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April 1, 2009

MORE ON JAMAICAN BOYCOTT


Since my monday posting on the Jamaican Boycott a couple of things have happened.

First, JFLAG (Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, Allsexuals and Gays) published a posting on their website that both thanked everyone for their support and then asked that the boycott be at least reconsidered.

While I appreciate the support in the cause for justice and tolerance towards everyone here despite their sexual orientation, groups planning or who have planned these events must be mindful of the repercussions such actions may have on an already marginalized grouping as we are here.

Members of the public and by extension select public opinion shapers will consider this as interference by foreigners and hence push for more hatred and opposition towards gays. Not to mention the increase in violence that occurs when a situation like this becomes public knowledge. As we have seen before during the planned Canadian group EGALE's boycott early last year many persons including lesbians suffered attacks, we saw a spike in the numbers that was never so for lesbians especially before. The stories told to us by many victims included hints that we (gays) were getting foreigners to force their nasty lifestyle on Jamaica and other derogatory remarks so the attackers felt justified in their actions.

The posting went on to say:

Let us remember too that it was Red Stripe, one of the targets of this ban campaign that withdrew financial backing for events and artists who promote violence of any sort against Jamaicans some time ago, we wouldn't want to erode that small gain now, small as it was it was a step in the right direction.

Although I can certainly empathize with the sentiments expressed in the posting, I have to agree with Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin:

I mentioned my reluctance in joining the call for a boycott, and this was one of the main reasons. It continues to give me great pause, and I do not take these concerns lightly. But when I read the State Department Human Rights Report on Jamaica, it is clear that violence against LGBT people is already at a crisis level. Jamaica is a small country. It’s estimated population of 2,804,332 is similar to the populations of Kansas, Arkansas or Mississippi. Imagine the outcry we would be hearing if any one of those three states were experiencing the scale of violence that LGBT people in Jamaica are experiencing already without the boycott.

As I see it, it’s damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don’t. What do you do in the face of this scale of violence, and how do you weigh taking action against the threat of more violence? Do you take the modest step of declaring that you won’t spend your money on that nation, or do you remain silent and hope for the best?

We’re not demanding that Jamaica changes its laws. We’re not asking Jamaicans to change their religious views. And we’re not asking Jamaican politicians to “embrace” anyone. In fact, there’s nothing the least bit radical or controversial in either of these goals. All we’re asking is that Jamaican officials defend the lives and safety of Jamaican people.

Personally, I feel that because I now know of the horrific violence and injustices that the Jamaican government has so willingly inflicted on our Jamaican brothers and sisters I can't, in good conscience, participate in or condone shoring-up that government by pouring money into it.

Jamaica is uniquely susceptible to a boycott of this kind because of its overwhelming dependence on the monies generated by both its limited exports and its primary tourism trade. If that flow of dollars is interrupted because of its politician's conscious and intentional actions against the GLBT community, it's a pretty good bet that the financial powers that fuel their economy will put enormous pressure on those politicians to change or leave office.

As is the case with any boycott, it ultimately comes down to a personal decision whether or not to participate. I, for one, don't see any other moral alternative.

2 comments:

Jamaica Forum for Lesbians Allsexuals & Gays said...

Hello there thanks for paying attention, your comments/post is greatly appreciated and will be considered in our deliberations.

We don't want you, our well wishers to feel as if we are not mindful of your concerns and that you are in our corner, we are, but the safety and well being of folks here to is to be considered too.

Dialogue and other strategies are now being employed lets see if those work, then, I guess matyrdom may come later as we know freedom has a price my friend.

Keep abreast via our blog, I know its a bit crowded but they are worth reading.
http://jflag.blogspot.com/

Peace

Harry

Steve Krotz said...

Thank you for your comment JFLAG.

I too appreciate your very real concerns. Trying to change attitudes is one of the most difficult and dangerous things to do in any kind of political arena. Especially when politicians and people of power choose to use religious fundamentalism as the basis for their scapegoating.

These people have used distorted religious doctrines to instill fear in the people they want to control for centuries because they know that without that, they're arguments don't work. That's why they have to be exposed.

As I said in my posting, I can't morally justify contributing my money, in any way, to a country that does that.

My hope is that with this new worldwide attention focused on the abuses of Jamaica's leaders, they will, at the very least, back off on the brutality they've been fostering - at least enough to give your movement time to grow strong enough to challenge them.

Our hearts and minds are with your struggle.

Please keep me posted on what's happening there so I can let my readers know ASAP. You can use my email address by clicking "Contact Me" at the top of my blog.