The battle for the 2022 general election heightened Monday as the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) held its first rally following the governing Free National Movement’s (FNM) election campaign launch rally, infamously billed as a town meeting – with an incident and fallout demonstrating that we still have a long way to go as a people.
As we have previously stated, this administration’s early decision to ring the campaign bell while thousands of storm-ravaged Bahamians are in the throes of struggle to survive in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian is counterproductive because the divisiveness of campaign season threatens the quality of national cooperation needed to restore Abaco and Grand Bahama.
Having done so, all parties desirous of contesting the upcoming general election must respond in kind with electioneering of their own and – as fully expected – deeply drawn lines of division and historic triggers centering around race, skin tone and rabid partisanism have already reared their ugly heads.
During the PLP’s rally, its National Vice Chairman Patricia Deveaux made uncomplimentary comments from the podium about persons of dark complexion.
By morning, a formal apology from Deveaux was making the rounds on social media, even as members of the government and FNM supporters circulated videos of the comments, with government supporters offering comments of their own condemning the remarks.
That people of color continue to struggle with issues of self-worth as a result of many generations of colonial conditioning and the trauma of the Atlantic slave trade is without question, and is one of several key factors in the common and stubborn roadblocks post-colonial countries experience.
But the newfound disgust for such comments on the part of members and vocal supporters of the government is indicative of the extent to which the moral compass of many Bahamians is guided not by true North, but by who is involved in an act of wrongdoing and to which party that person belongs.
Only a few months ago, racist and homophobic tirades by Water and Sewerage Corporation board member Bennett Minnis went public, with no condemnation or repudiation offered by the administration, no consequence brought to bear and no expressions of outrage by party supporters.
Now that Monday’s offending party is a part of the opposite side of the political divide, the sentiment is different and the inappropriateness of such an action is said to be seen by those affiliated with the governing party.
This dynamic is by no means new, and regrettably shows that many still have a ways to go in properly judging and appropriately responding to wrongdoing for its own sake, as opposed to seeing right and wrong through the lens of one’s political support.
There should be no space in the Bahamian experience where hate speech is given comfort or acceptance, because hate speech not only hurts those to whom it is directed, but hurts us all as people and weakens the ties that bind us to the purpose of building a nation united in love and service.
What is noteworthy meantime, is that the opposition party was quick to ensure that their supporter publicly acknowledged the hurtfulness of her comments and unreservedly apologized for the same.
It is called accountability.
Contrastingly, accountability is what this administration failed to demand both of its board chairman and itself following Minnis’ invective, doubled-down on by him in the press, that hurled scorn and vitriol at thousands of Bahamians because of their skin tone and their sexual identity.
If a political party desirous of winning an election can demonstrate the willingness to have accountability for a public offense quickly shown, how much more should be expected and required of government which should take the lead in the accountability it heralds as its hallmark?
At the end of the day, what the country does not need at this sensitive time in its attempted recovery from a deadly natural disaster is an atmosphere of conflict and rancor in support of its major parties.
But this atmosphere is unavoidable once lines and swords are drawn in the heat of political battle; a battle the government chose to launch over two years before elections must be held.
We fear the collateral damage may prove to be the Bahamian people and the ship of state that is far from secure due to obstacles in existence before and after Dorian’s devastation.