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Look at my crosses

By Terry Joseph
June 09, 2006

Whit Monday ushered in this week but sailed by largely unnoticed, the traditional holiday having long been reassigned, probably a good thing, given fallout from Justice Jamadar's recent ruling that the Trinity Cross, our highest award since 1969, discriminates against non-Christians.

Even as a curious demand for reparation was being trumpeted by Hindu leader, Sat Maharaj, Prime Minister Patrick Manning moved swiftly to appoint a committee to review not just the award's nomenclature but, by the same opportunity, "examine any other similar situation which has been allowed to persist to the discomfort of any section of the national family."

I consequently thought it useful to list some considerations for the committee, given the short time accorded members to reconcile this ponderous matter. For openers, my alma mater, Trinity College and the cathedral from which its name derives, might already be politically inappropriate rubric although the Trinity seems less contentious than the cross, leading me to wonder if we could exist without the more controversial word, even in astonishment where an involuntarily: "Look at my crosses!" might just slip out.

Among the most urgent considerations must be tomorrow's soccer match between Trinidad and Tobago's Soca Warriors and Sweden, with footballers left to worry if they're still at liberty to knowingly "cross" a ball to a striker, hoping for conversion, or whether a direct attempt hitting the crossbar, might ignite fresh issues. Local commentators would be equally well-advised to spend some of today conjuring up alternative descriptions, in case Mr Maharaj is listening.

Happily, the substantive matter did not come up for litigation at a time when (now retired) High Court Judge Ulric Cross was on the bench, or advocacy may have been rendered even more delicate, with lawyers wondering about the ethics of cross-questioning witnesses, lest they find themselves in the crosshairs of attorneys for the plaintiffs, who could provocatively accuse them of attempting to unfairly influence Milud.

It is equally fortunate that Prime Minister Manning's pre-emptive strike thwarted efforts by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to raise the issue in Parliament last Friday and simultaneously torpedoed a petition from Subhas Panday, given the level of cross-talk such a debate would predictably generate, frustrating members offended by insensitive comment even from onside political colleagues; victims now being forced to think at least twice about crossing the floor.

Nor would the absence of the word "cross" from local parlance affect only international football games, Parliament or court proceedings. Deletion of the contentious terminology will impact a wide, well, cross-section of the society. San Fernando's Cross Crossing is a major challenge, if the southern city is to not appear facetious.

Nationwide, zebra crossings will now have more elaborate title like "kerb-to-kerb priority pedestrian traffic navigation mechanisms" and the Old Year's Night tradition of standing at the crossroads adjusted to read: "visiting a four-way intersection for superstitious purpose." Of course, every group has at least one member the majority secretly refers to colloquially as a "cross".

BWIA pilots will need to come up with different instructions for flight attendants prior to take-off, since the term "cross-check" will be taboo and, for that matter, disc-jockeys accustomed to using the cross-fade facility for mixing music, might now have to obliterate the offensive indicator adjacent to the gadget.

Newspaper editors also need to increase vigilance, not only in terms of selecting for publication letters by irate citizens or accepting copy from less alert reporters. They must now advise their sub-editors about the degree of risk involved by using "cross-heads" as part of page design. With crossword puzzles outlawed, Sudoku becomes the official and indeed, only brain-teaser for subscribers anxious to test such skills.

The local Red Cross, whose parent body is not without experience at offending Muslims, might opt for the Crescent and Star (as done in the Middle East), although that too could invoke anxieties among Trini Christians and Hindus requiring their services but, on the supply side, there would be a lessening of demand for ambulance services if people were not allowed to cross swords in attempting to resolve interpersonal conflict.

For those visiting the clinic on account of other reasons, druggists will undoubtedly develop innovative language to describe fatal toxicity, rather than relying on the skull and crossbones for labeling topical applications that may be hazardous if ingested.

This is, of course, hardly an exhaustive tabulation of usage historically employing the offending word. In fact, I have quoted only the few that, as we say, "just crossed my mind."

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