This weekend I read an article in a Bahamian newspaper (the Guardian) about - are you ready for this? - a "homosexual Mexican demon" called "Charlie" who the teachers in the Bahamas were concerned with. Kids in the schools in Nassau were apparently playing a game with paper and a couple of pencils where they would summons the so-called "demon" out by asking "Charlie, Charlie can we play?"
"Charlie" sounds like a variation of the ouija board game that my brother, sister and I used to play in the 1960s, when were little kids. We would turn the lights out in our bedroom and pull out the silly game from under the bed. We would quickly whip ourselves in a childlike frenzy of fear and become hysterical with nervous laughter. My Mom disapproved of the game but never made a big deal about it. The ouija board fad lasted about a month and we soon lost interest in the Parker Brothers game. Our ouija board quickly found itself out in our garage and then in our dumpster by the street.
That was fifty years ago. But things are different in the Bahamas today.
The Bahamian school administrators responded to the "Charlie" game by summonsing 20 local clergy members to pray for the students and try and remove the evil "demon" from the premises. The Minister of Education even became involved and told the Tribune newspaper: "It should be regarded as serious. When dealing with supernatural things, I can't explain it, but I don't want our kinds to be exposed to anything supernatural that causes problems. It's difficult to explain but we don't know the extent to which this could impact our children so I wouldn't sanction it."
As a general proposition, a signifigant portion of Bahamians are superstitious. Having been raised in Arkansas and the Mississippi Delta, I'm used to people with a propensity to proselytize and try to scare you with images of evil monsters. I've encountered more than my share of desperate bible-thumpers, preaching snake-handlers and speaking-in-tongue charismatic "Christians" who are happy to save your soul in return for a check.
But the Bahamas' reaction to "Charlie" is completely over-the-top. The phenomenon is not unique to the Bahamas but the preachers there turned the "Charlie" demon not only into a Mexican devil but a hated and despised gay one at that.
On Saturday, I posted the Nassau Guardian article on Facebook with my tongue-in-cheek comment: "The Bahamas officially lost its marbles." I also posted a photo of a stereotypical gay-appearing Latin man in a red outfit wearing horns and a pitchfork. By Sunday, my Facebook page had hundreds of hateful comments from angry Bahamians.
Deon Deveaux posted that I am "gay and a demon."
Jason Neil Roberts called me a slave owner. He lectured me that the Bible teaches that "homosexuality is a demonic, foul, wicked, diabolical spirit." He questioned whether I was a "proponent of what caused Sodom and Gomorrah to be wiped out?"
"Yolanda" left these comments to an earlier article: "You people still bad mouthing my country! Hell with da likes of you! May Satan make your wheels fall off as you drive! Mr. Walker, may your family die of cancer! Hope to God your mother and father are dead! I dream your eyes lose sight of all da is! When you fall asleep tonight may you never awaken again! You are da child of da Devil! May your seed never produce! If they have already, may they lay dead to the side of the road! Mr. Walker, "IT IS BETTER IN DA BAHAMAS"
The other comments were more of the same.
I have a profound interest in the Bahamas, particularly Nassau. I want to know everything I can about it's history, culture, politics and religion. Over 1,100 ships are registered in Nassau in order to avoid U.S. taxes, wage and labor laws, and health and safety laws. Many Miami-based cruise ships fly the flag of the Bahamas as a "flag of convenience" in order to avoid the oversight of the U.S. government.
A result of the Bahamian flag of convenience is that the Bahamas is suppose to investigate and prosecute crimes on Bahamian-flagged cruise ships. So I read the Bahamas Tribune, Nassau Guardian, Bahamas Press and Bahamas Weekly every single day. I want to understand how Bahamians think. Will Nassau be a fair place for a trial if a woman is raped? How will a jury of Bahamians treat a member of the LGBT community? How will the Bahamian legal system treat a U.S. citizen?
I have traveled to the Bahamas since the 1970's to the present day. I have interacted with taxi cab drivers, store owners, hotel clerks, restaurant operators, bartenders, court bailiffs, police and the like. My conclusion? The country is going backwards. Crime is out of control. A RBPF policeman is afraid to apprehend gang members with guns. The legal system is a joke and criminals are quickly released from custody. If you are homosexual, or not from the Bahamas, you can't obtain a fair trial in Nassau in a million years.
If you're a victim of crime on a cruise ship flying a Bahamian flag, no one from the Bahamas will show up. When a Bahamian police officer gets involved, he is there to protect the interests of the flag state and not the victim, even if the victim is a child. Over the last 30 years, I know not a single case where the Bahamas successfully prosecuted a violent crime on a cruise ship.
There is a deeply rooted notion in the Bahamas that the country is blessed. The 1970's marketing slogan that "It's Better in the Bahamas" is interwoven with the provincial and self-righteous thought that God provides special protection to the islands. But it is a judgmental, condemning, fire-and-brimstone God of wrath that the Bahamians seem to pray to, from behind their burglar bars, as the murder rate increases to over seven times higher in the Bahamas than the U.S. Bahamians are killing Bahamians, and an occasional tourist, in unprecedented numbers. There have been eight critical crime warnings about Nassau from the U.S. State Department, U.S. Embassy and the U.K. and Canadian consulates in just the last 17 months.
The only industry in the Bahamas is tourism. But if If you have a difference of opinion with a Bahamian, be prepared to be labeled a gay demon. If you're a passenger raped on a Bahamian-flagged cruise ship or shot on a sailboat or robbed on Bay Street and need to be protected by the Bahamian police or in a Bahamian courtroom, God help you.
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Photo Credits: Charlie, Charlie and Ouija Board - Hello Giggles; Devil - el infierno en Costa Rica blog.