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Belizean To The Bone

Belizean To The Bone
March 08
14:14 2019

By Osmany Salas

I finally published my position on how I will vote on Referendum Day. (I wrote about why I will vote “Yes” in the February 27 and March 3, 2019, issues of The Reporter.)

The reactions to my article have been mixed, ranging from full support and appreciation to complete disagreement with my views.

This was my favourite comment:
“I like (your) conclusion because instead of making me feel obligated to Vote YES, you made me feel even more responsible to do further research which is exactly what I plan to do over the next couple weeks.”

Some readers who have disagreed with me have been quite cordial and respectful, stating things like: “I concede that this is a well written article, however, I do not support your opinion. Respectfully.”

One of my friends who has always had and still has a strong “No” position nevertheless commented: “Thanks for the invitation to comment. It’s a well written and well thought out piece.”

I also received comments such as:

“I’m disappointed but not surprised,” and

“It again (Part 1) is an emotional call (like the No’s use) and a male puffing of the breast. No need for it.”

That is fine. There is no way that everyone can agree with my views or how I express them. What world would we live in if everyone agreed all the time? We must value and encourage dissent and argument. I am happy that I live in a country like Belize where for the most part we are free to express our views. Diversity of opinion is healthy for a developing country like Belize. We must do all we can to encourage and cherish that.

I draw the line where the vicious and personal attacks begin. The following comments about me from the Facebook post of a supposed “friend” is a case in point:

  • “He takes off his gloves caring less if blood spills…,”
  • “Using his bully pulpit … to subdue the will of the people,”
  • “Wolves in sheep clothing,”
  • “Shamefully recruited by GOB,”
  • “Has been paid off and filled his pockets,”
  • “He doesn’t care,” and alarmingly
  • “These traitors IF were in any other country in the end would pay with their Lives!!”

These types of vicious comments have discouraged many good-thinking and fair-minded Belizeans from joining the public discourse on the very important issue of whether we should take Guatemala’s territorial claim to the ICJ or not. Such comments also sow confusion, which has been the intention of those I consider to be rabid and merciless “No” proponents. But not all

“No” proponents are cut from the same cloth.

One such proponent who comes to mind is my good friend, Wil Maheia, from the Belize Territorial Volunteers. Wil is one of the first persons I contacted to inform that I decided to vote “Yes”. Wil and I go way back, and he helped me to organize my visit to the Sarstoon River and Gracias a Dios on November 10, 2018. I wouldn’t have had it any other way, and I will do it again when I have the chance.

I wrote to Wil as follows:
“My brother. I wanted you to be among the first to know that I finally publicized my position on the ICJ. I will vote Yes. I hope that this does not affect our mutual respect for each other. I admire your patriotism and tenacity. That won’t change. We both love this country, but I just have a different opinion than you about how to move forward in relation to the unfounded Claim. I hope we can continue to collaborate…”

Wil responded in his characteristic brotherly way:
“It’s all about respect my brother. I respect you and you do the same. No love lost. #belizeanstothebone.”

We are Belizeans to the bone. We can agree to disagree because, after all is said and done, we will be right here in Belize come April 11th regardless of the outcome of the Referendum. It will be up to all of us who live in the jewel to demand better leadership, and to keep fighting for improved responses to the dire crime and economic situation in which Belize finds itself.
Whichever way the vote goes, our territorial challenges will not be solved overnight. I believe the challenge will be even greater if we do not get rid of Guatemala’s territorial claim.

I urge all Belizeans to get involved in the public discourse about the Claim and the upcoming Referendum. You do not have to do this on social media because that is where the attacks are most vicious. There are so many other ways to participate. A few examples include:

Attend an informative forum or listen to it on the internet if available;

Set up a book club and discuss one or more of the relevant books on the topic; and

Organize your own talk session with friends, co-workers, neighbours, and/or family.

Hard as it may be in the current atmosphere of flared emotions, try to keep the discussions civil. It is only so that we will be able to see a clear path forward. After all, we are all Belizeans to the bone.

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