Let's delete hate language from our politics
"I am in the midst of lions; I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts-men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords" (Psalm 57:4).
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit could have been forgiven for uttering hate language on the political platform, if his party, the Dominica Labour Party (DLP), was in the middle of an election campaign when bashing the opposing party is, unfortunately, part of the game.
But no, elections were held just about 13 months ago and we expected a lull of three or four years before the coming political storm. So what was the prime minister thinking by using such violent, divisive, angry and abusive language when national unity is paramount especially after Dominica suffered more than a billion dollars in damage from Tropical Storm Erika about six months ago?
If you have already forgotten, recall that at a DLP meeting in St. Joseph on 2nd February 2016 Mr. Skerrit called the leadership of the United Workers Party (UWP) traitors and asked DLP supporters to verbally confront opposition leaders everywhere they go.
He said: "When you see them on the streets, in the supermarket, at a funeral, on a plane or even in their cars, shout out to every single one of them – Traitor!
"What do you call them? Traitor! When you see Lennox Linton, what do you call him? Traitor! When you see Thomson Fontaine, what do you call him? Traitor! When you see Monelle Williams, what do you call her? Traitor!!"
This reminds us of similar hate statements, the use of drones to exterminate the opposition that a prominent lawyer and a Catholic priest uttered a few years ago.
As we opined then, most Dominicans would expect an educated and intelligent person to do all in his power to help the nation heal from political division that has stunted growth and development for decades. So what were they up to by talking about using drones- real, political or spiritual- to eliminate, terrorise or exterminate political opponents?
Some supporters of these drone-talking gentlemen defended them; they said everyone was free to express his opinion on political issues of the day and to a certain extent they were correct.
Nevertheless, we expect intelligent people to anticipate the possible impact, negative or positive, of their words on their listeners and to act accordingly. If the hate-talker is joking that may be excusable but a call for violence against one's opponents in any context is cause for alarm.
In fact a few years ago Ambrose George, the former Minister for Information and Constituency Empowerment in the Roosevelt Skerrit administration gave some critical advice, albeit unintentionally, to persons who use hate language; he warned about the negative impact that so-called hate words can have on our society.
George expressed the view that offensive language used on radio talk shows in the United States was responsible for the attempted assassination of Congress-woman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona on January 6, 2011.
In an address on national radio just after the incident, George opined that "hate language" in the press was responsible for Loughner's actions and warned his listeners that a similar incident could occur in Dominica if the "hate talk" on radio talk shows continued. He predicted that "coming events cast a shadow before them". George further stated that Dominican talk show "extremists", as he labelled these broadcasters, have one objective: to stir supporters to kill and injure.
George postulated then that since hate language on talk shows in the United States caused a deranged man to shoot and kill people, talk on radio shows in Dominica would have a similar effect. We concur with Mr. George's conclusion that hate language, uttered anywhere by anyone, and if we may add, including the political platforms of both the ruling party and the opposition, may not adversely affect persons of balanced minds, but it will likely influence an unbalanced one.
Last year Danny Lugay, the UWP Parliamentary Representative for the Roseau North constituency, was dragged before the court for uttering "hate language". Fortunately or unfortunately, Lugay escaped the wrath of the law because the magistrate dismissed the case for lack of prosecution.
Of course, Lugay was wrong to say on the political platform that if circumstances were different he would wipe out a couple DLP supporters. Later, he publicly apologised. But we do not have to point out to you the unfairness in the application of the law since Lugay almost went to jail but the DLP hate talkers were not even admonished.
So, vitriolic rhetoric comes from all colours of the party political spectrum as the "drone" language of a few years ago, as Lugay's "take-out" utterances in 2015, as Baroness Patricia Scotland's "Sosay sel" words in 2015 and PM Skerrit "traitor" calls two weeks ago aptly illustrates.
But as John Adams wrote in 1776, and is still appropriate today, too many of our public discussions are characterised "by noise, not sense; by meanness, not greatness; by ignorance, not learning; by contracted hearts, not large souls". Adams concluded that "there must be decency and respect and veneration introduced for persons of authority of every rank or we are undone."
We, therefore, suggest that Prime Minister Skerrit and other politicians who indiscriminately use hate language should heed the wise words of Steve Hochstadt, professor of history at Illinois College in the article "Teaching hate, learning hate".
He wrote: "Hatred and anger are powerful political emotions. (Some) candidates believe they can employ the politics of hate to win elections and then later control the hatred they encourage. Meanwhile, they teach their supporters that social hatred is good for (the country). Those lessons take a long time to unlearn".