Agreeing to disagree with respect should be the expected standard
It is a common perception globally that politicians have to be watched closely before an election because too many play games with accuracy and truth once they are in office. This presents a significant hurdle for various leaders who try to maintain a degree of cool-headed reasoning in tackling various issues that often threaten political stability and confidence.
As a result of diverse views on so many subjects in democratic countries, leaders are faced with difficult decisions in promoting an administration’s agenda, while trying to cope with opposition groups who see things differently. That is what keeps democracy alive and the real test most of the time is whether anger and emotions over disagreement are allowed to detract from what should be intelligent and respectable exchanges in seeking a solution.
The Bermuda electorate is not able to hold press conferences daily to vent feelings on how the Progressive Labour Party government or the opposition One Bermuda Alliance are performing in conducting the affairs of our beautiful island. Most Bermudians these days, from all sections of community life, are very much aware that the political arena can at times become riddled with negative tones that help to create suspicion over personal gripes.
In other words, all politicians should be careful in their choice of words, especially on sensitive issues because the electorate is seldom pleased with political confrontations that lack specificity concerning a particular problem. When there is political disagreement, the public are entitled to know the facts. The media have the task of attempting to wade through various statements in seeking facts, and that process is also a key part of any democracy.
Bermuda should be vigilant in avoiding the extremely complex situation in America where the new administration under Donald Trump is in a constant struggle against the free press, who have a job to do in keeping the nation informed in all matters, irrespective as to whether information is favourable or unfavourable to the White House.
The media may not be perfect, but under difficult circumstances they keep the light burning in the search for truth. No leader or political party is bigger than the country they serve.
Veteran and distinguished newsman Dan Rather, in a recently published book about America entitled What Unites Us, points out that no president or administration is bigger than the country it serves. In a year of turmoil within the White House and with the media, the new administration — embroiled also in extensive investigations over alleged meddling by the Russians in the 2016 presidential election — has left many Americans deeply troubled over the direction of the country.
Rather said in a recent interview that he felt the people were trying to steady the ship, which was evident in recent elections. In Virginia, where Republicans took a beating as voters displayed utter contempt over the Trump Administration. However, he pointed out that there was no room for the Democrats to engage in a moonwalk dance because there is still much work to be done to restore credibility and a sense of sound, steady rebuilding of values most Americans are proud of. There are lessons here for democracies the world over, and that includes Bermuda.
No right-thinking Bermudian wants any government to fail, and this is why the electorate generally is willing to give full support in trying to improve life for all throughout our communities. On the other hand, that support must never be taken for granted, no matter the margin of victory. This also means that the Government must be razor-sharp in its public relations because, should the electorate become confused or disappointed over what it perceives as a lack of transparency, what follows is a lack of confidence.
That is a harsh reality that governments in the free world must be willing to confront. Attacks on the free press by any politician are usually the first signs that something is not quite right, and raises the question over whether transparency has been sidelined for political advantage.
In any democracy, the people have a right to question any public servant on any issue they feel short-changed in clarification. All politicians know this, and they also know the free press also have that responsibility. There always will be political disagreements, which is the way democracy works. However, people in leadership positions are expected to lead by example.
Yes, disagree vehemently, but do so with the knowledge that respect and common dignity are essential in showing our young people how to disagree without lowering standards in how we communicate.
There are countless matters of concern for all Bermudians that need the utmost attention from our parliamentary representatives and there is really no room for nasty, negative exchanges that often escalate into personal verbal encounters.
Bermuda not only needs to do better in this area, but failure to do so would mean that Bermudians in the future will have to tackle problems we should be solving today.