We need change.
That is perhaps the most over-utilised, though greatly misunderstood understatement of the past three and a half years. Yet it is an honest sentiment, expressed in earnest by a disillusioned, worried and at times even despairing citizenry.
Given the circumstances, it should be no surprise that any person or group who proclaim to stand for change and for improvement will perk up eagerly listening ears and even command the attention of a people who wait with baited breath for “they” who will personify this illusive “change”.
It was with such hope that hundreds made their way to the AL Thompson parking lot on Monday night to see and hear for themselves what exactly this Coalition for Cayman was all about and how they proposed change.
Two hours, six speeches, three servings of chicken, one T-shirt and two miniature flags later there are still many who feel as lost and confused as they were upon arrival.
Taking the Coalition at its word that it is interested in hearing feedback, here are some of the key things that stood out as problematic:
A call for change; a throwback to the status quo. Anyone who is hoping for a crowd knows the age old motto “if you feed them, they will come”. T-shirts and other paraphernalia also provide additional enticement to attend an event. After all, who doesn’t like a “gimme! gimme!”? Yet if we are claiming to want change, why not start it off right from the get go and do without the trappings altogether? Strip down to your core and stand on the strength of your message. If it is strong, it will not need the window dressing.
More disturbing than the internal debate, which being offered a miniature flag evoked (Will accepting this mean agreement with a message that is yet to be delivered and a cause yet to be unveiled? Will a refusal be taken as lack of commitment to my country and people?) was the trade off for the T-shirt: sign up for the cause and get a free T. Following blindly without full understanding of the issues, arguments and other important factors is what has gotten us in this mess, is it not? How then is it not contradictory to ask people to join something that has yet to be explained, much less properly digested and understood? No member or volunteer who was helping out at the booth could satisfactorily explain what were considered “important issues” by the Coalition and many times the “they’ll explain it in the speeches” came up as an answer.
It is important to differentiate between asking people to sign up to “learn more” versus signing up to “join” the cause. While many would gladly do the first so as to be kept abreast of developments and possibly gain a better understanding in the process, by now we should all be weary of signing our names on the dotted line as supporters or helpers or members of a group that we do not fully understand… add a dash of “God fearing” political mileage.
Over the course of the past three and a half years we, Christians and non-Christians alike, have witnessed first hand how the manipulation of Christianity by the political leadership has made a mockery of Christian faith. We have seen Christianity reduced to the smoke and mirrors that diverts attention to the real crises at hand. We have experienced the slippery slope where political rallies are reminiscent of Sunday service, and appealing to one’s religious beliefs is just another tactic to stir up emotion and evade accountability. That has been the way it is. Change is taking back our faith from the political arena altogether.
Ignoring the baby elephant’s memory. It was not quite four years ago when the very venue that so patriotically declared “Country First” on Monday night was strewn in green and blue and over the munching of even more free food, the waving of glossy pamphlets, and the excited “Amens” emanating from the crowd the fervour of those who now make up our government was heard over the speakers as they proclaimed “A Better Way Forward”. Yet, though that very fact was commented upon anonymously on websites and even whispered among participants conspiratorially, it was outright ignored at the event.
Of course individuals in a democracy are able to freely change their minds as often as they want, to support anyone whom they choose, or withdraw support for whatever reason is right for them. However, be not shocked that failing to acknowledge history or to attempt to explain the more visible ‘change(s) of heart’ with broad statements like “disillusionment with the party system” is just not good enough for those who have real doubts and who worry that those who are at the forefront are a mere facelift for the proverbial ‘establishment’.
Speaking of the elephant in the parking lot… Running for office is not an easy thing, especially not here in Cayman. From the potential for being “blacklisted” for expressed views if not elected, to the real taxing effect on one’s family, and numerous other reasons which we don’t fully acknowledge or speak of, putting oneself out there as a candidate takes a lot of courage.
Yes, we understand that Coalition for Cayman will not be “fielding” candidates as such but will instead “endorse” those whom it feels will put “country first” when making decisions. However, and again, it has to be stated that it was a missed opportunity to completely ignore the question that is still on most people’s minds – which of those persons associated with this Coalition intends to run for office?
Playing coy when a decision has been made, as is the perception with several persons identified as members of the Coalition, is doing the potential candidate and the people a disservice. It’s a game. It’s more of the same. It’s exhausting.
Lastly (ironically) deciphering “Country First”.
“Country First” is a brilliant slogan most recently used by US Presidential candidate John McCain in the 2008 US elections. In fact, USA Today reported on it at the time claiming that “[p]olitically, the Country First theme has the advantage of focusing voters on the country rather than on a party led by an unpopular president.”
“Country First” is strong enough to evoke deep, sentimental meaning for the collective and just vague enough to mean different things to different people. What does it mean to put “Country First” as understood by the Coalition for Cayman?