Talking the truth about history

By Carlton A Gordon

Thursday, June 06, 2019

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The popular Saturday morning Nationwide Radio programme Talking History, with Professor Verene Shepherd, was dramatically and comprehensively upstaged on Tuesday of this week, in a manner of speaking, when west Kingston Member of Parliament Desmond McKenzie and popular radio talk show host/historian Jerry Small sought to set the historical record straight concerning controversial aspects of the life and times of the late former Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga — both from their authoritative, well-informed, personal, and professional perspectives.

They also appeared with eminent journalist/political commentator/talk show host Cliff Hughes, on Nationwide Radio's Cliff Hughes on Line. Hughes, as usual, asked the tough questions of McKenzie, who was first on the programme.

Was it true, for example, that it was the People's National Party's Norman Manley who conceptualised and secured funds (from US President Kennedy) to establish Tivoli Gardens? This was the view earlier stated on the programme by a regular caller, who seemingly supports the People's National Party (PNP), known as John.

And what about the popular line, often promoted by PNP supporters, and attributed to Seaga without explanation or context:”Blood for blood... and fire for fire”?

An emotional Desmond McKenzie categorically denied and dismissed the former and sought to explain and contextualise the latter, even as he acknowledged that, “None of us is perfect,” including Seaga.

He indicated clearly that for all the good Seaga did, and his positive inputs and impact on every aspect of Jamaica's development, his name and extraordinary legacy should not and will not be allowed to be tarnished, by short-sighted and/or malicious persons, and certainly not just for partisan political reasons.

It was riveting radio.

It became even more so when the 70-year-old Jerry Small joined Cliff Hughes on the air, after McKenzie left. He was not there to demonise or speak evil of anyone; just to present the facts, according to his personal knowledge and experience. Hence, his confidence in the accuracy and reliability of his observations/statements, which he encouraged everyone to corroborate for themselves.

In response to questions from Hughes, he proceeded to outline, in stark detail, how Norman Manley, Alexander Bustamante, the Jamaica Labour Party, the PNP, the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, and some colonial and post-colonial authorities were intertwined and worked together at various points before many took on roles of “deceiving and being deceived”.

Former allies and defenders became enemies, and opportunistic attackers and counter-attackers all being able to “give as good/as much as they got”. Hence the promise/threat of “blood for blood and fire for fire” followed by the alleged introduction of guns into Jamaica by returning former World War II participants. This was followed eventually by “trailer loads” of guns and ammunition.

It was riveting and interesting history on radio.

Commendations to Cliff Hughes and Nationwide Radio. I believe the programme also served to make the point that, as with Edward Seaga's life, his death has come with special, unique opportunities to adjust some of our historical records and, perhaps for the “first time at last”, really face and deal not only with the whole truth about Messrs Seaga, Manley, but with the real truth about ourselves, as individuals, and as a nation.

Hopefully, with Seaga's connection to Revivalism and religion, including Christianity, we may even be able to see and use resulting opportunities to learn/understand that in religious/spiritual matters what is really important is not whether we are wrong or right, but the quality of our personal relationships and connection with our Creator, and the extent to which we are faithful to what we understand and believe that we are seen to “practice what we preach”.

With the relatively candid acknowledgements and revised revelations following Seaga's transition, I am actually now daring to visualise a time in Jamaica, perhaps not long from now, when as a people, more of us will be prepared to face and acknowledge the liberating truth about the many false gods we have served, versus the true identity of our Heavenly Father, who, by the way “is spirit and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth”.


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