Ok. Let me start with the obvious and get that out of the way before the hysterics predictably start to scream:
Tillman Darrell of the UBP was completely wrong to strike someone as he today admits he did during a recent dispute (and I hope he had his comments vetted by a lawyer, although if he's talking to the press like that I imagine he didn't).
I do however hear his frustration:
"It seems to be a situation where black men who join the UBP get more grief from black members of the community," he said. "And sometimes that includes threats."
But that doesn't excuse his behaviour (and I'm not sure that self defense will work in this one). I understand his frustration with the vicious smears and efforts to alienate many UBP candidates and supporters from their communities and intimidate others from joining, but he should have restrained himself.
This incident however isn't that simple. It speaks to a larger problem.
Firstly, what is it with MPs and fighting?
The PLP was silent on their MP Glenn Blakeney who was accused of assaulting ZBM reporter Gary Moreno in front of the Deputy Governor, although he was ultimately acquitted.
Secondly, the UBPs Maxwell Burgess got in a scuffle (allegedly), although charges were ultimately dropped.
Thirdly, and most significantly I believe, Dr. Brown, the Premier of Bermuda - in Parliament - threatened to physically assault the UBP's Grant Gibbons for comments that he claimed he'd made about his wife.
Let me say that again: A sitting Premier threatened to physically assault a member of the Opposition in the Legislature - in a pre-written speech - yet the PLP's website is full of faux outrage about Tillman Darrell:
Violence must not be tolerated anywhere in Bermuda, but, especially from those who aspire to leadership. It is simply unacceptable for an aspiring MP, someone who is supposed to work across the political divide to deliver for Bermuda, to resort to violent attacks against those who disagree with him.
and ends with (in bold)
It's shocking that Mr. Dunkley, a man who aspires to be Premier of Bermuda, refuses to condemn politically motivated violence.
And let's not forget the PLP's Calvin Smith who said this in his apologist piece for the Premier's disgraceful speech:
If Dr. Gibbons understood anything about black Bermudian men, he should have known that negative comments about women important to us is a direct invitation to a physical encounter. Yet this is what he threatened by making unkind remarks about the wife of Dr. Brown."
So why is it different for Tillman Darrell? I would have thought that he was simply taking the Premier's advice after someone made comments that were a 'direct invitation to a physical encounter'.
Michael Dunkley may not have adequately condemned it for some (although I also thought the PLP believed that unless you're charged and convicted of something you're 'exonerated'), but the current Premier actually promoted violence not long ago, and his followers defended it as a reasonable response to political disputes.
This selective outrage is why so many people can't stand politics and politicians.
When the highest public official endorses physical violence to settle political disputes, it's no wonder that others see it as okay as well; either aspiring politicians or those who settle their scores by shooting someone (who was wearing a bullet proof vest).
This has been building for awhile. Not long after that speech by Dr. Brown in Parliament, someone who is not at all partisan but very shrewd, commented to me that they felt that the event in Parliament was so unprecedented that it would forever change the dynamic in Bermuda; that the leader of the country had set a tone that authorized increased racial hostility in the community and physical and verbal violence to settle disputes and that that would be contagious.
And look where we are today.
Leadership comes from the top. Words have consequences; especially when they come from the leader of the country. If you condemn Tillman Darrell's actions, which I do, you must also condemn Dr. Brown, which I do (all the time actually).
I'll await that item on the PLP's website patiently.