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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, April 20, 2024
HomeCommentaryOpen forumOpen forum: Constitutionalism in the Virgin Islands

Open forum: Constitutionalism in the Virgin Islands

Winston Nugent

When I graduated from St. Croix Central High School, I turned down scholarships from the mainland, especially one given to me by an Ivy League College. I did this because I wanted to know more about the place my mother and father had brought me to as a boy 50 years ago — The U.S. Virgin Islands, specifically, St. Croix. I decided that instead of going to a college or a university on the mainland, why not stay home and assimilate myself in the social, cultural and historical realm of the Virgin Islands? With that settled in my consciousness, I decided then to attend the College of the Virgin Islands, on St. Thomas in 1974, 39 years ago.

Today, I have concluded that after years of trying to understand my second home, I am living in a society of stagnation and contradiction despite the opportunities that had come our way as a people to be able to transcend. My belief, given the opportunity to go beyond the scope of the status quo, was that those who had considered themselves patriotic Virgin Islanders would have been able to bring about by now, social order, nationalism and economic modernization to these shores. In one of my readings, I happened to come across a book written by Dr. Walter Rodney, one of the Caribbean’s most prominent historians and political scientists, entitled, “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.”

He pointed out that the colonization of Africa lasted for just over 70 years. I found it ironic and interesting that if you should look at the Virgin Islands through that same window some 100 years later, and now that it has been given its 6th time the opportunity to write a constitution, that what has been trumped is whether the definition of oneself, one’s homogeneous entity, is the “negative consequences” such would bring to the table of reasoning — a table, as funny as it might seem, not with caviar, but rather a table with the cultural dish of callaloo (kallaloo.)

Having grown up and educated myself under the same curriculum and the same historical circumstances that have brought us here under slavery, the question of “who I am” has never been a question swimming in the pool of my social psychology, nor has it been a cause for me to disrespect another.

The concept or connotation of “Nuff Respect” for me and as Dr. Rodney aptly stated, “is the extent to which one people respect the interests of another, and eventually the extent to which a people survive as a physical and cultural entity.”

For me, the writing of a Virgin Islands constitution should be a simple task, if the priority is the love of one’s country or the future of one’s generation, bearing in mind, the historical consequences if we should fail again.

It might not be crystal clear to some at this time, but we are seeing the beginning of one consequence as described by the political theorist Friedrich Engels in an essay entitled “The Origin of the State.“

“The reality of reason is a product of society at a particular stage of development; it is the admission that this society has involved itself in insoluble self-contradiction and is cleft into irreconcilable antagonism which it is powerless to exorcise.”

My fear might solely be subjective in that the discord between other nationalities and native Virgin Islanders has never been from the perspective of the former. Rather, it is from the latter’s failure as a “collective entity” to have understood that it is critical in this society for the preservation of the lives of its members and the maintenance of its social structure.

Furthermore, that it was their sole purpose to have been teaching, fostering and perpetuating the ideals, principles and spirit of Virgin Islanders. By increasing the knowledge of the machinery of the government of this territory, the history of these islands in all public, private and parochial schools would increase the knowledge of self-determination.

We could do this by giving regular courses of instruction in the history of the Virgin Islands applicable to the African Diaspora, in civics, and in the Organic Act applicable to the Constitution of the United States. We are at a critical stage, I believe, when the Virgin Islands should have control over its social, political and economic destiny.

The reason is twofold; the first came from Henry David Thoreau, an American idealist philosopher of the nineteenth century who said: “All men recognize the right of revolution, that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency is great and unendurable.” The second is that Virgin Islanders at this stage in its societal development have little control over internal matters that are unique only unto themselves.

Editor’s note: Winston Nugent is a poet, short story writer and playwright, who lives on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

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