Friday, Oct 18, 2019
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Legacy of Alrae Ramsey and Blair John must survive

Dear Editor,

The heart of this nation should ache for the loss of two propitious young men who met a cruel fate in Italy. The fact that few Bahamians knew these men should not detract from the promise they held out for all of us.

Over the years a mind-set has developed that our young men have been lost to the streets. That they have no ambition beyond crime, the fantasy of making a quick dollar by any means necessary and a penchant for settling disputes with gunfights.

Peeling back this national veneer we must now be more direct. The unspoken qualifier is that the connotation of laziness and worthlessness is reserved for black boys in Nassau.

That is precisely why it is still painful to process the details of how an aspiring diplomat and a soon-to-graduate psychologist apparently drowned while on an evening out in the picturesque city of Turin, Italy, 5,000 miles from home.

Turin is not a big city by European standards, but it is a bustling hive of academia, culture, food and sport. It is home to Juventus Football Club, one of the most successful in the world. It is a must visit place in Italy.

Christians know it as the home of the Shroud of Turin, a linen cloth that many believe bears the image of Jesus, evidencing their faith that it was his burial shroud following his crucifixion.

You cannot visit Turin and not be impressed by the River Po. As the longest river in Italy it bisects the city of Turin before ending in a delta that empties into the Adriatic Sea near Venice.

Tellingly, the Po is associated with Greek mythology. Depending on your read of mythology, the river is believed to be Eridanos, aka the river of Hades. Hades to the ancient Greeks was the god of the dead.

We can only hope that the river will give up its secrets to help us understand what happened that night in early June when the river claimed two of our finest sons.

Patriots like Sir Arthur Foulkes, who dedicated his governor generalship to uplifting young people in general and helping young men in particular, exulted in accomplishments by young people like master pianist Dion Cunningham. Sir Arthur spent decades talking up the need for boys to have positive role models and mentors to keep them focused.
Sociologists can give us causes for why we have failed so many of our boys. Single-parent homes, poverty, societal breakdown, imported violence, the glorification of the drugs trade and the ready availability of guns are some of the influencers that have sent too many of our boys to prison or to their graves.

There are solutions and they must be addressed but, for now, we must stop, exhale and try to comprehend the scale of what we lost in Alrae Ramsey and Blair John.

Both of them went to St. Augustine’s College. That put them in a dwindling percentage of successful male youths. They joined an even smaller percentage when they attended and graduated from St. John’s University in Minnesota.
But their academic pursuit didn’t end there. Blair John, just 28, was about to complete a doctorate in psychology at St. Mary’s University in Canada. St. Mary’s is a 217-year-old school in Halifax founded by the Roman Catholics. It has just 6,000 students to whom it is fiercely loyal.

Just as their loss sunk us into sadness, the outpouring of love and support on the campuses of St. John’s for these men, and at St. Mary’s for John, should ease the burden for all Bahamians.

Ramsey was arguably pulling double duty, taking time off from his day job as a diplomat who had already served a tour of duty in Haiti. He returned to the classroom to better himself and no doubt could have become a career ambassador one day. Career ambassadors, though rare for us (we prefer to appoint political ambassadors), are the institutional brains of the foreign service.

Getting into the prestigious Diplomatic Academy of Vienna was no small feat, but Ramsey secured a place.
All bilateral and multilateral foreign relations are governed by a protocol known as the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that was signed in this famous city in 1961 and has been ratified by 192 states. Diplomatic immunity, the very teeth of diplomacy, stems from this convention which The Bahamas acceded to in 1977.

Rather than hand-wringing we need to find a way to use the legacy of these two young men to inspire more boys to dream beyond gangs, beyond becoming teenage fathers, beyond crime and even beyond these shores.

If one young boy, black or white, can imagine a life in the foreign service, or the pursuit of post-graduate studies, then the all too short lives of Ambassador Alrae Ramsey and Dr. Blair John would not have been in vain.

– The Graduate

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