Bermuda needs a pause button

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  • Sorry sight: a protester wipes  her eyes after being pepper-sprayed by police outside the House of Assembly

    Sorry sight: a protester wipes her eyes after being pepper-sprayed by police outside the House of Assembly
    ((Photograph by Akil Simmons))

In the electronic world, technology has so advanced that in the middle of a movie the viewer has the ability to stop the action by simply touching a pause button. However, in the real world, when things go terribly wrong, there is no button to push, and too often in the human experience, when emotions boil over and tempers slip out of control, cool calm thinking evaporates. The end result can be, to put it mildly, very unpleasant.

What unfolded on Friday last week at the entrance to the Parliament building has left a confused and bitter taste throughout most of the island over how such a scene could erupt, causing such mayhem, as police grappled with those protesting against plans by the Bermuda Government to build a new airport.

The reason we need a pause button is to halt the divisive and negative rhetoric that flows after confrontations, especially when people are injured. We have heard so much about a peaceful demonstration that was disrupted by the police, who used pepper spray in efforts to gain control when things turned ugly.

A key question is why did they turn ugly, and could that have been avoided.

The answer to that question could depend on which side of the confrontation one is inclined to support, without question. It is important to use the pause button to attempt to be as objective as possible, so as not to place blame before getting to know more about the circumstances. That is vital because there were probably mistakes on both sides that, with a better understanding, could be helpful in preventing a repeat of a violence that most Bermudians felt was unacceptable.

A peaceful demonstration, which is a democratic right in most free societies, should be just that — peaceful. However, in many parts of the world, groups of well-intentioned protesters have been infiltrated by those who use gatherings for opportunities to promote civil unrest.

In America, police in many cities have been caught between protecting peaceful demonstrators, and others who hijack lawful activity to carry out their own negative agendas. In the wake of what happened last Friday, Bermuda should avoid jumping to conclusions over who was at fault until an official report is made after a full investigation is carried out.

One thing stands out clear, and that is the Parliament building should be the place where elected representatives discuss or debate all matters of concern to the electorate with vigour and dignity, in keeping with standards that made Bermuda the place should be proud of today.

Most agree there is still much work to do in many areas of community life to keep Bermuda moving forward. Our leaders must speak with careful thought, since words can either be positive or negative, depending on how they are used.

The political climate is too divisive for our size and there is no room for a repeat of the violence witnessed at the House of Parliament last Friday.

After witnessing the riots of 1968, it was painful to think that so many years later we could still resort to such violence purely over disagreement. It is to be hoped the approaching festive season will give pause for all to reflect on what is best for Bermuda, so that when we push the start button again, it will be in the spirit of goodwill and collectivity.

That should be the hope of all Bermudians.

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Published Dec 10, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 10, 2016 at 12:01 am)

Bermuda needs a pause button

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