A Dignified Nation?

First Published: 2002-12-10

Richard Blankenship, US Ambassador to the Bahamas is in the middle of a firestorm that was prompted by his recommendations on ways The Bahamas might improve efforts to interdict drugs being transhipped through these islands.

The recommendations were:

a) Clearly enunciate a national drug control strategy.

b) Appoint a Drug Czar.

c) Bring the Royal Bahamas Defence Force into the “war.”

d) Have an independent judicial authority investigate allegations involving Police or Defence Force officers.

e) Correct weaknesses in legislation that have been exploited and manipulated by those accused of drug offences.

f) Have stricter guidelines for the granting of bail in narcotics trafficking cases.

g) Implement mandatory sentencing guidelines, and

h) Develop a spending plan for the $1.2 million seized and uncontested cash held in government accounts.

Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs has taken umbrage, not to the recommendations, but to how the Ambassador chose to raise them. Press reports indicate the minister suggested the country’s “dignity as a nation” has been challenged.

What is dignity?

Dignity is “the state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect” (Oxford).

There have been many Bahamian individuals over the years that exemplify dignity and character that is above reproach. Unfortunately most truly dignified people do not generally seek political power and therefore are not held up as examples that Bahamians should emulate. Accordingly, dignity is a quality left open to interpretation by politicians who try to define it to suit their myopic view.

Where do we look for dignity?

Do local institutions and individuals conduct themselves with dignity? Consider how government departments might treat you. How about the judicial system? What about the church? Consider the undignified tone of normal conversations?

One of Bob Dylan’s many ballads is titled Dignity. The song speaks to the search for dignity and ends with the following lyrics:

So many roads,

So much at stake,

Too many dead ends,

I’m at the edge of the lake,

Sometimes I wonder what it’s going to take,

To find dignity.

A false sense of dignity?

It is an interesting irony that so much time and energy would be spent on the circumstances in which the Ambassador made his suggestions, rather than on the content of his speech. The fact is, the suggestions just might help the country improve the effort to rid itself of the criminals in its midst.

Obviously it is easier to detract from the recommendations by appearing hurt or downtrodden by the big bad bully America. However, a self-respecting nation would take stock, and if the recommendations are useful, they would implement them. If they are found to be useless, dignity would be displayed, the Ambassador would be thanked, and the country would move on with nation building. Instead it appears it is better to moan about how a false sense of “dignity” has been offended.

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