Column: Open Letter | “Be The Change”

March 10, 2022 | 0 Comments

[Open Letter]

We, the undersigned, in solidarity with those adversely impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the people of Yemen who have been suffering more than seven years of military intervention by Saudi Arabia – 370,000 killed – express our concern over the level of violence, both locally and globally. As the Governor holds the responsibilities for Internal Security and Foreign Affairs, we share our concerns with this Office.

Current circumstances locally involve the influence of gang culture, stressing society’s fabric. Internationally, sustained levels of state violence to resolve conflict is evident. These trends speak to the need for transformation in the collective mindset, and we make this call in the spirit of ‘being the change’, committing to begin with ourselves.

In this social media age, global culture exemplifying might is right is a key catalyst for violence. History is replete with the tragedy of multiple wars, mostly under-reported. Causal factors for these conflicts are complex and cannot be captured in sound bites. However, understanding the context of nations resorting to violence requires perspective:

  • In 1960, President Eisenhower warned the world of the danger of the military industrial complex – war profiteering. This hero of WWII was aware that his success was tied to the sacrifice of 25 million Russian lives; a horrific cost in defeating Nazism.
  • On April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King made an historic speech calling the U.S.- Vietnam War not only immoral, but noting that it undermined social and economic justice for all American people. He was assassinated one year later to the day – April 4, 1968.
  • In 1970, the UK Government decided to ignore UN sanctions and renew arms sales to the Apartheid Regime, which had killed 72 peaceful protesters in 1960 in Sharpesville.
  • From 1970 to 1994, grassroots efforts, including the World Council Churches, pushed for a democratic South Africa in spite of resistance from the US and UK governments
  • 2003 – Without UN sanction – based on arguably manufactured claims – the US and the UK started the Iraq War, resulting in more than a million deaths over seven years.
  • In recent years, Pope Francis has adopted an historic ecclesiastical position, calling for transforming the mindset in international relations, addressing the immorality of war.
  • Even Henry Kissinger – known as a ‘hawk’ – has offered an analysis in the Washington Post providing a perspective on the Russia/Ukraine war, balancing the culpability.

Bermuda – like many other jurisdictions – has experienced an increased incidence of murder and other violent crimes over several years. There is no doubt that this is related to socioeconomic conditions, but also the influence of global culture. As we – members of our community – commit and act towards ‘being the change’, we may be able to leverage the transformation needed that benefits all involved.

One step that may be within our community’s power to mitigate the circumstances is to take timely action to build on the foundational work of CURB and other stakeholders and put in place restorative justice protocols in our corrections system.

We hope that sharing our thoughts with the Governor can be of assistance, as this office considers navigating the way forward in both the local and global context.

In the spirit of fostering the spirit of community in the midst of the challenges – locally and globally – we are gifting this Olivewood Tree to be eventually planted on the grounds of Government House as a symbol of peace for the whole island. In this same spirit we would encourage families, churches, schools and others to do the same; not only spreading seeds of peace, but addressing the stress on planet Earth.

Signed [alphabetically] Only personal support – any references are only for identification.

Michael Ashton – psychologist- hospitality; Tulani Bulford: activist – entrepreneur; Elizabeth DeJean-Saunders- educator; Martha Dismont; Rev Dr Larry Dixon- [Presiding Elder – AME Church]; Maxine Esdaille – African Diaspora Trail; Glenn Fubler; Wendell Hollis: lawyer-former Officer of Bda Regiment; Dianna Kemp – noted barrister; Lynn Millett – activist; Phil Perenchief – former Attorney General; W. Alex Scott – former Premier; Edward ‘Icewater’ Smith – Chair of Prison Fellowship; Gavin Smith – Chewstick; Jonathan Starling – activist; Rev Dan Steel – clergy; Sir John Swan – former Premier; Roy Wright – former Dean at Bermuda College

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