Trumpism and the press
At a launch for the Progressive Virgin Islands Movement last week, a Beaconite was shocked at the crowd’s apparent contempt for members of the press and their questions. After party leader Ronnie Skelton and several newly announced candidates gave long speeches about the merits of the PVIM and their own careers, journalists were each allowed one question and one follow-up question. And rather than posing unimportant softball queries — like why the PVIM chose blue as its official party colour — the Beaconite and other reporters went right to the meat of the issues. Some questions centred on Mr. Skelton’s break from the National Democratic Party, why he chose to splinter off and how he feels the party went wrong. As soon as reporters started asking these tough questions, though, the mood of the room changed. Several questions were met by outright jeers from audience members or calls for journalists to stop talking. “Terrible question!” one woman yelled after a reporter asked Mr. Skelton if bribery had ever taken place within the NDP — a tactic Mr. Skelton himself admitted is “commonplace” in the VI. Mr. Skelton and his fellow candidates never asked the crowd to settle down, or to respect members of the media. As a Beaconite sat there, essentially being berated for asking questions about the topics that affect the lives of many residents in this territory, she felt a little like she was attending a rally for United States President Donald Trump. As in those events, journalists were somehow being positioned as the enemy, and politicians were doing very little to correct that attitude. A Beaconite will give credit to launch host Dr. Michael Turnbull, one of the PVIM’s founding members. Though the candidates were silent, he reminded the crowd several times that reporters have the right to ask questions, especially because many of them are on the minds of voters. Moving closer to the elections, this reporter urges candidates and residents to start asking — and answering — the hard questions, and treating reporters with a little common decency. If accountability truly is a founding principle of a political party, the community should get to see it in action.
A taxi driver told a Beaconite a few months ago, “If there’s anything Irma taught us, it’s that we aren’t the exception. God is not a BVIslander, like we always believed.” Certainly, there were many years where residents of this territory may have had good reason to believe He was. A prosperous financial services industry, booming tourism and years of reprieves from storms may have led some to feel these islands have been particularly blessed. A Beaconite might have even been inclined to agree, as she woke up each morning, despite whatever else was going on in her life, feeling herself still blessed to be able to live in paradise. She still feels that way. But, like potholes in a poorly paved road, fissures are starting to show. Cracked pavement, once it’s broken, can be temporarily smoothed, but never totally healed. One full hurricane season has come and gone, and still the VI bears the scars and looks warily toward the future of a changing planet. There is, of course, a reason for everything, often one people are not meant to understand. Perhaps the “new normal” is actually the normal that was always meant to be, to which residents will have to adjust — and adjust to being rather less blessed at times. Next week, the Beaconite will be returning to her home country, and, for the first time in a year, her home city and state. The question is, when she arrives back in the VI, will she be as happy to return as always? She hopes the answer will continue to remain yes.