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My prison and my paradise

“It is so important that the best, the brightest and the most sincere from all places within the political spectrum be encouraged to present what they have to offer. The party political process is destroying that potential and it is alienating so many people who have so much to offer but who simply cannot participate in what amounts to a vacuous unseemly catfight.”— Julian E.S. Hall, Bermuda Sun, March 7, 2003.

On Sunday, under the cover of night, the plane carrying this restless native landed on the Island. I am such a window-seat junkie that I once over exaggerated my flight anxiety to get such a seat (don't judge me). In particular, I love peering out of the window in daylight as the plane soars towards Bermuda because I can watch the sea change colour as the waters become shallower. My heart rate slows when I glimpse the reefs, as my anxiety releases and my soul calms, because I know I am home.

Yet, after I've adjusted to the humidity and smell of the salty sea, that anxiety can come flooding back. It is because Bermuda is both my prison and my paradise.

Within my family there is a legacy of public service of which I am very proud. My father was a Member of Parliament, my aunt spent her entire career in the civil service, my grandfather committed his life to the Police Service, and my uncle recently retired from his position as a prison officer. But this legacy has not come without a price.

That price has been a level of scrutiny that I was aware of from a very young age. I began reading The Royal Gazette at the age of seven and followed my father's career with the wide-eyed awe of youth. I am blessed that my dad never spoke to me like a child, but spent hours explaining politics, news and conflict to me with the same eloquence he spoke with in the Supreme Court.

I idolised my father and always wanted to follow in his footsteps, yet I have his experiences (both good and bad) and his words to guide me. He repeatedly, insistently said to me: “First you learn, then you earn, then you serve.” If I recall correctly he told me these words came from Sir John Swan, a man who has left an indelible mark on this Island and my psyche.

A few months after my father's passing in 2009, I accepted a political appointment from then Premier, Dr Ewart Brown. I learned about government and politics — about the amazing and the awful, about the influence and the inertia, about the promises and predicaments, about the criticisms and congratulations.

When my father left this earth, so did my guide. There was a deep and abiding sense of loss, not just in the personal way that exists when one's parent passes, but also from the departure of a scholar who had educated me for the first 24 years of my life. Who would now teach me?

Despite the strong and varied opinions that others might have about Dr Brown, I will be forever grateful for the opportunity he provided me. He was firm but fair and he gave a young woman a chance to learn about life in the hot seat.

No one could ever replace my father, but I was provided with a new pilot who could remind me that I already knew how to fly, my wings had just been a bit fractured. We discussed the plight of women in politics, he listened to my ideas and he didn't treat me as inferior to the men on his team. In fact, it was probably quite the opposite.

Since my last article there have been insinuations that I am planning a return to politics and that my criticisms were all part of an elaborate, Machiavellian, House of Cards scheme to elevate myself into a position of power. It was not. It was merely an expression of my opinion. I have no shame in admitting that, at the end of 2010 when I left office with Dr Brown, I was a broken person. I was done with politics. The prestige of being young and influential was alluring, but I discovered that only when I was completely ready to purely give back to my community could I take on any role of importance. In addition to that, I am a highly sensitive person, who sometimes thinks she's not made for this world, let alone politics.

I know many people across different generations who could contribute so much to the political landscape, but the emotional and mental cost is too high as it currently stands in Bermuda. It results in a bankruptcy of talent and although many of those friends contribute to the Island's development in other ways, I believe their influence could go further if they were in official Government positions. But with a two-party system in a small, colonial community how can we ever expect them to step up?

Despite the criticisms I publish in my columns, I know I am blessed to come from this place, where I have known most of my friends since nursery school, where those I don't know are often blood family and where the nocturnal tree frogs' song lulls me to sleep at night.

We are all family, whether by blood (which many of us are) or by community, and you don't choose your family, but you damn well fight for them when the chips are down. It's you, me and Bermuda against the world. Not us all against each other.

We might be one small dot in the middle of a vast ocean, but just remember, blood is thicker than water.

Liana Hall

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Published December 20, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated December 20, 2014 at 12:17 am)

My prison and my paradise

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