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Apologize, Bennett Minnis

We are surprised that the Free National Movement (FNM) government is finding it difficult to disavow the racist comments of a director of the board of the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC).

And we are profoundly disappointed that when asked to comment on Bennett Minnis’ bigoted diatribe, the minister responsible and member of Parliament for Carmichael, Desmond Bannister, claimed it to be a Cabinet matter while the chairman of the WSC board and Member of Parliament for Long Island Adrian Gibson, offered no comment.

We expected better of these gentlemen. Surely the minister of public works does not need the protection of Cabinet to express his personal disgust at Minnis’ words.

The FNM has similarly been silent. When the national chairman of the party, Carl Culmer, was asked, he, too, had no comment on the racist, homophobic rant by the chairman of an FNM constituency association and Meritorious Council Member (MCM), a lifetime member of the FNM National Council and director of the board of WSC.

It cannot be a matter for discussion or debate whether Bennett Minnis’ statement describing the membership of the opposition Progressive Liberal Party was crude and undignified. Minnis cannot even be given the excuse of having hit out in anger; since his initial insult, he has confirmed that he stands by his ugly words.

Leadership demands that such divisive harangues be disavowed as not representative of either the FNM or the government’s beliefs and policies. We expected that at a minimum the leadership of the government would have quickly disassociated itself from the narrow-minded, hate-fueled rant of a man who clearly does not have the acumen to disagree with another without falling into personal insult.

The Bahamas today is suffering the terrible impacts of the decline in the tone of our social discourse. Vulgarities are used in day to day exchanges without rebuke so that they now seem normal; a decline to the lowest common denominator.

The decline has many “fathers”: the damage inflicted on traditional Bahamian family structures by the drug trade; the abandonment of family life by too many men proud to procreate but reluctant to accept responsibility for their children; children left unsupervised by working mothers (parents); the rush to imitate the practices of our near neighbor to the north and the rise of political correctness which reduced the acceptability of neighbors disciplining the children of others. Indeed, if one were to close one’s eye, it is possible to believe that Minnis’ tirade against his political opponents was uttered by a tone-deaf leader from the north.

Too many of our homes are the scenes of belligerent verbal and physical abuse. These behaviors extend into our school system where discipline is used to justify excesses in the administration of corporal punishment and they extend to the playground and the streets where physical altercations between young people have produced woeful consequences.

If he does not know, Minnis should be informed that to compare any human being to an animal in terms usually associated with hate-mongering, southern American racists is below any standard we expect to see observed in The Bahamas 52 years following the achievement of a majority government and 46 years after independence.

Minnis should be made to apologize for his lapse in exercising discretion and abandoning the good manners that should typify our national discourse.

We suggest that there is no better place for us to begin our long walk back to cordiality, friendship and geniality than in the halls of Parliament where, regrettably, debate has wandered far from a standard of which we can be proud.

We must be better than this.

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