, especially given the race tensions that are threatening to tear the country apart.

Maybe the best birthday present the American people can give themselves is a firm commitment to equality and justice without discrimination.

That said, we wish the US, which is home to many, many Jamaicans, a happy birthday.

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