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What’s in a name?

Social media commenters, and others outside of the platforms, were once again thrown into bitter discourse over the local politics of pettiness and division: the Opposition Leader’s vitriolic response over the repeated use of her full East Indian name by a member of the ruling party in Parliament.

Her statement dug deep into the history of denigration and deliberate erasure of identity that was slavery.

The comeuppance implied in the ‘slave master’ return seemed an overreaction but harkens to another underlying issue in this multiracial space: the throwaway descriptors, words and attitudes that lead to groups/individuals feeling uncertain, unappreciated, and defensive.

It is clear that the Opposition Leader felt that there was a degree of mocking in the enunciation of her name—which may or may not have been the case. There was the strong need to defend her identity under perceived threat. From where did this sensitivity arise?

As author Kevin Jared Hosein reminded his followers on a Facebook post, June 4, there was no real privilege granted to the groups brought to Trinidad to work on the sugar cane plantations. We were all cogs “in a corpulent and colonial contraption, as easily and quickly discarded as acquired, right into the sun-scorched slagheap.”

The issue of identity— creating, maintaining, finding—has been a persistent post-colonial thread, especially for the two major groups here, as they also attempt to find socio-economic balance and a suitable voice on the nation’s platforms.

It is unfortunate, and indeed poor statesmanship, that a claim to continued identity is wielded as a sword by a political leader, once again cleaving the population and enforcing stereotypes that do not serve psychological growth and harmony.

It is a shame that such an utterance came on the heels of Indian Arrival Day, a public holiday which all celebrated, in small ways and large.

This is Trinity Sunday (June 12), honouring the mystery of faith and unity of the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The three disparate forms as one serve as an apt metaphor for what we should aspire to in this island state.

Pope Francis in 2021, during the Angelus reflected on the Holy Trinity: “the Father who gives himself by generating the Son, who in turn gives himself to the Father, and their mutual love is the Holy Spirit, the bond of their unity…we cannot disregard this unity invoked by Jesus; the beauty of the Gospel demands to be lived and witnessed in harmony among us, who are so different.”

He continued saying that the unity exemplified by the Trinity, “is essential to the Christian… because unity is the only way of life. It is essential, because unity is born of love, of God’s mercy, of the justification of Jesus Christ and of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.”

In his Pentecost homily, Sunday, May 5, Archbishop Jason Gordon, with reference to communication in families, uses the descriptions of being either ‘Babel’ or ‘Pentecost’: disparate, jarring voices that are divided and do not listen, or unified and harmonious.

This is the challenge of this nation. We are Babel, with divisive voices regrettably at the helm, but with the power to do so much more to move us to Pentecost. Lest we forget, Trinidad was named after the Holy Trinity by Christopher Columbus, whose initial ‘discovery’ led eventually to the presence of every person here.

This is a sacred space, as is every inhabitant therein.

It is our individual responsibility to live this truth in every encounter.

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash