Opinion: Simplified truth

POSTED: 09/28/12 12:24 PM

Freedom of expression sometimes requires defending people one strongly disagrees with. On this opinion page, we mainly publish what the Today newspaper stands for. It is not a platform for the promotion of racism and hate mongering – we do not let those sentiments enter our letters to the editor page either.

The opinion Leopold James expresses elsewhere on this page is an old and familiar song. It points to immigration – illegal immigration, that is – as the cause of the crime the island is experiencing. It is a simplified version of the truth, but unfortunately it is one that many people will embrace.

We have a very good reason for hardly ever referring to the nationality of someone who earns a conviction in our Court in First Instance. Labeling convicts with their nationality will give some people reason to think that all people of that nationality are criminals.

According to that reasoning all gypsies are thieves, all black people are lazy and all white people are neo-colonial slave drivers.

If someone makes beautiful paintings and her name is Sylvia X and she comes from, say, Haiti. How do we look at this character? Is she a Haitian, is she a woman, is she (maybe) a lesbian, a mother, a divorcee, or is she a painter? In our world, the correct perception is that Sylvia X is a painter. She could be from anywhere in the world, when everything is said and done, we still admire the paintings she creates.

The same is true for criminals. If somebody murders a tourist, and his name (murderers are seldom women in St. Maarten) is John Y. and he comes from, say, Haiti. How do we look at this character? Leopold James would see him as a Haitian first. Not born here, does not belong here, probably involved in voodoo, and the arguments against the poor immigrant go on and on. But John Y. could be a caring father with nothing to eat, he could be gay for all we care, or he could be a psychotic schizophrenic who did not get the care he needed and then flipped out. Whatever the circumstances, John Y, would be first and foremost a murderer – because he killed somebody.

But if we then consider his nationality (he is not a murderer, he is a Haitian who does not belong here; if he had stayed in his own country he would not have killed someone here – and so on) and then turn this against all Haitians – in Leopold James’ world especially those who had the gall to enter the country illegally – we find ourselves on a slippery slope.

There is simply no evidence to support the notion that all (in this case) Haitians, or Jamaicans, or Chinese, or St. Maarteners – the list is endless, so we’ll stop here – are bad or have criminal tendencies.

In our view the illegal immigrant angle does not make sense, but it serves of course a purpose for those who want to create a sentiment against foreigners on our island – we get that.

What we do not get is why anyone would want to do this. There is no political platform that supports such an approach to our social ills, and that proves that James and people who think like him are a bit like lone wolves in a very big and empty desert. During the 2010 elections the party of Jeffrey Richardson (supported by James) won just 121 votes and that says it all: there is no evidence for the presence of a large grassroots movement as James wants us to believe.

That movement could grow over time of course, but at the moment the overwhelming majority of voters prefers the Friendly Island approach to the get rid of immigrants approach.

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