It’s a centuries-old admonition, alas too often forgotten: that the bloody instructions we teach inevitably return to plague the inventor. Also that there’s a reason for every season. It should also be noted that, convenient memories aside, nothing can stop for long the natural order of things, that we do indeed reap what we sow. Several years ago a local prime minister and near deity found himself in deep trouble after his love letters to an under-age schoolgirl landed in the pages of this newspaper. With due respect to the dead, the story has several times been resurrected—and not only by this writer. As recently as last April, during the campaign that returned the UWP to office, a candidate declared from her political platform that while she was still a government minister a Cabinet colleague had sexually assaulted her in his office. More precisely, he had attempted to kiss her while trying to undo her blouse.
Within minutes, the young election candidate found herself under a deluge of abuse of the worst kind, much of it relating to the behavior of the deceased former prime minister, also her father. Never mind that at the time of the shocking exposé even the church had come out in support of him, now his daughter—a child at the time—was being associated with the egregious behavior that so many had endorsed, and not only tacitly. Indeed, one such endorsement came from a church pulpit.
In recent times another government minister has been making headlines associated with his no longer private behavior with an 18-year-old female who was last Friday charged with attempting to blackmail the minister. If it may be said our justice system is comatose, the court of public opinion moves at lightning speed, maybe because it does not rely on investigation and admissible evidence. In the particular matter, the court of opinion appears unconcerned with what the young woman has been accused of. Indeed, the thousands of officials of the court of public opinion sound unconcerned that a serious crime may have been committed. What has grabbed the undivided attention of its ubiquitous judges is the perceived immorality of the victim of the alleged blackmail.
Pointless citing the precedent set in the case of the earlier mentioned prime minister (and several other matters since). You will be reminded that all of this happened a long time ago (actually the year was 1992), that “all we want to talk about is the present.” Obviously the court of public opinion has no regard for the wise words of George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”
The court of public opinion now says, forget about the past; let’s deal with the now—as if precedents, some over 500 years old, were of no importance. The court of public opinion insists that the minister proved by his actions with an 18-year-old female that he is not fit for office. Of course, it must be acknowledged that the people have every right to decide who is fit or unfit to hold public office—whether his or her record includes time served for drug trafficking, murder or rape. Alas, there is a problem. And it centers on the existence of duly appointed courts and a justice system that demands a suspect be considered innocent until proven guilty. Additionally, it must be noted that the minister in recent question has not been charged with an offense. On the contrary, he is the ostensible target of an alleged crime. Even his worst detractors admit he has done “nothing illegal.”
Oh, but pay he must anyway, according to the high priests of the court of public opinion. Why? Well, he obviously has no morals, proof of which is to be found in circulating embarrassing pictures taken with or without the minister’s consent. Pointless suggesting the minister is paying—and will continue to pay a long time for whatever part he may have played in the tragedy, whether or not inadvertently. The court of public opinion seems already to have ruled the minister must go, the sooner the better. But what if the minister should decide to quit, either voluntarily or because of pressure from within his government or without? Will that put an end to what created the scandal in the first place? What will be the prime minister’s reason for sending the minister packing? His personal sense of morality? What will be the political price—of major importance to politicians, especially incumbents, and their hack satellites? According to our court of public opinion in another recent time, the prime minister himself is unfit to hold office, based on a multiplicity of charges, contrived or otherwise—all of them deemed political, at any rate as seen through eyes of certain color.
Would it not be a step in the right direction to let the law—and I refer to the Constitution, not to the books of Moses (no, not JnBaptiste)—take its course? Is this not a perfect opportunity for some long necessary self-examination, the perfect time to question our own contributions to the road that has brought us to our sorry destination? For now, let us all take a long look in the mirror and for once check our eyes for motes. There is much more to be said on this matter that has more legs than a centipede—whether or not photoshopped!