The ironies never cease. There it was, Barack Obama’s We Are One: Opening Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial, Sunday January 18, and Bob Marley’s “One Love” – the song coopted as Jamaica’s anthem to lure tourists to the island – is “Hot on the box” on the same stage graced by Stevie Wonder jamming for peace. Herbie Hancock, Sheryl Crow and Will I Am are the day’s Wailers.
Back on the rock in the Caribbean, more than 1,500 people a year are being killed in murders by criminals and the police in an ethos created by politicians who now sit impotently as the blood flows.
Marley had used his song, which combines elements of the Impressions’ “People Get Ready”, as a theme for a One Love Peace Concert in Kingston in April 1978, to try to end the political bloodletting and had drawn then prime minister, Michael Manley and opposition leader, Edward Seaga, on stage to hold hands in a symbolic gesture.
We are proud that the USA can borrow from us at a critical moment when the president-elect sells the idea that “anything is possible in America.” Jamaica had already borrowed their motto, E pluribus unum (which the Americans borrowed from Virgil) and creatively added “people” and Marley borrowed from Curtis Mayfield to create One Love; so there could be something for us in the symbiosis as we gloat that something of our culture was reflected in the celebration of the inauguration of Obama with his hope.
It could be that as a battle-hardened nation from its murderous rivalries, Jamaica is prepared for this brave new world of economic and religious wars but our experience is purely internecine.
Hence, the ironies persist and the peace songs are a symbol of what ails the island.