Editorial for September 2: Peering into Cayman’s ‘national mirror’

We revisit on this page, with reluctance, the issues of crime, disorder and growing incivility in these islands, and a (perhaps generational) disregard for the law and disrespect for authority.

We in the Cayman Islands, the self-proclaimed “islands that time forgot,” may ourselves have forgotten how recently these islands were known for their tranquility, pastoral reverence and the friendliness of the Caymanian people. Now, when we look into our national mirror, we too often see reflected back a coarser society that no longer resembles our perceived self-image.

In just the past few days, this newspaper has reported on a frightening home invasion, an armed robbery at a popular resort, the mugging of a woman in downtown George Town and a spate of burglaries in businesses and condominiums in the heart of our Seven Mile Beach tourist district.

We don’t particularly like the words chosen by an anonymous blogger last week on a local website but can’t ignore them either:

“Three nasty crimes in about three days … we live in a community that has crime parallel to a USA ghetto. These crimes are not even the other problems like the Zombie crack heads walking around … you have burglary and petty theft. You have countless acts of sexual atrocities against our children. These are a signature of a land that has lost its grip on morality and law and order.”

Of those who registered their opinion about this posting, forty-eight agreed, two did not.

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Even our national discourse, promulgated, in part, by anonymous access to blogs and other media, has become disturbingly vitriolic. The same website that published the above remarks almost hourly updates its site with hurtful and hateful calumny directed at, well, just about anyone.

Even our own Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, who has more “protection” against verbal assaults than most of us through a doctrine called “scandalizing the judiciary,” was recently mercilessly attacked online in the aftermath of his judgment on the eligibility of West Bay candidate Tara Rivers to run for office.

In any discussion of civility, we cannot ignore the behavior of some of our supposed “role models.” Who among us has not felt slightly embarrassed by the carryings-on of some in the chamber of the Legislative Assembly – in one incident last year stopping just short of a fistfight?

Some legislators, elected to craft our laws and sworn to uphold them, apparently see nothing inconsistent with their seemingly proud public utterances to break those very laws by, for example, “lying down in front of bulldozers” to oppose projects they disfavor.

In fairness, the newly elected government, led by Premier Alden McLaughlin, appears to be conducting its affairs both in and out of the Legislative Assembly with dignity and decorum, even when it finds itself in disagreement with its political opposition. We would, and should, expect nothing less from our statesmen.

Perhaps it is too grand (or too naïve) a notion for this newspaper – or, for that matter, any newspaper – to suggest that we return to our higher values, embrace our better instincts and act in gentler and kinder ways toward each other.

But, after all, isn’t that the image that we as Caymanians would like to see reflected back in our national mirror?

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