Published On: Tue, Jan 8th, 2019

I from Earth

Hilbert HaarBy Hilbert Haar

Every now and then when there is apparently nothing better to do, this question comes up. Who is a St. Maartener?

Drs. Rodolphe Samuel, a member of the National Alliance, has once more lit the fire under this seemingly simple question with a draft motion. Technicalities aside – Samuel is not a member of parliament, so he cannot submit motions – his proposal is to declare anyone borne after 10-10-10 on the island to be a St. Maartener. As a seemingly vague afterthought, the motion also notes that “there are persons born before 10-10-10 who are St. Maarteners.”

Most of all, Samuel seems to want to rid the world of the term Antillean. Because the Netherlands Antilles have ceased to exist, it is not right to call people from any of the islands Antillean, he reasons. Fair enough.

Establishing who is a St. Maartener – and by extension: who is not – is however a completely different animal.

If you were born in Aruba, you are an Aruban. If you were born in Amsterdam you will be an Amsterdammer for the rest of your life, no matter where you decide to spend your life.

But Samuel wants to stick the St. Maartener label on those who were born after 10-10-10. These are eight-year old kids right now. Ask a kid born in St. Maarten from a Jamaican mother what he is. You will most likely hear it say proudly that it is Jamaican.

And what to do with all those who were born here before 10-10-10? Samuel’s motion acknowledges that “there are persons born before 10-10-10 who are St. Maarteners.” But who are these people? That’s left up in the air. If anyone takes this motion-proposal to the floor it just may get the nod of approval and leave everyone utterly confused because its practical meaning is zero.

I remember how years ago former MP Louie Laveist proudly put on a tee shirt that read: I from here. That made me think at the time that I probably needed a tee shirt telling everybody that I from there.

But what is the point of doing that? Such tee shirts are divisive and if there is anything St. Maarten does not need it is division. In the post-Irma era our little constituent state (to use a term favored by our political analyst Julio Romney) needs unity more than anything else. Togetherness, if you want.

I have always wondered why people make such a big deal out of this thing called national identity.

I am a member of several Facebook-groups about writing and every now and then somebody posts something insane like: Hi, I’m new here. Where y’all from?

It is one of those useless questions that trigger an avalanche of responses. Amazing! Everybody and his uncle want you to know that they are from Australia, Zimbabwe, North Korea or Afghanistan.

Not that I am dying to take part in such a circus, but one day it occurred to me that there is only one correct answer, one that covers all bases. It’s just one word: earth. I from earth is a tee shirt I would wear.

In other words: I don’t give a damn where anybody is from. Living in Cambodia does not make me a Cambodian, just like living for ten-plus years in St. Maarten never made me a St. Maartener.

So my advice about Mr. Samuel’s well-intended draft motion is: ignore it and get on with your lives. There are more important issues to deal with.