Blithism, Trumpism, Ethics and Integrity: A Piece by Joan Grant Cummings

Dear readers: I do hope you enjoy reading this article by sister-friend and member of the 51% Coalition Joan Grant Cummings, as much as I did. Here are Joan’s thoughts on the crazy, “anything goes, so long as it’s a man” political upheavals we are going through – here, there and everywhere – with her own inimitable wit and energy thrown in. 2016 has been quite a year so far – and it ain’t over yet!

Us empty-nesters have few thrills and things to enjoy inside of the home. So I could not believe it and felt my bank of euphoria – built up by the daily diet of Olympian feats – all but dissipate. I felt personally attacked. I was still marveling at how much “our young people” had given to us and the world, including their commitment to readiness over the last four years. The competitions were just the end point. Their time, talent, physical , emotional and psychological selves, unwavering commitment, excellence, their very souls had been poured into their preparation.  It was clear to all who watched: They exhibited the indomitable, unwavering, undaunted, unstoppable spirits of those who had gone before them and themselves.

What a lesson to all of us! What a gift!  ‘Real-er- than ‘reality’ TV. Ethics and integrity intact – no concocted story of crimes against them; no doping scandals; no dry land diving or use of the baton as a petit javelin.

Fast forward to the weeks following the Olympics – I kept wondering if I were on the set of   “Politicians Gone Wild” or maybe “Snapped-the Politician” Episode !

There is much to comment on, however 2 little things made me feel like I had a permanent case of “morning sickness”.

Former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
Former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

The proceedings of the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff,  the  first female and the last democratically elected President of Brazil for now. The process to me dis-honored the  memory of the games, demonstrated decidedly anti-Olympian values – poring through the documents it was clear this was a concocted case. Even the Brazilian High Court said so!

Political pundits globally have dubbed the proceedings “the new coup.”  How do you justify impeaching the person who so far had been found to be perhaps the only one at the top of the government not ‘on the take’?

Now back to Jamaica. I spent almost a decade working in the healthcare system in another Commonwealth jurisdiction. Yet I know the same ethical behavior is demanded of medical professionals here in Jamaica.   So red flags went flying in all directions when I caught the evening newscast which registered to me as extremely inappropriate and downright unethical. Regardless of the comments by the Medical Association of Jamaica – it was in bad form and would be litigious in other jurisdictions!! What was Karl Blythe saying?   I wondered why his opinion was even being solicited on issues of integrity.  Based on his handling of his last portfolio I could not remember if he had ever apologized to his employers, the people of Jamaica, and made amends to us.

Dr. Karl Blythe, who is challenging Portia Simpson Miller for the leadership of the People's National Party, has apologized for the remark he made about her health. (Photo: Gleaner)
Dr. Karl Blythe, who is challenging Portia Simpson Miller for the leadership of the People’s National Party, has apologized for the remark he made about her health. (Photo: Gleaner)

Like Trump-ism, I held no credibility in Blith-ism so did not even take his announced candidacy to be head of one of the two long-standing political parties as a serious -ness!     In fact, I dismissed it – our little trumpism.   Maybe I thought, it should be filed under far-fetched but a possible conspiracy, certainly megalomania, a common condition. Maybe, I speculated that he was probably ‘fronting for a faction’. But I digress.

With some ice-cream still poised half-way to my mouth, I froze – did Karl Blythe just blithely make a comment about Portia Simpson Miller’s state of health and mention that he was a medical doctor in the same breath??  Did I miss a part of the interview or a press statement that he had been appointed Mrs. Simpson-Miller’s physician?  Had he being empowered to represent her publicly?

My stomach churned in disgust and with distaste. It could neither tolerate nor even be soothed by the smooth, creamy, tasty ice-cream.   I wondered aloud how so many of “our young people” in our society, managed to defy the odds and exhibited such ethical behavior in their own practice, whether athletics, politics, medicine, law, etc., given the sizable public space these poor models are given.

Then as if that wasn’t enough our media, now fully CNN-ized in terms of its sensationalism, was gleefully reporting that our Worship the Mayor, Dr. Angela Brown Burke had taken on her husband about his remarks with regard to statements made about the erupting corruption scandal in the PNP.

Thank goodness for Her Worship!! A young astute female politician who understands boundaries, integrity, credibility, fair play!   For her words were not about berating her husband, they were about re-affirming principles taught to her within the very political party structure she supports and that she endeavors to live by.

By all accounts her Wolmerian peers report, that this is “vintage Angela Brown”!

As a gender and development research and education practitioner, I cannot ignore the gender dynamics. I wondered, had Mrs. Simpson-Miller been a Mr., would there have been such a nonchalant, unethical reference to his health?  No! There are too many examples to bother quoting, regarding current and past male politicians here in Jamaica and globally.

President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov, who had been in that position since its independence in 1991, is, in fact, dead.
President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov, who had been in that position since its independence in 1991, is, in fact, dead.

Look how long it took for the President of Uzbekistan’s death to be confirmed!! The media, ally countries and his peers created a web of confusion in order to delay a formal announcement, so that a successor, of his ilk many conclude, could be confirmed before the death announcement and funeral.

The Patriarchy is alive and well!! No boys and girls we are not in a post-feminist world!! We still deh yah!!   The equality rights struggle is on. We know not everyone believes that women are capable of full participation in all spheres of life, whether it is political, sexual, intellectual, economic or spiritual.   When last have you looked at a snapshot of the makeup of the heads of our private sector companies, our Houses of Parliament and CARICOM?

Me dare yuh!   Sey fey!

Both Trump-ism and Blith-ism demonstrate that patriarchy is alive and well .

If either Dilma or Portia made any mistakes, the last time I checked, making mistakes was still an equal opportunity phenomenon. Yet, it’s not even afforded women whether in political or other leadership positions.  Further the ability, capacity and health status of males are not subjected to the same rigorous scrutiny or standards as mentioned when talking about a female candidate whether for a public or private sector board or a politically elected position.

In fact, current practice teaches us that “any man” can run for leadership or lead; look at Trump-ism and now Duterte-ism in the Phillipines!! Do we want to add Blith-ism?

Regardless of the insanity unfolding before us, many of us, feminists and equality rights activists, will continue to exercise our right   to participate in building our country. Politics for us is not a spectator sport – our country is not an arena, stadium or theatre. We all have the right to stand up for our communities.

We employ politicians to implement the job description or mandate they are elected and paid by us to do and we expect value and high standards.

 It is as Josephine Silone Yates said: “A democracy cannot long endure with the head of a God and the tail of a demon.” We cannot continue to play lip-service to God. Calling on Her assumes a commitment to and practice of fairness, equality, inclusion, integrity, ethics and respect for the rights of all. These are the fundamental tenets of our democracy.

 

Joan Grant Cummings, Gender & Development Practitioner.

Josephine Silone Yates was a pioneering educator, journalist and activist, who worked with the National Association of Colored Women and helped found the African-American women's club movement in the early 20th century.
Josephine Silone Yates was a pioneering educator, journalist and activist, who worked with the National Association of Colored Women and helped found the African-American women’s club movement in the early 20th century.

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