The Royal Gazette
Opinion (07 Dec. 2006)
In the aftermath of Dr. Brown’s racial attack in Parliament on Friday night, I’m going to do something inherently dangerous in Bermudian political debate; I’m going to introduce a few facts. I apologise in advance:
Question: What politician made the following statement? “On paper, the role of Deputy [Premier] is more the role of a political eunuch.”
Answer: PLP Finance Minister Paula Cox and current Deputy Premier.
(The Royal Gazette: ‘I’m running for the Deputy Leadership’, 25 October 2006)
Question: Who first questioned the role of Premier Brown’s wife in the Tourism Helps Everyone Foundation (T.H.E.) in a letter leaked to the press?
Answer: Bermuda Public Services Union Secretary Ed Ball
(The Mid Ocean News: ‘Unregistered charity is above board says Brown’, 22 September, 2006)
Question: Who instructed reporters to address their questions about the T.H.E. Foundation’s fundraising to Dr. Brown’s wife in the wake of Ed Ball’s letter?
Answer: The Tourism Minister himself, Mrs. Brown’s husband, one Dr. Ewart Brown.
(The Royal Gazette: ‘Brown downplays critical letter’, Nov. 1st, 2006)
Question: What politician went to the press with concerns about Dr. Brown’s desire to fund the PLP with foreign corporate dollars as ‘something to be wary of’ and raised the prospect of ‘sweetheart deals’?
Answer: Former PLP Premier Alex Scott
(The Royal Gazette: ‘Beware sweetheart deals’, 22 November, 2006)
Question: Who did Premier Brown attack as racist for using the term “Political Eunuch” (coincidentally the title of UK Conservative MP Sir Arthur Douglas Dodds-Parker’s political memoir); for daring mention his wife’s role in the T.H.E. fundraiser and for questioning the ethics of foreign fundraising?
Answer: Dr. Grant Gibbons
Question: What is the difference between Dr. Gibbons and Ms. Cox, Mr. Ball and former Premier Scott?
Answer: Dr. Gibbons is the white dude.
So the Premier should tread lightly with the “racist dog” epithets. Bermudians are smart enough to judge for themselves to whom that tag might apply after Friday’s attack.
Don’t be fooled though. The attack on Dr. Gibbons wasn’t some heat of the moment personal dispute as many would have you believe; this was a prepared speech, a calculated decision to lower the tone and tenor of debate in the run-up to a 2007 election.
The message was clear, the Premier went to great pains to manufacture phony incidents of racism as a launching pad for his party’s election campaign; signaling his intention to unleash a vicious brand of racial polarization intended to bury the possibility of a debate of ideas.
There was one line that Dr. Brown delivered which nicely summed up the problem Bermuda faces today, only not as he intended.
Dr. Brown accused Dr. Gibbons of being the “uninformed representative of Bermuda's racist legacy”, which has a nice ring to it but serves only to highlight that Dr. Brown sounds an awful lot like the representative of Bermuda’s racist present…but hopefully not the future.
Recently, in promoting his book “The Audacity of Hope”, US Senator Barack Obama delivered a very insightful quote about the state of US political debate, which bears striking resemblance to where Bermuda finds itself today:
"When you watch Clinton vs Gingrich, or Gore vs Bush, or Kerry vs Bush, you feel like these are fights that were taking place back in dorm rooms in the ’60s. Vietnam, civil rights, the sexual revolution… All that stuff has just been playing itself out and you feel like, okay, let’s not re-litigate the ’60s 40 years later."
Senator Obama’s comment strikes a chord, at least with me, someone 30 years younger than Dr. Brown who has no desire to ‘re-litigate the 60s 40 years later’.
Unlike Dr. Brown and many of his colleagues, I was not ‘born into the divided era’ that he discussed with a skeptical group of Bermudian students in London; and I have no desire to return to it.
After Friday’s display it would appear that Dr. Brown is determined to roll back Bermuda to this bitterly divided time; hence the painful contortions and distortions he engaged in Friday night, a valiant but futile effort to resurrect a bogey man that simply no longer exists.
That’s not to say that racism isn’t real in Bermuda. It is. But white Bermudians hold no monopoly on it that’s for sure, and there can’t be a genuine effort to tackle it when a Premier engages in physical threats of violence and vitriolic character assassination.
Is it any wonder we have a problem with machete violence and gang retribution when the leader of the country emulates it in Parliament? A little introspection for Dr. Brown, his cheering colleagues and the mob in the public gallery is in order.
I can see only two ways that this destructive racial campaigning will end. Either the electorate flat out rejects electoral campaigns built on the foundation of outdated racial hostility, or we’ll have to wait for those politicians tragically trapped in a decades old time warp to expire.
We can’t afford to lose more time. We as a community must take a stand and reject the exploitation of a legitimate issue – racism – for short term political gain.