National heroes are particularly interesting and significant for a country, especially in the light of response to political, social, religious, economic and personal factors highlighted through the unique, remarkable, and awesome achievement of those so reaching that pinnacle of consideration.
Plain and simple, national heroes are constructed within the context of how a society perceives itself in terms of identity, and how that society accepts the monumental status given to those few men and women that scale heights of performance, regardless of the particular endeavour. Indeed, as argued elsewhere: “The image of country, nation or state and various forms of their symbolic representations are created mainly by the elites of influence, which currently include not only politicians but also cultural and business elites, intellectuals, journalists and people presented by the mass media.” Antigua and Barbuda is no different in that regard.
Therefore, and importantly, Ivor Bird’s welcomed intervention on February 29th, his birthdate, has managed to narrow the partisan gap which has existed since one political party decided, when in Government, to collapse National Heroes Day into that previously chosen to celebrate the birthday of Vere Cornwall Bird. The Right Honourable Sir V.C. Bird is arguably the most venerable product of local soil, and the Father of Independence. ‘Papa’ Bird’s national and regional exploits in the socio-cultural and socio-political arenas of Caribbean civilization were paramount in shaping the contemporary Antigua and Barbuda nation.
Caribbean Times will maintain that commemorating the Father of the nation, and the observance of V.C. Bird Day on December 9th each year, ought to transcend all political and class divides. The reasons for doing so have much more to do with the politics of advocacy, struggle, overcoming colonial rule, fashioning national populism, and claiming the right for self-determination than any other sub-plot being played out along partisan lines and myopic utterances.
Instructively, there will be very few persons that would publicly disagree that the Right Honourable Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards – the first of Living National Heroes – and the most internationally known person and respected Antigua and Barbuda icon is not deserving of recognition. In fact, Ivor Bird’s recommendation that March 7th should formally become National Heroes Day in Antigua and Barbuda is a well-thought out position that brings with it the unified position to which the nation can all gravitate.
Indeed, it is entirely wholesome that the Leader of the Opposition can, as an emerging statesman, agree that the new proposal on the table has much consensual merit that can join the nation culturally and respectably around the practical sense of observing March 7th as a day designated to the collective memories of all our national heroes.
In conclusion, and Caribbean Times is in full agreement with the pivotal statement made by Ivor Bird that: “I recommend for the consideration of all that National Heroes Day going forward be recognized on the birth day of our first live National Hero Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards born 7th March 1952.”