Forget business as usual. Instead, we should stop doing business with a country that is proud of its persecution against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Our goal is to turn Jamaica into a pariah state, as long as GLBT people live in a state of terror. This means no more subsidizing the anti-gay slaughter by drinking Myers Rum and Red Stripe Beer. It requires skipping that Carnival Cruise to Jamaica -- so your money won't support murder.
If Jamaica were anymore homophobic, it would change the name of its signature music, reggae, to "ray-straight." The national song would be, "Wasting the Gays Again in Murderitaville."
Why boycott? Because Jamaica is on a downward spiral and suffers from collective cultural dementia on this issue. There is clearly a pathological panic and homo-hysteria that has infected this nation at its core. Consider that the Jamaica Cancer Society has raised concerns that the fear of being labeled gay is causing some Jamaican men to avoid prostate examinations, causing one of the highest prostate cancer rates in the world.
One would think that such chilling headlines would have spurred worldwide action against Jamaica. Instead, the climate has only deteriorated, with a 2008 New York Times article titled, "Attacks Show Easygoing Jamaica Is Dire Place for Gays."
A scathing State Department report on Jamaica's treatment of homosexuals reads like a horror novel:
"The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG) continued to report human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention, mob attacks, stabbings, harassment of homosexual patients by hospital and prison staff, and targeted shootings of homosexuals."
Questioned by the BBC, Jamaica's Prime Minister Bruce Golding said that he would not allow gay people to serve in his Cabinet. In March 2009 he added, "We are not going to yield to the pressure, whether that pressure comes from individual organizations, individuals, whether that pressure comes from foreign governments or groups of countries, to liberalize the laws as it relates to buggery."
A third reason for a boycott is because we can have an impact in Jamaica. The tropical island earned $2.1 billion from tourism in 2006, with 1,025,000 arrivals from the United States. Clearly, Jamaica is uniquely vulnerable to economic pressure and thus every effort should be made to push for change.
A fourth reason to boycott is that a message needs to be sent throughout the world: "Gay people will no longer sit by passively while our people are brutalized and killed."
If we do not stop the hate in the one place we can - Jamaica - it will continue to be open season against gays across the world. There must be consequences for state sanctioned gay bashing. Such countries will not change on their own -- so economic carrots and sticks must be applied.
The current, failed strategy is "treadmill diplomacy", where we send off a few letters to embassies and hope things will magically improve. It may feel like we are advancing, but we are really, at best, running in place. This explains why the news headlines about Jamaica's treatment of gay people in 2004, look remarkably like the terrifying ones in 2009. The choice is ours, we can be meek in the face of madness - or we can take action.
Finally, Jamaica is an island of self-righteous hypocrites. The Bible is used to rationalize brutality, and vigilante violence is justified with talk of virtues and values. But, the island is quite comfortable with ganja and gratuitous sex for heterosexuals. Jamaica's new motto should be, "Don't Worry, Be Happy" (Unless you're gay).
If you are a bar owner, please take Jamaican products out of your establishment. Consider a "rum dump", where Myers' rum is poured down the sewer. If you care about gay people, tell everyone you know about the dismal human rights record of Jamaica. And, if a friend has booked a trip -- express your disapproval and send him or her accurate information.
It is truly a crime if you spend another dime in this homophobic hellhole. If you have gay family members, neighbors, coworkers or friends, book a holiday where it is okay to be gay.
As for Jamaica, don't play, don't pay, don't stay.
Try Key West. Fire Island isn't tropical, but it's a blast in the summertime and if you've never been to the Invasion of the Pines (usually around the 4th of July), it's worth going to at least once. I went twice and loved it both times. A jamaican would have a coronary with all the outrageous wall to wall drag queens there.
posted by gary, at
4/01/2009 3:58 PM
The US Virgin Islands are pretty good, too. I think Bermuda is OK as well, although I'm not so sure. Aruba might be accommodating, too. It really depends on how open you wish to be.
The sad reality is that the existence of gays and lesbians is hidden from children when they are being raised, so when they become adults, they see it as "abnormal" or a digression from the childhood which was their world, which is what they think the world should be like.
As for Jamaica, they are so far behind the times that I wonder what can be done here. They are as primitive as one can be regarding sexual orientation. They don't even RECOGNIZE the concept of "sexual orientation."
There is no such thing as "gay" to them. They see gay men as guys who just want to have anal sex. Hence their fixation on the word "buggery." This is what the United States was like 200 years ago. In addition to any boycott, there must also be an educational campaign which reveals the truth about the lives of gay people.
We are not perverted, twisted men who have a lust for anal sex. We are people who fall in love with other people, and the sex is secondary. Most Jamaicans are tragically misinformed into thinking that gays and lesbians are like straight people who consciously decide to go into swinger's clubs or S&M clubs.
These folks just do NOT get it. Wayne, you have your work cut out for you, as well as do the many other brave activists who are speaking up about this intolerable situation.
We must not only challenge their homophobia; we must challenge their belief that this is about "buggery." They think that we are trying to get them to accept "anal sex." The truth is so far removed form that fact that I know that we have a very tough hill to climb.
Maybe by getting Jamaican Rum out of the gay bars (like Harvey Milk did with Coors), Jamaicans will become more open to considering an alternative viewpoint. It's like how the Russians view gays as "pederasts." It isn't about homophobia alone...it's about reeducation.
Ironically, there cannot be true "homophobia" unless a culture has an accurate view of precisely who gays are. These cultures do not. The problem is also one of misidentification. It's amazing how open people become to change when their livelihood is threatened.
posted by Chris L., at
4/01/2009 4:23 PM