By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
April 29, 2010
Oskie, my perennial nemesis, was mad like hell. He say he ain’t voting for PNM no matter if they kill him so I had to ask him the inevitable question:
“Boy, why so mad at the PNM? Wha’ dey do yo so’?”
“Do me? Is what dey do you?”
Ah begin to tense up. I couldn’t really understand why he chose to jump on me because ah ask him a simple question.
“Wha yo’ mean by dat question,” I ask.
“Is people like you who have Manning and the PNM in dey. Is years now ah talking to you but all yo’ could eat, smell and taste is PNM. Like de monkey bite yo’ in de wrong place.”
Ah didn’t know it had come to dat. I supported PNM faithfully but I had not made any grand declarations about my intentions for the May 24 elections. He was fas’ and otta place to presume how I was going to vote this election.
Ah started to get mad. I rebutted:
“Is true you is ma friend, yo’ know me well, and we go back a long way but you can’t presume to talk for me and make all dem wild accusations.”
“Ok! So yo’ like Manning, right! Why he dump Penny?”
“He ain’t dump Penny. He just say she too old to serve.”
“You see that. You and all talking all that bs.” He used the real words, raw, raw, just so.
“But yo’ didn’t have to cuss me.”
“Ah mus cuss when a sensible man like you talking so much chupidness. Yo’ know you sounding just like yo’ leader.”
Before ah could defend maself, he gone again:
“Tell me, what Penny do him that he treat she so bad?”
Now, he was trying to make me a Manning defender, a position I didn’t want to be put in at all especially in these times when it is difficult to defend Manning.
“Well, I not in Manning head. How ah could tell you why he treat Penny so bad.”
Just to push his buttons a bit, ah snapped:
“Me ah find he treat Penny so bad! All he say is that he want a youth candidate!”
Like he sees stars. He asked:
“Whey you from?”
I thought that was a stupid question but I decided to answer:
“I living Arima.”
“But you ah’ from Arima. You only playing Arimian since you married and gone up dey to live.”
“I just gone up to Arima but ah living in Trinidad and ah could see what Manning do to Penny, and Roberts, and Rowley, and Hines, and Eddie, and Achong….”
Ah had to tell him stop. I blurted out:
“We talking ’bout Penny.
“But you is de one who ask ma what Manning do?
“But we talking about Penny,” I insisted.
“Well let me tell you about Penny since you want to know. First of all Manning say she too old to serve. You hear dat.
“No well kinna. Are you telling me that at forty nine years of age Penny too old to serve; dat she over de hill; that she should be put out to pasture to graze…”
“De man didn’t say all of that. All he say she too old and should give young people a chance.”
He was waiting for me.
“How old is Manning?”
Ah mumbled: “Sixty five but he mature and have experience.”
“Yo’ see de kind of games you and your political leader does play. Penny too old but Manning mature and experienced. I eh know nothing but de feminist thing but all yo does treat woman as though they is dirt.”
Ah couldn’t believe ma ears, hearing that coming from Oskie mouth. Oskie, a man around town to whom the women were so attracted and to whom (that is before he was married) always reciprocated their favors, taking about man treating woman as dirt.
Time was really changing. If Oskie could talk so Manning had wrought a miracle in man. Oskie wasn’t finished.
“Man like you and Manning can’t keep on treating woman so,” he retorted.
“But he choose Lezama. She is a woman and she ent reach thirty yet.”
Ah regret my words from de time they come out of my mouth. Ah know ah make a mistake. Oskie take aim and then come straight at me:
“How much money Lezama get from the government to go an study?”
“Five hundred thousand,” ah say.
“Yo’ lie. She get 800,000 thousand of my money to go and study. But let we leave it at that?”
“Next question. When did she qualify?”
“I ain’t know?”
“Suddenly, yo’ don’t know. Big professor like you but yo’ don’t known.”
In exasperation, I shouted: “I ain’t living by she. How yo’ expect ma to know.”
I realize he was boring down into a region that was uncomfortable and I was trying to defend the indefensible.
“Is man like you who make Manning who he is. He arbitrary; dictatorial; and authoritarian but no matter what he do all yo so always want to support him.”
Ah just couldn’t take the “all yo so.” He was putting me into a category in which I felt uncomfortable. He was making me another Manning “yes man.” I did not belong in there. I treasure my independence, my logical and balanced way of seeing things but he would not stop.
“Just imagine. Two and half years ago we elected this ‘experienced and mature’ politician as you say but without any reason he gone and call election. He ent consult nobody; he ah even care who he hurt in the process but you coming here dis nice morning that God send to tell me about this betrayer of people’s dreams…”
Oskie was going too far for me. Ah had to hit back.
“Not because you like Penny and yo’ work with she father you could come and make all dem stupid charges against Mr. Manning.”
The Mr. Manning bit did not faze him nor, for that matter, did my apparently hurt feelings:
“I ent know about you but this time around don’t even come and ask me to take yo’ to a PNM meeting. I ent’t going. If yo’ speaking on a PNM platform I maself would come an boo yo. And if you vote for PNM yo ah ha no conscience and yo’ just like all of them. Penny was the last straw, the one that broke my back. Ah can’t vote for PNM.”
Ah know my brother had other choice things to say but he left me thinking about the gender inequalities our society condones; the movement away from the representative principle that characterized the early PNM; and the enormous power that had accumulated in the hands of our leader. And I was troubled.
It wasn’t a good feeling but Oskie had given me a lot to think about. Ah almost wanted to tell him “how it heng; is how it go swing,” but didn’t have the courage to tell him so.