This is my land, my native land
Stabroek News
November 9, 2001

Dear Editor,

"Breathes there a man with soul so dead, who never to himself has said: "This is my land, my native land".

Sir Walter Scott

So much has already been written and said about the Guyanese family who appeared recently on the internationally broadcast Oprah Winfrey Show. They had migrated to the United States a decade and a half ago and they were there to illustrate why God should bless America.

Nothing wrong with that:

Oprah's programme, we need to understand, was designed to further stimulate pro American sentiments and lift American morale in the wake of the physical and other damage caused by the events of September 11. It is clearly critical for America to reassert that it is the only superpower and that its people are better off than people in other parts of the world.

Oprah sensibly chose her guests. She needed people who were willing, not only to sing the praises of that great land of the free and great home of the brave, but, to discuss negatively and, as dramatically as possible, the land of their birth. To her credit, she discovered this Guyanese family willing to share with the world their experiences of sleeping on rice bags on the floor.

It was also, on their part, an opportunity to secure their own presence in America and a not too thinly veiled attempt to establish, in the eyes of their neighbours and other Americans, distance from the type responsible for those September 11 events.

It was a shameless display, a display that should have offended the senses of all who call Guyana 'home'. It should have provoked annoyance and disgust.

Of course all of us lament the state of our nation and each of us sheds a tear each day at the apparent hopelessness in which we exist. Still there is that disgust we all feel at the performance of that family. It is that common feeling that could bring us together.

Disappointing, then, that the Head of State, the Head of Government, the Commander-in-Chief allowed the politician in him to express his thoughts. Asked about the comments, he suggested that the migrant family might have been discussing conditions before the PPP/Civic administration.

It is an attitude that provokes some questions. Have the members of that family not heard of the spectacular improvements which have taken place since the dawn of democracy in 1992? Has the President not noticed the mass migration and the massive amounts some are willing to pay since 1992 to escape from those improvements?

The fact is that the disgusting comments from a misguided family should not be the opportunity to seek to score cheap political points.

Good for the family that they have discovered Utopia and have been given citizenship of a country without crime, without poverty, without discrimination and without fault.

The audience at the Oprah Winfrey Show would have cheered at the recognition of the greatness of their country. The family should know, though, that there are others in that community who still resent people like them being there, who could only see them as parasites and blood suckers who have come to their country to live off of the blood and sweat of those who had built it.

May God bless those who have slept on rice bags, who have graduated from that experience, who have made massive contributions within Guyana and without, whose navel strings are buried here and who still call Guyana 'home'.

Yours faithfully,