Just who does Simmons remind you of?

Shortly after the announcement that Georgia Marshall would be the OBA’s by-election candidate, it was no surprise to see daggers drawn in an effort to undermine her credibility.

True to form, PLP columnist and community organiser, Christopher Famous, rhetorically asked: “What country is she from?”

He was well aware of the answer, but wanted to point out that she is not a born Bermudian (just like Michael Fahy).

Famous went on to write: “ ... considering the current climate of immigration the OBA has just about ensured they will go down as a party attempting to have non Born Bermudians lording it over born Bermudians.”

On October 3, I wrote a column about our individual hang-ups, and how political parties seek to exploit them for political gain. This attempt to portray Marshall as someone who can’t be trusted because she isn’t “a real Bermudian” is one of those moments.

I don’t know enough about Georgia Marshall to advocate voting for her.

The OBA does indeed need to make a case for why she would be a positive influence on the running of the Government. But, I do know that her birthplace of origin shouldn’t be seen as a negative, because it wasn’t so for the likes of those foreign-born PLP MPs and candidates who came before her.

The PLP similarly needs to make a case for their chosen candidate, Jamahl Simmons.

The last time we heard from him was in May of this year when he resigned as Public Relations Officer for the PLP. Prior to this he was Premier Ewart Brown’s Press Secretary. Prior to that, he was Premier Brown’s Executive Aide.

Simmons’ resignation as PLP PRO was prompted by incendiary remarks he made on social media networking website, Twitter: “What would happen if we stopped shooting bullets at each other and started putting bullets in the heads of those who hate us and won’t hire us?” – May 4, 7:21pm.

Several have argued that Simmons wasn’t inciting violence or making irresponsible comments. Instead, they argue, he was trying to bring attention to the anger and despair in society that could lead to violent civil unrest. I don’t think this explanation is credible on any level for several reasons.

The primary one is that any grassroots person with genuine empathy for the marginalised would spell out exactly what would happen if they started putting bullets in the heads of those who (they perceive) hate them and won’t hire them:

Someone dies; A family loses a loved one; You end up in prison for the next 20+ years; Anyone dependent upon you for financial and/or moral support/leadership will suffer; You potentially trigger additional murders out of retribution; Violent forms of civil unrest will destroy the economy; If there is a Creator, you will likely lose your soul instead of just your freedom.

By failing to spell out the consequences, the comment becomes dangerously irresponsible. At best, it accidentally incites violence.

The following comment, also on Twitter, should not be taken so lightly. It is fundamentally different and should give us all far greater concern: “If you are excluded from society what do you care if society burns? You aint a part of it anyway. It might even be fun to watch it burn.” – May 6 10.10am

The key concern here is Simmons’ suggestion that it might even be fun to watch society burn. In promoting a positive consequence of violent social unrest, Simmons crossed the line into inciting violence. And, when seen in that light, it begs us to question to what degree his other statements were purely intellectual musings on how angry certain segments of society are.

There is another critical factor that should be factored into this discussion. Simmons’ statement about murder was made two days before his arson statement and three days before his resignation on May 7 at 10.40am. If his motivation was to bring attention to economic inequality and potential social unrest, wouldn’t there be other Twitter statements that balance the violent musings out? Of course there would.

If his intention was to give voice to the marginalised, didn’t he have plenty of time to explain his motivation to the public? Of course he did. Similarly, the PLP could have easily defended his comments and instantly killed any controversy. Instead, they accepted Simmons’ public resignation so that the Jetgate issue can “be pursued without being deflected.”

Two questions now lay before us. The first question is: Should we accept his resignation and move on? Well, Simmons resigned without explanation, apology or acknowledgment of wrongdoing. We’ve not been shown one ounce of remorse, and the PLP are doing their best to sweep it under the rug. This is absolutely unacceptable conduct, and we should feel no better about it knowing that born-Bermudians are the ones doing it.

The second question is: Exactly who does this kind of vitriolic behaviour remind you of, and are the voters of Constituency 33 prepared to re-elect it? That answer will be provided on November 18th, 2014.

E-mail: bryanttrew@mac.com

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