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Open Letter to New Hero Richard Thompson

"Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it." George Bernard Shaw

I hate to ‘beat a dead horse’, or 'rain on the parade’of our new sporting hero, Silver Medal Olympian Richard Thompson. As I have indicated before our country loves you, appreciate your sacrifice and hope that you can now be an inspiration to our many young that are devoid of structure and support that encourages hope. It is not over as yet, so I expect that both you and our other athletes will continue the noble work to keep the Red ,White and Black flag flying in China. It was however the recent Guardian headlines that drew my attention and forced me to revisit this issue. Hopefully,my letter will help shape your young mind as you contemplate how best you can use this success for yours and that of the nation’s benefit, long after the hoopla of the T&T styled grandiose celebrations are over. It read “Shabby Treatment of Crawford in Beijing,” Crawford forgotten in China.”

Could you believe that our country’s Olympic Ambassador and sole national Olympic gold medalist had to be accredited as a member of the St Vincent and the Grenadines team so as to join the T&T Olympic contingent in China? Can you believe that protocols were so screwed up that no one met him in the airport, nor had the decency to book a respectable hotel room for the man “that made us feel “right on top of the world,” in 1976 because of his spectacular achievement? All that “the fastest human in the whole, wide world,” wanted to do was to be near to Bird Nest Stadium ,to offer support and encouragement to you and other nationals in your collective quest to do our nation proud. Instead, the 58 year old former “flash a lightening,” -that in 76 had our “people bawling” and “shouting” gold!” - had to contend with an obscure hotel somewhere in down town smoggy China,where eating risky foods might have contributed to his “feeling under the whether,” as indicated by the papers.
I am sure that the Grand Master Lord Kitchener, Soca pioneer Maestro, and the late Father of the nation Dr. Williams,might be turning over in their respective graves at this moment as they see how the richest country in the Caribbean treats its heroes. Sparrow today is probably shaking his head in consternation as his old country of birth Grenada had to save the day and do honor to our national hero.

Richard, as I said- in case some fool misinterprets what I am trying to do – enjoy all the accolades when it’s your moment in the sun. However do not hesitate to make some demands that hopefully would change the mindset of our country, and its leaders. In case you forget, no country on earth can celebrate or hold a party like yours. Remember,that every conceivable Carnival celebration in the world was created by a Trinidadian or obtain most of its inspiration from your people and country. However, we have certain flaws that need working on, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Part of it has to do with our cosmopolitan makeup, the other with our acquisition of vast natural resources and so wealth, the last is that we are quite lucky to escape most major national crisis that other less fortunate countries endured.We therefore sometimes lack a distinctive national identity and a genuine patriotic mindset outside of the narrow parameters of Carnivals festivals . Our social leaders, intellectuals, and various broad based elites at home and abroad, are not bad people as such, but many have capitalized on and exploited this prevailing phenomenon for their own advantage. So as such they evaluate themselves by other countries standards or achievements , ignore history, conveniently misinterpret basic differential cultural nuances and fail to appreciate the very thing that makes them unique and wonderful people with common global challenges.
Take for example our Steel pan and our Carnival. Outside of perhaps Brazil, no country in the world-irrespective of how they mimic-can put on as beautiful a show, but your country leaders take it for granted. Instead of showcasing ,and fully exploit it globally , most only offer occasional lip service once per year. Now Jamaica, Barbados and I guess Guyana are become true rivals, which I might add is not a terrible development in and of itself as it bring us closer together, create jobs and showcase the Caribbean spirit of togetherness even for a short period.
The steel pan is the only musical instrument invented in the 20th century, and a global wonder to behold especially when administered by our vibrant youths , many from very poor and dispossessed communities. Yet, no musical scholarship for the young that make the sacrifices to bring the music to our ears, whether from Nelson Street Secondary or Success Lavantille Secondary. No full national recognition for local heroes in those communities that teach the art form , or worthwhile governmental support for the people in similar areas. Instead they get the blame as perennial looses, totally dependent on government. They are accused for every conceivable crime in the country, and those fortunate like yourself that lift themselves up , are denounced as lacking inspirational and mentoring qualities that can aid others still stuck at the bottom.

Now you were not around when Hasely Crawford was our hero back then in 76. Let me tell you, it was spectacular as “money was no problem,” for sweet T&T , beneficeries of OPEC’s global blackmail and financial windfall. The man had three Calypsos made in his honor Richard for a start. You might not know any of them today due to the heavy influence of Bunji , Marchel and Iware on the airways .He was our Minister of Sports, national award recipient,motorcades were given,and several BWIA planes were named after him . It is not the money, as I am sure that Hasley could have afforded his own passage or find accommodations, and even some sponsor for such purpose. It is however a principle matter on how we treat local heroes – especially those of color-when time has elapse.
We are indeed a paradox and would postrate forever before perennial ingrates such as V.S Naipaul even if he would wish that fellow twin Republic citizens could all sink into the bottomless pit of our world famous Pitch Lake in La. Brea. I can assure you however , if Naipaul was a Jamaican like Bolt your strongest rival, and failed to commend his country of birth like Naipaul did upon obtaining his Nobel Prize for Literature, you can well imaging what would have resulted.He would be made ‘persona non grata,’ his family possibly deported or ostracized ,along with any of the apologist that defends his obvious non- patriotic behaviors. Fortunately you are not cut from similar ilk, and for this too we are grateful.
Do remember to heed my admonition , and continue to do our country proud. We love and cherise you in addition to all your fellow athletes – whether successful or not. Remember, we want to replicate this success and hopefully see many more like your self long into the future . If sports can keep our listless youths busy , healthy and hopeful, it can mean a few less unwanted pregnancy , suicides, and crimes. If it can aid in bringing us together with pride that it is a small price to pay as an investment. Again, it is time for an academy , good funding ,governmental and business prioritization at the embryonic stages of youth development ,as that is the difficult part. The easy part is the celebration , that comes later or the ability to irnore you , so as to let you fall into obscurity some thirty years later like Crawford and similar heroes.
I wish you well.

Trinidad and Tobago News

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