Homer Davis's odyssey

Homer Davis's odyssey


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

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The Odyssey is a poem attributed to the ancient poet Homer, which focuses on the 10-year journey of the King of Ithaca back to his homeland after the fall of Troy. There were many things that happened along that epic journey. The journey today is recognised as the trip of a lifetime in which many salient lessons in life are learnt. Thus, a person can set out on his own odyssey.

It might not take 10 years to learn important lessons of self. Today, in Montego Bay, it would seem that one by the name of Homer has been on such a personal odyssey concretised in his contortions regarding gay rights.

The immediate matter is that of a Montego Bay Pride group being refused the use of Montego Bay Cultural Centre for an event regarding same-sex marriage. The mayor, Homer Davis, along with the St James Municipal Corporation, had refused them permission to do so. The mayor seems to believe that allowing the event to take place would defile a sacred space, suggesting that gay events are inherently evil, or at any rate unchristian. Inevitably, the matter has ended up in the courts. The Supreme Court issued an interim injunction for the group to use the facility. This ruling has been overturned by the Appeals Court on the technicality that an application should have been made to the municipal corporation by the gay group and it wasn't.

But the issue at hand is certainly not the technicality but opposition to homosexuality and same-sex marriage. This subject represents a personal odyssey for many Jamaicans, especially those directly affected by it in the homosexual community. It is an issue with which the nation still struggles, a journey on which many have not yet come to a fork in the road to take a definitive position. Certainly not the Church, which is still terribly conflicted on how to treat with the gay community.

In fact, the greatest support for the mayor's position has come from members of the Church. In Jamaica's divided church reality it must be noted that those who seem to have an interest in the matter are largely drawn from the evangelical/pentecostal, conservative wings of the Church. One has not seen any commentary from the so-called mainline, liberal denominations, which may suggest some division among Jamaican Christians on the issue of homosexuality.

To the extent that this is so, it is a sad commentary on an institution that should provide its members, and society in general, with the moral clarity that is needed on the subject. It is not enough to say that homosexuality is a sin on the basis of what the Bible says while at the same time ignore the redeemed reality and compassion of the Lord Jesus Christ to the marginalised, the dispossessed, and the downtrodden. You may not agree with homosexuality or same-sex marriage, but it cannot be Christian social justice to deny a set of citizens the use of a public space on the basis that you do not agree with them.

The selective morality that we practise in Jamaica is astounding. On the one hand, we will consign homosexuals to hell, while on the other we remain silent on child trafficking, corruption in high places, and a host of other abominations to which we turn a blind eye. The gays will no more defile the MoBay civic centre than any other group that sees itself as the arbiter of all that is good but which often indulge the worst proclivities of which humans are capable.

You can spare me the hate mail and incendiary hate blogs. What I believe in is every Jamaican citizen's right to use a public space so long as they subscribe to the canons of decency and public order in the use of such space. Mayor Davis and his municipality colleagues as public servants have no right to be moral policemen determining who may or may not defile a public space. You may not agree with the gay community and what they stand for.

You may be repulsed by their sexual orientation, but in a democratic and free society, every taxpayer must be treated fairly. If we do not live by this principle, we may very well witness the erosion of the very foundations of our democracy. Today it is the gay pride group, tomorrow the Lions club. If the Rotary Club wanted to host a forum in the civic centre relating to gay marriage, would they have been prevented from using the facility? Just asking. The bottom line has to be that gays in Jamaica are taxpayers themselves, and it is an assault on them when you seek to abrogate their rights to free speech by denying them such fundamental and basic rights as the use of a public space.

This week we are celebrating the lives and legacies of our heroes and heroine who fought for the rights and dignity of all Jamaicans. This is a good time for us to reflect on the rights of all Jamaicans. We must all be heroes, heroines, and champions of the rights of all Jamaicans, whatever their race, class, or sexual orientation. If we fail to do this, then any official statement from our leaders about the rights of citizens can only be described as mealy-mouthed platitudes echoed from Mount Everest. If it is not really for all Jamaicans, we would have failed the test of truth and moral probity.

One wonders where the eloquent Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck is on this matter. He often speaks loudly, and sometimes naively, on matters of public import, such as the arrest of public servants or belching out inanities regarding paternity leave. Allow me to just say quickly here, Minister Chuck, that not all Jamaican men are deadbeat dads not deserving of paternity leave. I would have wished to have had even one month's leave with my wife at home when my kids were born. But this has to be a subject for another time.

But you have been studiedly silent on this matter of the MoBay Pride event. As justice minister it would be helpful to hear your voice on it, but, of course, you will demur on the basis that it is before the courts. Yawn!

We never win, but I trust that the best judgements will prevail in the direction of justice, fairness, and the respect of the rights of all Jamaicans to free assembly.

Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest and social commentator. Send comments to the Observer or stead6655@aol.com.

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