MISS Fae Ellington, the acting chairman of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), is absolutely correct! 'Ignorance' and 'disgraceful' are words we too would use to describe the recent behaviour of our parliamentarians.
Indeed, those words are too kind and don't even begin to describe the harm that those offending legislators did last week to two of the very institutions that have ensured our survival since we gained political Independence — the Parliament and the National Festival.
We do not know if Miss Ellington's cry of pain at the Jamaica Observer's weekly Monday Exchange had anything to do with it, but we are encouraged at the statement to Parliament yesterday by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller who chastised the members — albeit in terms too poetic — for the shame they brought upon the nation.
We have, in this space over many years, railed against the cancerous political tribalism which seems to have indelibly stained our national character. It appears that not even the deepest religious zeal can surpass the fanatical need to set ourselves against each other, through our two major political parties. It is the nastier side of us. Even men and women of high academic degrees, people possessing decades of life studies and outstanding achievements warranting global admiration, and citizens who ought to have learnt wisdom from old age, fall prey to this urge to worship at the altar of partisan politics.
If the momentous occasion to celebrate something as rare as a 50th anniversary in the life of nation cannot bring us together, what then can? For sure, only a handful of us who are 50 years old now will be around to celebrate the next 50 years of Independence. What, we must ask ourselves, will we leave as our legacy and contribution to the building of this precious country, no matter how humble? "Breathes there a man with soul so dead who never to himself hath said: 'This is my own, my native land!'."
We share Mrs Simpson Miller's call to arms yesterday: "This is a time for coming together with love and thankfulness that we have come this far, to a place which, despite the hardships, we can count our many blessings in a country where the grass is still green and the sun continues to shine."
And we ask some of the same questions she asked of our politicians:
"Do we dare make a silent pledge to ourselves that last week's disgraceful and bitter experience must serve as a final wake-up call — a call to proper decorum in this House of Representatives?
Do we dare to pledge to our people to provide the kind of example that inspires; the kind of engagement that uplifts; the kind of effort that is a magnetic force and an attraction to do what is right?"
The prime minister is also correct in her exhortation: "There are certain occurrences along the journey of public life that must serve as lessons and guides to the future. I demand and require of each and every one of us in this Chamber to make that most unfortunate occurrence of last week push us, drive us, and propel us, to choose a better way. The lessons that we learn from our mistakes are far more important than the mistakes themselves. As human beings, fall we may; but it is the rising from the fall which defines us."
We certainly hope that Mrs Simpson Miller's fine words will not fall on deaf ears.