Speak with Words that Heal
Most Dominicans would expect an educated and intelligent person, someone like an attorney-at-law or a senior priest of the Catholic Church, to do all in his or her power to help the nation heal from political division that has stunted growth and development for decades. So what, in heaven's name, are these persons up to by talking about using drones- real, political or spiritual- to eliminate, terrorise or exterminate political opponents?
Some of the supporters of these drone-talking gentlemen have defended them; they say everyone is free to express his opinion on political issues of the day and to a certain extent they are correct. To paraphrase Evelyn Beatrice Hall, we may disapprove of what the priest and the lawyer have said about their political opponents but we will defend to the death their right to say it. Nevertheless, we expect intelligent people to anticipate the possible impact of their words on their listeners and to act accordingly.
There's also the argument that the critics need to take a close look at the context and the intent of the drone-attack talkers. If someone jokes about the use of drones or use other forms of hate talk that may be excusable but a call for violence against one's opponents, in any context, is cause for alarm. We define hate talk as any insulting language, name calling and other forms of language that marginalises and denigrates one's opponents. We strongly believe that leaders of the Dominica Labour Party should repudiate such language.
In fact, some time ago Ambrose George, the Minister for Information and Constituency Empowerment in the Roosevelt Skerrit Administration gave some critical advice, albeit unintentionally, to persons who use hate language and warned about the negative impact that so-called hate words can have on our society.
Two years ago Mr. 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. During that rampage in the US, you will recall, six persons were killed and 14 were wounded, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on constituents at a meeting outside a supermarket with their congressional representative.
In an address on national radio just after the incident, Mr. 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". Mr. George further stated that Dominican talk show "extremists", as he labelled these broadcasters, have one objective: to stir supporters to kill and injure. Mr. George postulated then that since hate language on talk shows in the United States caused a deranged man to shoot and kill people, then such talk on radio shows in Dominica would have a similar effect. That, of course, was a ridiculous argument because it ignored the fact that circumstances in the United States of America and Dominica are extremely dissimilar and further, there is no scientific evidence to support the view that talk shows by themselves cause people to behave violently.
But we accept 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 is likely influence an unbalanced one.
Although it was embarrassingly obvious that Mr. George was misusing the Tucson tragedy in a vain attempt at tempering the increasing shrill criticism of his government on some of the talk shows, particularly on Q95, Mr. George's view that hate language should have no place in Dominican politics should be upheld by both his party and the opposition, whose supporters, as one would expect, have retaliated in equal measure to the drone attack talk. So, Mr. George, vitriolic rhetoric comes from all colours of the party political spectrum, as the "drone language" of a few weeks ago aptly illustrates and to blame only anti-government commentators for the dissemination of hate messages is, therefore, being rather unfair.
But many may dismiss and discount all this hate-talk as the same rotten politics that the Allegheny College president aptly described as a "disgraceful stew of invective… a continuing contest in which each side of the partisan divide sees itself as right and the other as evil, uncaring or worst of all, unpatriotic".
Additionally, as John Adams, the second president of the United States 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, support the call for our leaders to demonstrate more decency and respect, less noise and ignorance, not only on political platforms but on pulpits as well.