Evondale Coburn is in town from the States, and he brought me some books and jazz music, as he usually does. This brother is so thoughtful and sincere, I feel blessed to have him as a friend.
One of the books Coby brought me is a kind of autobiography by Marion Jones, but most of what she’s dealing with is the problems and stress she had to deal with after the glory at the 2000 Olympics. Her hassles included a six- month prison term at an unpleasant facility in Carswell, Texas.
I want to say this about America, that there is opportunity in America, and Americans respect talent. We know that America is racist, but America has tried to confront and deal with its racism. If a black man or woman is the best person for the job, chances are in America they will get a break. Right now I am getting a big kick out of the way a black man, Herman Cain, is kicking up dust among the Republican presidential hopefuls. Can you imagine that? It’s possible that two black Americans could face off for the presidency next November. Amazing.
While I was studying in America, nevertheless, I got the impression that Americans are sensitive and that they are jealous. Let me elaborate. Americans feel that the rest of the world doesn’t like them as much as they should be liked. This is sensitivity on Americans’ part. For a long time Americans had everything they wanted and were king of the hill. They could push around other people, and they did so. You can’t be liked too much with all that. As it is said, nobody likes Goliath.
The jealous part is like this. Once you become an American, they expect you to be totally grateful, and if you were an immigrant, they don’t want you thinking too much about your other country. That was my personal impression. Hence, I will always wonder if America brought extra pressure on Marion because, at her moment of greatest glory, she waved a Belize flag in Australia. If that is so, if Marion paid a price for her love for Belize, then we Belizeans owe Marion Jones a debt of gratitude which is impossible to repay, because in the Sydney Olympics she made us Belizeans feel that we were special, that we were somebody, that we were God’s children. You can’t pay for a feeling like that. Priceless.
The thing is, we were getting a free high. We were enjoying a free ride. Belize had done nothing to make Marion Jones great. Her mother was from Belize, is all. You know that there are talented children born every day in Belize, but they will never reach the fulfillment of their potential here. This is Belize. There are issues here which kill dreams.
I always thought that the real, ultimate function of local sports was to identify the athletic, coaching, and management talent which would represent Belize in regional and international competitions. This is how a nation should think. Of course, I was wrong. We are colonial here still. That is why, in 1978 Belize did not take Clinton “Pulu” Lightburn (and Stanley Moody) to represent us in basketball at Medellin. Belize made an excuse, found a reason to exclude our best.
About 9 years after Puerto Rico scored 235 points on Belize in Medellin, the “small island” of Bermuda gave an Under-17 Belize selection 7 in Benque. For some reason, the late Sir George Brown went with all high school players. As Winty J pointed out to me, Dick Lopez and Tiliman Nunez were age eligible for that selection. Because they were not in high school, they were excluded. At that time, Dick and Tiliman were arguably the two best Under-17 football players in Belize.
In 1994, Marshall Nunez, as head coach, had won two consecutive semi-pro basketball titles with the Raiders, in addition to several junior and high school basketball titles. He clearly deserved to be the head coach of the Belize selection which would travel to the Bahamas for the CARICOM basketball tournament that year. John Saldivar, however, knew how to please the UDP Prime Minister. Although Marshall was the best basketball head coach in Belize in 1994, to head the selection John chose a coach Marshall had beaten repeatedly.
Marion Jones was sent to jail when she was nursing a seven-month-old son. The loss of her millions and her medals and her pride had been punishment enough. They didn’t have to incarcerate Marion. I’m angry at America for this.
But, I’m angry at Belize even more, for all the favoritism and discrimination and bigotry I’ve seen in my lifetime. Every action has a reaction. All the bogus action that goes down here triggers crazy reaction in the streets. Somebody in Belize has to define “equal opportunity” and make it real. Until that happens in Belize, nothing is going to change. Bogus action, crazy reaction.