There can be no doubt that during election time, many will get caught up in the emotional rollercoaster of party politics and the lust to unremittingly throw full support behind their party. For my part, there isn’t really anything wrong with this and in small societies such as ours, it is to be expected.
However, I continue to be bemused and confused as to why some people get so aggressive and antagonistic whenever another person is even slightly critical of their party or expresses a contrary opinion to their personal political beliefs.
A nice heated exchange is one thing but some people often go way overboard with their behaviour in response to simple comments that are sometimes factual and emanate out of a genuine desire to hold leaders accountable.
It is almost as though you are supposed to be a blind, political hack who shouts “Amen” and chants ‘Hallelujah” to all that is said and done. You ought never to constructively critique the actions of an opposing candidate or you may be met with a litany of curse words or a long time “friend” may abruptly stop talking to you.
Nobody must ever say that it was irresponsible for Dr. Douglas to say “Public Debt me @#$” or that it was wrong and unethical for the Hon. Vance Amory to rename the airport after himself as a sitting Premier.
If you do so, you better believe that five staunch supporters who greeted you warmly the day before, may want to verbally castrate you the day after. Just go on to some of the online political forums and you would realise that simple observations are sometimes met by seeping vitriol! But why the need for such political intolerance?
Do we understand that those who put their names on a ballot paper, automatically become PUBLIC officials, offering themselves for PUBLIC office and whose resulting actions will naturally and rightfully become the object of PUBLIC scrutiny? A person’s foray into elective politics is called “PUBLIC Service” for a reason; because it suggests that the members of the general PUBLIC are free to critique the service that any politician renders to the country. If you do not want anybody to critique the actions of your candidate and if they themselves cannot tolerate it, then simply remain in PRIVATE life!
I personally believe, however, that part of the reason why some of our citizens behave in such an intolerant manner is because their leaders often behave the same way. No more is this apparent than in parliament and on several of our local political talk shows.
I remember not too long ago, I used to tune in, almost religiously, to both “On the Mark” and “Tell Me”. I deliberately listened to both programs in order to keep abreast of the political happenings on the island and get differences in opinion. Eventually, I slowly tuned out both shows, because nothing used to upset me more than when someone called in to make a point that was not in line with the thinking of the host and that caller was unceremoniously cut off.
It is one thing if the caller is rude and discourteous, which by all means, warrants him being roundly put in his place. However, far too often, a passionate caller who is simply asking searching questions is kicked to the curb, for no other reason than that the host cannot tolerate the pressure.
Last week, I finally decided to end my “talk show sabbatical” and once again tune into “On the Mark”. The Hon. Mark Brantley and the Hon. Alexis Jeffers were co-hosts and the main topic of discussion was crime. For the most part, I was in agreement with Hon. Brantley’s proposals and his analysis on the crime situation in our Federation. As usual, he was articulate and frank.
Several persons called in to voice their support and they were afforded the time and respect to do so. Eventually, however, one gentleman called in and asked the Hon. Alexis Jeffers what has the Hon. Vance Amory and the Hon. Jean Harris done in their constituencies to merit re-election after re-election. The gentleman was quite forceful but not disrespectful.
As he continued to put his question to Hon. Jeffers, his voice suddenly started to fade into the distance, until he was heard no more. Hon. Jeffers never even ventured to meritoriously answer the gentleman’s question but stated, “I don’t know where the caller is going with this. We only entertain serious questions on this show.”
My face instantly sulked, because Hon. Jeffers took the time to entertain just about all the previous “serious” questions but not this one. I don’t know what gave Hon. Jeffers the impression that the gentleman was not serious and what was so difficult for him to simply outline what, in his opinion, the Hon. Vance Amory and the Hon. Jean Harris had done to merit re-election time and again.
That aside, it was not the first time I had observed someone being mysteriously disconnected. It is very intriguing for me, that some of these political talk shows would go along smoothly whenever staunch supporters call in to express their agreement with the host and nothing is ever wrong with the phone lines up to such a point, but as soon as someone else calls in to express a contrary opinion, the phone line suddenly gets hazy and their voice begins to mysteriously fade into the background! Go figure!
While I have my own suspicions as to why some of these callers always get “disconnected”, I would hope that the hosts and radio stations would make a more concerted effort going forward to address their “technical problems” so that ALL sides get the opportunity to be heard and the debate does not appear to swing in favour of one political party.
I continue to plead that instead of threatening to “bite and bark”, more of our people will understand the need to objectively evaluate comments which are critical of their political leaders, in order to discern if they have truly erred and thereafter, step out and tell them, “You are my representative but you were wrong!”
I shall pray that more of us would try to get rid of that festering sore of political intolerance and in the words of the late American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Never fall into the vulgar mistake of thinking that we are persecuted whenever we are contradicted!”