Important to separate race from independence debate
When I was a younger man, I was very inclined towards the thought of Bermuda as a nation. Perhaps influenced by the postwar environment where from my house as a child I watched American naval ships, aircraft carriers and seaplanes — at times crashing into the Great Sound right in front of me, or landing with their engines on fire — stirred grand ideas of war and conquest in this young developing mind.
My game or dream world was Bermuda beating Russia, and even America, in war. My neighbourhood was full of American GI and servicemen. I recall very distinctly one day saying to my American playmates with pride: “I’m British.”
What did I know about being British except every day before school started, in assembly, we sang God Save the Queen and “long may she reign over us, happy and glorious”.
However, somewhere in my teens, the issue of my own identity surfaced and the recognition that everywhere I looked, people who looked like me were subjugated — and it began to stir other questions such as “Why was that so?”
It created a militancy to actively seek change.
As a young becoming adult, I was thrust into a world of revolutionary and fundamental changes, and had to negotiate between the ideologies of the Sixties when there was Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, Elijah Muhammad and Rap Brown. Layered over those were the dialogues of John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Wilhelm Reich.
If that sounds like confusion, the real search was to understand God and to attain some certainty of knowledge about reality and the purpose of man.
I was very impressed with the founding history of Bermuda and the role it played in the development of the West. Of course, not its role in slavery, but the way it spun the world around its fingers. So, very naturally, my predisposition towards independence was never a reactionary position that was simply against Britain or any nation, but rather in pursuit of the ideal that is related to a truth about our humanity and how the role of a nation or legislature fostered the environment of true equality and purpose for humanity.
This is strange language to those of the status quo who have become complacent with power or those who conflate personal identity, race and ethnic issues with nationhood. It, therefore, was always a concern when there is no thirst or talk to advance a greater democracy but a call for nationhood.
They are not one and the same.
When one is building ideas of a nation, one has to consider what is appropriate for a nation. For example, separation of powers between the judiciary and the legislature are essential to freedom. Having open primaries and a conscience vote in parliament are all essential to freedom. Freedom of speech, a free press, etc — all essential to a free society.
What we have learnt over the past century is how to achieve power, and the art of politics has centred on how to maintain that power. The issue of integrity, honesty and openness are all too often sacrificed at the altar of expediency. In other words, we know it’s not right, but let’s put that aside for the moment.
It does happen, however, that oppression can lead to thoughts of independence — America is a great example of that. Notwithstanding that its founding fathers were thoughtful enough to recognise if they were to build something, it had to be better than what they were running from. They had to begin from the premise of “We the people”, then build a constitutional idea that was inclusive.
It was not the case where George Washington and his mates transformed the monarchy into their own kingdom. They made a republic. Yes, a flawed republic, but the light was in the Constitution and the slaves, and all those under the Constitution did not have to borrow any words. All they needed to do was bring the truth out of what they had.
In similar fashion, nothing stops this country from advancing its format of democracy by making it more participatory. We can do this now and, perhaps if we did, the ideas of nationhood would not be as scary to some.
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