By Hudson George
October 25 will remain a national holiday in Grenada but it will never really reflect the true meaning in Grenadian history. The US invaded Grenada on October 25, 1983, and that was seven days after the execution of Maurice Bishop and some of his close comrades in a palace coup, but it has become a part of the Grenadian culture to forget important events that took place in the past and, with that mentality, the vast majority of citizens do not care anything about those who died, regardless of the circumstances. And with that sort of negative attitude towards our historical past, there is a possibility that history can repeat itself again.
Hudson George has a BA in Social Science from York University, Toronto, Canada. He has been writing since his early teenage years and now contributes letters and articles to a number of Caribbean newspapers
For most Grenadians, history is not important and they try pretending as though they do not have any hero. They refused to pay respect to individuals who did a lot of good things for the country and are now deceased. They are only concerned about persons who are making a good contribution to country presently. And they have no problem giving those persons some respect during their lifetime existence. However, when those important persons die, it is expected there will be big funeral, because Grenadians like to go to funerals and enjoy a good time in what is referred to as Happy Hour Fete that usually takes place after the burial, and few months later nobody remembers the good contribution the dead person made in society.
Unfortunately, this kind of don’t care negative attitude towards our history and national heritage is very shameful and sad, and it seems as though some Grenadians only care about their history when there is political mileage to gain from it. For example, the rush to rename the international airport after Maurice Bishop was a political move made by a political faction within the NDC government. Today this faction is no longer a part of the government. And what makes the whole thing look fishier; that political faction is not interested in paying any respect to those Grenadians who died in the power struggle fight on October 19, 1983, even though Maurice Bishop was executed on that day.
In addition, although it is very common to hear the elder citizens talk about their great Grenadian freedom fighters whom they love and admire, with deep feelings of national pride, yet still, there is no heroes square in the country, where the Grenadian children can visit to learn about their history at an early age and to see images of those who had great influence on our political past. There are no statues of Julien Fedon, Henri Christophe, Uriah Butler, Eric Gairy, Maurice Bishop and Bernard Coard, even though these men’s names will always be mentioned in Grenada’s history, whether some of us like them or not.
However, there are people from other countries who are very much interested in Grenada’s political history and the role those Grenadians political leaders played in Caribbean politics. And yet still, with so much important history in Grenada, nothing has been done to create heroes square, or a historical park. There is no special historical building in the country where visitors can go to get a lecture about the violent political eras that are a part of Grenada’s history.
Presently in this Grenadian culture, most rituals of the past are not being practiced anymore. Young people are growing up today in a society where they do not expect to go through any rituals. The majority of parents today are cutting their male child’s hair before the age of five, whereas in the past four and five decades ago, it was very common in our culture to see little boys with long plaited hair until they reach the age of five, before they get their first haircut.
The cutting of a little boy’s hair used to take place on the Sunday just before he was ready to attend infant school and it used to be something similar to a birthday party, when family and friends gathered together to celebrate the little boy’s first haircut, and usually they will kill a goat and make a big feast, with music playing and locals interacting an a friendly atmosphere. And young men and women in the village who have singing talent used to come and sing as part of the celebration activities. Now we have almost lost that culture in Grenada. We are more interested in petty politics that lead to political tribalism and hatred.
Additionally, I lived in Grenada throughout the entire year 2007, and I experienced the October 25th, Remembrance Day Celebration for the first time, and I realise that the vast majority of Grenadians do not care too much about the significance of the national holiday. I observed most young people just relaxing and late in the evening they travelled to their favourite beach and have a good time. As a matter of fact these young people do not even know too much or care too much about the US invasion on that date in Grenada’s history. And what makes the whole issue more complicated; there are citizens who are still alive, who can come forward and give their version of what caused the US to invade Grenada on October 25, but they choose to remain silent.
Personally, I can only presume why Grenadians have that kind of don’t care attitude towards such an important historical day in our history. I think that maybe the majority of people, who were involved in the political strife during the revolution era, are the ones to blame for the negative attitude towards October 25th Remembrance Day. I think that they are hiding the true story of what caused the revolution to crumble, and the role most of them played during the political strife that started from 1980 to 1983. However, due to that factor, the younger generation of Grenadians does not know the true story why the US invaded Grenada, and for that reason young people do not have any interest in October 25th Remembrance Day.
Historical events and rituals can only survive when the older generation passes on the knowledge to the younger generation. For instance, in the rural villages of our tri-island state, there are older folks who speak French patois and they refuse to teach their children and grandchildren the language. They only speak the French Creole language among themselves when they don’t want the young people to know what they are discussing and due to that selfish attitude French Creole patois is dying out slowly every time an older citizen dies. And it is frightening that those who know the truth of what led to the breaking up of the Grenada revolution and the US invasion will go to the grave with the secret.
With that culture of secrecy among Grenadians, there is a possibility that our violent history can repeat itself again, because the younger generation does not know the true story of Grenada’s political past. Secrecy among various groups of people with political interests can lead to unexpected political upheaval and political strife again, as it is very visible to see the old players of political divides organising themselves for rematch of the same old nonsense.