Charlie, R.I.P.

This morning, my heart and mind will be at Christ Church Cathedral, where my former minister and colleague, Charles Maynard, will be laid to rest. My body will not; I teach a class at the same time which I have not yet met and which meets once a week, and my first obligation is to them. But my heart and mind will be with Zelena, Charles' children, Mr and Mrs Maynard, Andrew, Nina, George, and the family at large.Charles and I worked together for some eighteen months. He was the Minister of State for Culture; I was the Director of Cultural Affairs. Unlike his colleagues on both sides of the political divide, Charles got it. He was the first Minister of Culture to have had his own conscious, real investment in the business of culture, and he understood what we in The Bahamas needed in that regard. He and I didn't always agree, but he always allowed room for healthy discussion, and would always listen to dissenting views; even more strangely (for a politician), he would even allow himself to be convinced by another person's position if he felt that it had more merit than his own, or if he felt it could bear fruit. In other words, he made room, when I worked with him, for the possibility that he might be wrong. The rowdy persona that he adopted in the House of Assembly was miles away from the person he was in his ministerial office. There, he would join in a debate in his usual vigorous fashion, but as minister he would never ridicule you or dismiss your position outright. The typical malaise that we associate with Bahamian cabinet ministers, that of having instant expertise conferred upon them by God or the Governor when they take the oath of their office, did not afflict him; he had respect for the experts in the field  and would bow to their expertise when necessary.I loved and respected him as a minister. I knew that his desire was the same as ours—to develop Bahamian culture in such a way that it would become a beacon of pride for all citizens, an integral, perhaps a primary, part of the tourist package, and a source of income for many. He believed in us, in our worth, in our ability to create greatness. That he could not infect his colleagues with the same belief was not his fault; and so, like us, he deferred his dream.He told me once, when we were in a passionate discussion about CARIFESTA and why we should hold it in The Bahamas at the time we had committed to do so (and he went to bat for us, all guns blazing, because he understood what it could do for a nation), that he was advised as a cabinet minister to make a choice. "Either you are a cultural activist, or you are a cabinet minister," he was told. "You need to pick a side." He was passing the choice on to me; "Either you are a cultural activist," he was saying, "or you are a civil servant." He made his choice. He believed, as almost all politicians do, that maintaining a position of power was the best way to effect the change that he wanted to see. I was not so sure about that; I knew which one I was. Our paths parted, and we continued working in the ways our consciences demanded. I am more committed than ever to make his dream real.Perhaps coincidentally, today, August 24, is the day my father died, twenty-five years ago. For those who don't know, my father, E. Clement Bethel, was the first Director of Cultural Affairs in The Bahamas. He had the same dream that Charles and I shared, but he had it forty years before us. When the idea of the Bahamian nation was both embryonic and impossible, E. Clement Bethel was imagining greatness for Bahamian culture. In 2007, Charles Maynard was imagining the same. That we have not achieved it yet is not the fault of either man. The best legacy for Charles now is to honour him by making the dream a reality. I'm committed to it. Come join me.And Charlie—rest in peace.