Jamaicans in their homeland and in the diaspora, as well as the fraternity to which Mark Anthony Myrie, better known as ‘Buju Banton’ belongs, have been following Buju’s fortunes since he was locked away in a US jail last December.
The entertainer had his day in court this past week and, fortunately or unfortunately, there was no resolution to the case since the jury was unable to arrive at a verdict. Eventually, however, few will doubt that something is being lost here and no good can come of the whole debacle.
Right-thinking people, no matter the verdict, will find it hard to rationalize how someone of the stature of the popular singer would consort with known criminals, for one; and, two, how he could have allowed himself to be entrapped into the purchase of cocaine.
Although he is innocent until proven guilty, the images of Buju caught on camera – sampling the drug and confirming its efficacy – cannot be deleted from the mind. The bigger picture and the lessons to be learnt include the underlying story of those whom we hold up as role models.
The entertainment fraternity is full of those who started out in a blaze of glory and who have flickered and faded away. Their names in lights and their adoring fans flocking to see and hear, at great expense, their every word, are things of the past. First would come the rumours, the whispers, the innuendoes that things are not what they seem. The tabloids would tell the tales and then would follow the denials. The façade would be perpetuated for a little while longer and then, gradually, the truth could no longer be hidden.
There appears to be something that tells people in the entertainment industry that the rules do not apply to them. These include the immutable laws of nature, the norms and mores of society, and the laws which govern the country.
So hardly a week goes by that So-and-So is not caught out driving drunk; or cheating on her spouse or his tax returns; or making a spectacle of him or herself, or disturbing the peace. If it happens in the USA, it makes the news. If it occurs in our neck of the woods, it is less likely to be so although it would be discussed widely.
The scourge of drug use, however, is the fastest route to the death, literally and figuratively, of an entertainer, or any human being for that matter. And we would like to believe that those staunchly defending Buju would agree that this is hardly the route they would want to see their own children taking.
Our own Crossroads has seen more than a few who, after reaching the end of the line, were forced to try to salvage the last of their talent and seek to make a comeback. Some have succeeded and others have not, while we watch with pity, shaking our heads for what could have been.
Meanwhile, the lessons that ought to be learnt go unheeded. The caveat which states that if one abuses his or her body it will, eventually, reach the point where it cannot fight back and systems will begin to fail has not sunk in, and people in high places continue to succumb to the enticement of the drug culture.
Many Caribbean societies are notoriously forgiving of people in a certain class; and the law routinely winks at their deviant behaviours, sometimes allowing them, literally, to get away with murder. Among them are wife beaters, child abusers, tax evaders and drug dealers. Yet, in full knowledge, we continue to place them on pedestals and exempt them from practicing and abiding by the same rules by which we, mere mortals, have to live.
One of our own homegrown entertainers, noted for his ‘conscious’ lyrics admonishing young people to walk the straight and narrow and for people of his race to be proud of their accomplishments, is before the court to answer to serious charges involving guns. This is not his first encounter with the law, either.
For years he was in the lawmen’s radar, but for some inexplicable reason he was left alone; it seemed to matter to them, but not to him, that he was the recipient of a national award; that he was thought to be someone whom young people ought to emulate; that some young man could point and say, ‘I want to be just like him.’
We had a wake-up call when Barbados’ Rihanna gained notoriety after her bruised and battered face was splashed across the international media, revealing a young man with self-esteem issues. She has since shed her good-girl image and has now gone in the opposite direction.
Sure, it is human nature to want to be like those whom we most admire, but we need to teach our young people, especially, that it is better to use one’s God–given ability to discriminate and to choose wisely.