N Touch
Saturday 21 September 2019
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Letters to the Editor

Pastelles and Parang indeed

THE EDITOR: Xenophobia is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries” — an ethos that’s become acceptable in the public discourse in countries all over the world. TT, never content with being left out, has accepted the hand-wringing, panic and fear that have weaselled their way into polite conversation as a legitimate and understandable perspective.

The irony should not be lost on us. Consider the periods of mass emigration of the 1970s and 1980s to New York City, Toronto, Miami and other Caribbean hubs from our shores on the hunt for “a better life,” whatever that may be. I dare say that among our vast diaspora numbers, a bit of investigation will reveal Trinidadians and Tobagonians legal and illegal, law-abiding and criminal.

Our own deportee class should serve as a reminder that we, too, can behave badly both at home and far from it. One cannot help but wonder — overall MAGA sentiment notwithstanding — whether citizens in those spaces have so specifically and loudly called for our particular removal.

This should give context to what can be considered a stunning lack of understanding of TT’s unique and honestly unenviable position, a mere nine miles from the shore of an unavoidably contentious situation.

Caught between a rock and a hard place, we must accept the reality that people will do and move as they feel they must, and, therefore, our best recourse is to arm ourselves with knowledge: knowledge of who’s coming and who’s going. Who are these people we so fear? What threat do they represent to us? Are these threats, in fact, founded?

I stared at my phone, bemused, scrolling through social media comments on the National Security Minister’s press conference. The nuts and bolts of what is clearly a research exercise and short-term measure did not include anything particularly triggering to those of us still reliant on the Government of TT for a myriad of services.

Comments ranged from unfounded and unproven fears of being passed over for HDC housing, jobs and social assistance to the more troublesome assumptions that registering these apparently “strange” people somehow meant fewer resources to protect ourselves.

As if crime, both organised and petty, were some alien concept to us. As if the migration pattern northward from South America were new. As if our southern neighbour were suddenly alien to us, with our Venezuelan cultural and social influence being at the forefront of some of our most cherished and long-held customs.

Pastelles and parang, indeed.

Paul Fuentes via e-mail

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Letters to the Editor