It's not unusual for the rest of the Caribbean to be judged according to Jamaica. After all, to those people north of our sea-borders, we are all the same; we're all not-white (and presumably one step removed from savages as a result), we're all islands, we're all kinda pretty, quaint and laid-back.These days, we're also all haters of homosexuals too.Now I'm not normally the kind of person who gets worked up about bad publicity. That's because most of the time it's not entirely true; things are blown out of proportion further north, and there's little real basis for their fears.There are times, however, when we go too far. And the current climate of hate, where we collectively seem to believe that it's all right to perpetuate physical violence against Haitians and prisoners and criminals, and to perpetuate verbal and constitutional violence against homosexuals and things that speak about them, I'm wondering if people are not fearful enough.So, in the hopes of sparking a little concern, here's what they're saying about us north of the seaboard.
Jamaica's curious anti-gay fixation is spreading to other parts of the Caribbean. In St. Maarten, two producers for CBS News were gay-bashed last month by thugs wielding tire irons. The attack occurred outside the nightclub Bamboo Bernie's, where Richard Jefferson, 51, and Ryan Smith, 25, were harassed for being gay earlier in the evening by the assailants. The victims were airlifted for medical treatment to Miami. Jefferson, who has been released, said Smith was being treated for brain damage.Additionally, Jefferson told the Associated Press that local authorities had not spoken to witnesses the night of the crime, nor had they pursued leads. Instead of St. Maarten's CSI, the police were MIA."The people who harmed us are well-known punks," Jefferson told the AP last week. "People in the community know who these guys are. They are not talking to the police. The entire island is watching something bad happening."Two men were finally arrested a few days ago (one has already been released), but their cowardly actions seem to have won the approval of a local newspaper, Today, that derisively referred to gay people as "faggots" and "homos." According to the paper's unfathomable April 11 editorial:"During and after World War II, it was considered common sport for military guys to let themselves be picked up by a faggot in a bar in Los Angeles or San Francisco. The one who was picked up would pretend to go along for the ride, only to turn around and beat up or rob the homo who picked him up, leaving him without wallet and sometimes teeth."All that has changed, of course, largely due to American laws that are being spread around the world. Gay bashing is now a no-no. Slurs against homos, a no-no. And beating a person over the head for flagrant public behavior that once was considered criminal misconduct is a no-no."
In a comparatively minor but no less telling cultural barometer, the Bahamas banned "Brokeback Mountain." It seems Nassau must decide if it is an island chain open to the world or a palm tree-lined prison whose pristine waters are merely a moat to drown tolerance and diversity.Unlike in homophobic hotbeds in the Middle East, our community can exercise considerable leverage over these human rights abusers. While few Americans are going to spend a holiday in Jeddah or Tehran, we are frequently visiting the Caribbean. Many of our allies would gladly vacation elsewhere if they were aware that their gay friends and family members were being brutally attacked. It is time for Americans to reassess their relationship with islands such as Jamaica, St. Maarten and the Bahamas. Either they welcome all of us, or none of us. But these "paradises" can no longer be playgrounds for heterosexuals and hunting grounds for homosexuals.Here is a message that Jamaica might understand: "Aloha, mon, friend of batty boy going to Hawaii."