Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Burrows: Walkabout Wars

Last night’s incident surrounding a clash between FNM and PLP street campaign teams creates cause for concern. The Bahamas has historically held relatively peaceful elections and I would like it to remain that way. People can get heated about politics and the upcoming general election may be cause for contention between those vying for office. Party and candidate supporters need to observe basic principles of decency. Mob mentality is real, and parties with gangs of people on the campaign trail can feel emboldened while promoting their particular brand.

A certain level of sports-like “trash talk” is acceptable, but abusive language can cause the situation to escalate to physical violence. Bullying, intimidation, threats, restriction of movement and physical altercations cannot be tolerated, and should be publicly condemned by the respective party of the offenders. Internal party penalties or fines should be levied upon proven perpetrators for less volatile offenses and the justice system should intervene in more serious cases.

Thankfully, as an independent candidate, I am accepted much more freely by those disillusioned with the major parties and even many of those that historically supported major parties. People do not spew vitriol when I approach their homes in my black shirt, even if they don yellow, red or green. I’ve never been a party supporter, so I can only imagine that it may be likened to avidly supporting a sports team, being a part of a sorority/fraternity/lodge and the like. I’ve been on sports teams, and if an outsider or an opposing team unduly messes with a team member, it’s a problem. If parties were to establish formal protocols of behavior, this would encourage a campaign season without major incident and a very important precedent would be set.

On a recent radio show appearance, I suggested that more unique approaches to conflicts may be taken. My example of one at the time pointed to rap and dance battles. Imagine an arena where talented and aspiring performers, take to the stage to “spit rhymes” about why their candidate is the best choice allowing an opposing view to counter with their stance. Frustrations could be vented in a more regulated and peaceful environment while still maintaining the excitement surrounding the word-clash. These events can be staged in a similar fashion to political debates, or performers can be deployed as a part of street campaign teams to counteract any opponents they might encounter. On chance encounters, a challenge may be issued for a rap battle before the “war of words” gets out of hand.

Some might consider this proposal outlandish, but framing political competitions in such a way can make it an interesting and safe national pastime, while exhibiting the talents of our citizenry. Onlookers and other team members would be excited to film and share the experience on social media. Participants would be respected for entering the challenge and have an opportunity to expand or improve upon their performances at future encounters. I understand that political conflicts are bound to happen, but at the end of the day, we all wear the same colors - gold aquamarine and black. We are all members of the same team – the human race.

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