Orville Taylor | Fish or foul: It’s sauce for the gander
The elected member of parliament (MP) used his privileged position to shoot a verbal spear gun in the direction of his colleague in the House. Either the target ducked or the aim of the shooter was not as straight as he would have wanted but the missile did exactly what the homophonic first part of the word did and the youngster came back with such eloquence that the farmer was planted as firmly in his place as the crops he routinely packs with animal dung.
Veteran Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) MP JC Hutchinson was the sniper and young Georgian Raymond Pryce seemed to be in his crosshairs. “I am no fish in here!” declared JC, and it started a firestorm, which would not be quenched by the aquatic habitat of the organism. A hapless JC tried to spin himself out of his dilemma by drawing a reference to the size and stature difference between fish and whales, suggesting that he was once a fish and now graduated in his parliamentary standing into a whale.
Of course, only the first part of the analogy made any sense, because a whale is a mammal and the two family of animals don’t even breathe in the same way, much less breed. In any event, the largest fish is the whale shark, which can reach 10 metres in length and 19,000 kilograms in weight. It is larger than the orca and several whale species, including the bowhead whale but it is smaller than the sperm and humpback varieties.
Anyway, in response, Pryce as with his homonym in Jamaica never went down and smoothly deflected the reference like a light blue whale, mixing in the symbol of the early church, the fish, with images of Jonah who was living in the belly of a big fish. Like Hutchinson, he must have skulked biology and perhaps scripture class, because the Bible did not say whale and even the fish-eating sperm whale does not have a throat deep enough to swallow a man.
It was July 2012 and there seems to be something about years with the number two, because here again in the second month of the year 2020, there is another water storm over the campaign by the People’s National Party (PNP) to win the second of two Portmore seats. Incumbent the JLP’s Alando Terrelonge, who gave the boot to the PNP’s Arnaldo Brown for the East Central St Catherine constituency in 2016, seemed to be the target of swipes, which could be interpreted as anti-gay.
Seeking to regain the seat, the PNP convened a meeting in the constituency to introduce psychiatrist Dr Winston De la Haye, who they hope is a front-runner in the polls. North Clarendon MP Horace Dalley, whose name sounds like the action of wavering from side to side, declared that his party was not a winding road. The “PNP straight, we nuh bend up bend up.”
Notably, unlike JC’s bumbling quips, the utterances were made in a public forum and thus do not have the latex covering of parliamentary privilege. Therefore, unless there is hard and irrefutable evidence regarding a person’s character, it is actionable. Moreover, Terrelonge is an attorney. More interestingly, the very erudite senior counsel, MP Mark Golding, somehow caught up in the ‘histeria’, jumped on the train and tooted, “Terrelonge, when him see the straightness of the man who’s coming against him, will be wobbling and shaking in his boots…”
Doubtless, the lawyers can argue about what Golding meant. Given the myriad scandals which have plagued the present administration and the crookedness relating to Petrojelly and the Caribbean Maritime University, the ‘straightness’ of the good doctor might be what was being referred to. However, the wobbling in boots is a hard reference to bypass.
So, facing a backlash, the PNP has apologised for the perceived anti-gay references. Now, if the intention of the speakers was to create innuendoes over the sexuality of their opponent, they have no moral authority to do so, because what was sauce for the gander then is sauce for the gander now. It is no different if the victim is a head or bell; one cannot back the fist over the ‘V’ when wrong is wrong.
This is 21st-century Jamaica and unlike the 1980s and 1990s when one could get away with songs which chant, ‘nasty gyal fi get lick,’ ‘affi get yu body even by gunpoint’ and ‘maama man fi dead,’ politicians and other public figures are under great pressure to be sensitive. It might have been funny to some when Edward Seaga threw shades against his political rival P.J. Patterson, declaring that apart from his own vim, vigour and vitality, there was no one calling him any boom bye bye. In retort, on one of the very few occasions that P.J.’s tongue was drawn, he seemed to feel backed into a declaration that his reputation as a heterosexual was impeccable.
Yet, the silver lining there is that, even if there were a ‘chichiman’ cloud over the comrade leader’s head, it did not cause any electile malfunction or prevent him beating Seaga repeatedly. Indeed, elections have been very kind to many candidates, who the public says are gay. This therefore turns the homophobic grand narrative about this country on its head.
Nevertheless, let me ask a simple question. If the argument by gay advocates is that being homosexual, though ‘sinful’ and ‘anti-biblical’, is just another type of ‘normal’, why would it be an insult or reputational damage if one is called gay?
Finally, on a lighter but serious note, MP Dayton Campbell referred to Terrelonge as a “fake Rasta.” When I saw him last, the locks looked real or at least 90 per cent hair. However, unless he sights up Rastafari and declares the divinity of Selassie I, he is indeed not a genuine Ras although he might wear the cloth.
- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.