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Monday, November 6, 2017

“Why we going there,” Rudder asked 30 years ago. And we really didn’t answer. “St Ann’s!”

It was tomorrow night a year ago. The first Tuesday after November 1st. Well, the wee hours of Wednesday.

Realtors had come to see the family house in Diego Martin. I’d had two interviews already, after a handful of applications. My retiree sister and I were disagreeing over a car to share.

Since my mother’s end of life 18 months earlier had opened the door wide on options for mine, I’d been stuck standing on that transom. I’d glimpse my future behind the metal grille of Fairhaven Eventide Home each time I rounded Erthig Rd on the way to my NGO office. Six months before that November night, I’d tried to cross the transom. Becoming a lawyer would make the decade of justice work I’d been doing in TTO sustainable as an ageing, childless activist in a sagging economy with little local philanthropy. I could reach the bar before 60. Tuition-free.

You know the end of that story. I managed to get off that transom a second time, after last year August’s GATE cuts, effective immediately, left me right there with my one foot in the air. I’d give it up. I had the privilege of options. I’d do the rest of my life’s work where I’d already spent half of it. I doubted I’d come back home to die. Friends asked about the election. I wasn’t going until after. I didn’t give the idea he’d win any life.

I turned the television off, sat in the quiet of the couch, with one foot in the air once again. The US had elected a madman, and I wasn’t clear about much, only than that I wasn’t going. I had no idea what the contours of Trumpistan would turn out to be.

A year later, the election of Donald Trump, wherever you live, has been a humbling lesson. In how fragile so many norms of governance are. In how old institutions fail to grapple with new threats. In how normalised political madness can become. In how relentlessly partisan politicians are when doing the right thing threatens power. In how deeply people uphold racial affiliation over their own interests. In how little civil society advocacy changes political culture.

All lessons we in Trinidad and Tobago learned long ago.

Days after Trump’s election, I learned from my mother’s ophthalmologist I have a retinal detachment. A year and two Obamacare surgeries later, and more to go, I am clear why I went there. But another lesson I struggle with.

Most of us don’t decide if we get to live in the crazy of Trumpistan or of Trinbago. But there ought to be a difference, a basis for a choice. I used to think proudly that Trump had made any madness any Trinbagonian officeholder had ever done look statesmanlike. And the kind of fetehead that couldn’t come from weed is something I miss badly in Trumpistan to cope with the madness.

Thirty years after the lady from Holy Name with about 12 GCE who lost she Texaco work, and the man who businessplace burn down Wednesday morning, and the union man he hug up tell the police tactical: “Shoot we while we wine,” our well-honed “We jamming still” solution to the repetition of economic hardship and political madness, without any real sense of where we going, is a brilliance that is insufficient. And, looking on at Ian Alleyne ambushing judges and Christine Newallo-Hosein prophesying does make me wonder if there is a promoter left to end the fete at whatever time, or a calypsonian to signify.


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