Criticism does not necessarily equate to disloyalty – By Mohamed Hamaludin

By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN

From the time I learned about the United States of America, I became enchanted by this magical nation that was so vastly different from my native Guyana that it could have been on another planet. Much of my impression came from movies and, to a less extent, newspapers and magazines as I grew older; there was no television in Guyana at the time.

That impression strengthened after I was selected a fellow in the now long-defunct work-study-travel Foreign Journalist Project sponsored by the State Department.       

I had the opportunity to spend four months between late 1970 and early 1971 interning for two weeks each on three newspapers in different regions, visiting several states and participating in a one-month seminar on American life and culture at Indiana University. The experience was astounding for a country boy originally from rural Guyana.

At the time, I never envisioned coming to America to live. I had a senior journalism job in Guyana that was professionally and personally rewarding. But, over time, all my eight siblings and my parents were immigrating here and I eventually decided that I did not want to be left behind. After I immigrated in 1984, the Reeves family hired me to work on The Miami Times, the venerable African American weekly, based in Miami’s Liberty City, where I eventually became editor.

Over the years, my views about my adopted country mellowed and while my faith in the promise of the country has never wavered, I was disillusioned over some of what I saw, particularly the gap between rich and poor and the state of Black America.

In November, 1993, The Forum of North Dade, a business organization, invited me to give a talk, no doubt from a “black” perspective. I do not remember much of what I said but this I recall clearly: I told the business gathering that, prior to my coming here to live, I visualized America as a version of Olympus and the men and women perhaps only a bit less than gods and goddesses.

Then I added, “But I must tell you that I have come to realize that the gods and goddesses have feet of clay.” I meant to say that the nation was not living up to its promise of being more than just the most economically and militarily powerful country on the planet, that the journey was not complete.

During the question time, I expected to be asked to go into more details about my comments. Instead, the first question I was asked, by a young white man was, “If you don’t like it here, why don’t you go back to your country?” That was a quarter-century ago.

I was a naturalized citizen by then but I did not take offense at the question and I answered it by saying, “I am one of the barbarians who were allowed to come through the gate and I do not plan to leave.” I believe I also referred to the exploitation of countries like Guyana by the developed nations and pointed out that when a country makes itself the seat of empire, it should not be surprised when the natives abroad want to come through the gates also feast on Ambrosia and live for eternity.

I also said that there is much more that can be done to help Americans in need and I remember one questioner asked, “Does that include Native Americans.”

I replied, without hesitation, “Yes.”

I had been taken aback by the comment of the person who suggested I “go back home” if I did not like it here because it had not been my intention to disrespect my new country. I had intended, rather, to point to areas where more could be done to make the union less imperfect.

In fact, one of the features of America that made me, as a journalist, fall in love with the country was the right to free speech, the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression. I realized the man who thought I should leave was also exercising that right  but I was disappointed because I thought the whole purpose of the forum was to exchange views for a better understanding among people. As a Guyanese of Indian descent editing one of the largest African American newspapers in the South, I thought I would be an ideal person with whom to exchange ideas and experiences.

In Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”,  Brutus tells Cassius, “I do not like your faults.”

Cassius responds, “A friendly eye could never see such faults.”

To which Brutus replies, “A flatter’s would not, though they do appear as huge as high Mount Olympus.”

Therein lies what some would call a teaching moment for these troubled times – from 1599.

__

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who  worked for several years at The Chronicle in the 1970s and on publications in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating to the United States in 1984 where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a commentary every week or two for The South Florida Times (sfltimes.com) in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com.

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Comments

  • Clyde Duncan  On July 18, 2019 at 12:26 am

    I highly recommend reading the book:

    Globalization and Its Discontents by Joseph E Stiglitz

    You may draw your own conclusions, but it might help with an educated opinion.

  • kamtanblog  On July 18, 2019 at 4:24 am

    Et tu brutae !
    Friends Romans’ countrymen
    lend me your ears
    I have come to bury Caesar not to praise
    him…the evil that men do live after them
    So let it be with Caesar !

    Funeral speech by Cassius !

    William S

    Today it would read
    “the good that men do should after them
    the evil buried with their bones”

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