Power of Words

I recently wrote a letter to the editor of one of the local newspapers, here in Jamaica.

The irony of it all, is that the way my letter was edited is that it can make me come across as politically divisive. That’s not what I meant. So, for all and sundry, here is the unedited version of my letter.

Dear Mr. Editor,

Shortly after President Obama took office, ex-Vice President Cheney did a major media blitz criticizing everything that the President did (keep in mind, that while he was VP, Cheney only spoke to the media a handful of times for his entire 8 years). Reporters were eagerly trying to get a comment from President Bush about the performance of Obama. He gave a response which surprised me. He said “I will give the current President the dignity of my silence”. Keep in mind this is after Obama basically won the elections on bashing Bush and tarnishing his legacy. This man, President Bush, took the moral high-ground of offering no critique.

Recently Mr. Seaga embarked on a similar media blitz, commenting on the joint Police/Military raid on Tivoli Gardens among other things. Some of his comments were, in my humble opinion, absolutely disappointing and potentially divisive. How dignified is it, for a former prime minister (of any party affiliation) to be criticizing the character of the current prime minister – in a relatively functional democracy? Can we have the former leader of the very party that Bruce Golding now chairs, coming out to bash him – even calling for his resignation?

This is not a debate of whether or not Mr. Golding should resign, but rather an analysis of key players in our young democracy.

If Mr. Seaga wants to comment on the state of the operations of Tivoli Gardens (given that he built it), I believe he has the right to do so. But, I would have hoped that, given Mr. Seaga’s political savvy, he would play the role of elder statesman, take the moral high-ground and refrain from commenting specifically on Mr. Goldings’ performance. That’s the job of the opposition, the media and the people. Perhaps Mr. Seaga can take a lesson from Mr. Patterson.

On another note, we have a recent column from Mervin Stoddart titled ‘Dudus is not the real enemy’, published by The Observer. I am disheartened that the publication of such vitriolic statements would be allowed, where he wrecklessly spews comments like ‘the economies of capitalistic exploiters’, ‘earth’s evil Caucasians’, and ‘Already their multinational corporations are raping all nations socio-economically’. It is about time we all acknowledge the power of words and be held to greater account.

Yes, I agree that some actions of the past, by large countries could be viewed as ‘taking advantage’ of other countries/people, but how does it help the current state of affairs – in a world where all countries have to work together for the betterment of all countries – to be promoting these notions? People can change and with change, enemies of the past can become partners of the future. Comments like those only help to further divide and polarize thereby making partnership and progress that much more difficult.

Perhaps we have all been indoctrinated with the misleading and very damaging maxim that ‘Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me’. That statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Words send nations to war, cause people to commit murder, give an entire generation hope, mobilize an entire society against a common enemy, spur donations of millions of dollars to ravaged states and even talk a suicidal jumper off the cliff. As a society, we all need to start being more mindful of the words that we use. Especially starting with our current leaders and former leaders.

Sometimes, the best use of words, is no use at all.

Marc Gayle

Kingston, Jamaica