“[…] I have seen many publications on government websites that reproduce the words of our anthem on their webpages as: ‘here every creed and race FINDS…’ and on others that state that it is: ‘here every creed and race FIND…’
“Which is it? It may seem pedantic and as if I am splitting hairs to draw that distinction but the fact remains that it matters. ‘Finds’ is the present tense… On the other hand, ‘Find’ is the subjunctive of the verb…”
In the following Letter to the Editor, Dominique Martineau of Maraval considers what the words of Trinidad and Tobago’s national anthem say for racial unity here:
Do you know the words to our national anthem? More specifically, the last two lines?
I thought I did but now I am not so certain. In this month of our nation’s independence and in the light of recent events pre and post-election, I have found myself thinking a lot about those words and of what it means to be a Trinbagonian.
Yes, there are the generic definitions of a Trinbagonian that we all project to the outside world. Our collective definition (or at least the one we project) seems to be that we are a multiracial/multi-ethnic society that lives as one: we love to party, we love carnival, we are easy going and friendly and we have some of the best food in the world.
I have always struggled with that definition for various reasons but the two main ones have always been:
- we are far more diverse and complex than any of those broad and sometimes stereotypical definitions and;
- apart from having the best food and (many of us) loving to party and/or loving carnival, that collective definition is a lie.
We are not easy going. We are quick to anger and are part of a historically violent society—if you don’t believe me then read ‘The Historical Background to the Culture of Violence in Trinidad and Tobago’ by one of our foremost historians Bridget Brereton.
Given the recent post-election events, we are definitely not friendly and we certainly do not ‘live as one’. At least not in the way we try to present to the outside world.
The recent racist rhetoric promoted by a political party has brought out the racism and ugliness in its supporters as well as in its opponents. Racist slurs have been hurled by both sets of supporters and it has been disappointing.
The people who try to appeal for unity have oftentimes reminded the public of our national anthem. More specifically, the words: ‘Here every creed and race find[s] an equal place, And may God bless our Nation’.
I have no problem with that reminder, except that perhaps we need to re-examine what those words actually say.
I have seen many publications on government websites that reproduce the words of our anthem on their webpages as: “here every creed and race FINDS…” and on others that state that it is: “here every creed and race FIND…”
Which is it? It may seem pedantic and as if I am splitting hairs to draw that distinction but the fact remains that it matters. ‘Finds’ is the present tense.
What does that mean? It means that it is expressing the state of affairs that currently or generally exists. It means that here, in Trinidad and Tobago, it is a fact that every creed and race finds an equal place.
On the other hand, ‘Find’ is the subjunctive of the verb.
What does that mean? It means that it is expressing a mood of what is imagined or wished or hoped possible. It means that here, in Trinidad and Tobago, we imagine or wish that every creed and race would find an equal place.
It means that it has not as yet happened and that we are still hoping for it to come true. The recent events pre and post-election make me believe that it is the latter wish rather than the former fact.
I guess that I will now have to pay attention to the words of our anthem and sing those last few lines in earnest and with such fervour that perhaps the wish, that we find that equal place, will come true for the citizens of this country.
I will also wish that those who want to lead us will also remember it too—the next time they are called to campaign.