Follow the Trace | 'Flagging' a dead horse
It continues to be very surprising and indeed baffling that so many otherwise well thinking Jamaicans have expressed outright disgust, disapproval, and even concern about Kingston College's Ugandan distance runner Ari Rodgers wrapping himself in the Ugandan flag while celebrating his victory in the 5,000-metre event win at the recently concluded ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships.
My personal befuddlement knows no bounds as to what the real or credible issue or issues could conceivable, to justify so many persons having a problem with a 16-year-old youngster domiciled many miles away from his African homeland, competing at Jamaica's epic athletics championships for his new school in his adopted country, and in his moment of triumph, he chooses to parade the flag of the country of his birth. What protocol did he breach? What sensitivities did he offend?
Contrast the possible motives behind this flag pushback by some Jamaicans, against the real-life scenario of Jamaican high schools that compete regularly at the annual Penn Relays in the United States, where Jamaican schools and colleges routinely display and parade the Jamaican flag while celebrating success on the track. How is what Ari Rodgers did differently in principle to what the Jamaican schools do every year at Penn Relays?
The few anaemic reasons actually posited have been laughable. One popular sports analyst has argued vehemently that what Rodgers did with the flag was wrong because it is against "Jamaican culture" and that it was strange because it had never been done before at Champs. Other critics of the actions have opined that it was inappropriate and disrespectful to his new school and an insult to Jamaicans generally. I am still trying to extract some sense out of all that nonsense.
One conspiracy theorist asked me personally why were other non-Jamaicans such Zharnel Hughes, from Anguilla, Delano Williams from the Turks and Caicos Islands; or Jorel Bellafonte, a Cayman Islands national, who were all prominent and popular champs winners, never given their national flags to display at champs? The conclusion of the theory being that Rodgers was given the flag to use to insult all the locals who were against him competing at champs. Again, the rationality of that theory escapes me.
The spectacle of another show-stopping Champs showcase that resonated across the entire globe, with the very best of young Jamaican athletics talent on show, has not been given a fair chance to resonate, as the post-Champs conversation has been dominated by Ari Rodgers' decision to wrap himself in the Ugandan flag.
Jamaicans, from time to time, tend to display a false and exaggerated sense of patriotism when convenient to them. This is yet another such case of overkill.
I have been trying now, without success for several days, to find a rational oasis in the vast desert of nothingness behind this issue. I must admit my failings. Here we go again, basking in our new national pastime of majoring in the minor, while continuing to 'flag' the a dead horse.