The title of this post (don't say that) is the favorite one liner of a certain three year old child, when grown ups say anything she doesn't approve off. It takes you aback a bit and force you to reflect on your utterances. Furthermore, it forces you to think twice before you say things in her presence. You are forewarned that you will be checked.
So what am I babbling about you asked? It is the machismo, no the utter disrespect directed towards opposition leaders in the Gambia by some of their compatriots living abroad. Some of the discussion about the opposition leaders— on websites, mailing lists and especially online radio— has degenerated into rhetorical devices that also shut down conversation before it can begin. It has to do with the view some hold that Lawyer Darboe is weak or that Halifa Sallah is a megalomaniac, who thinks he is smarter than everyone else.
In entrenched democracies, these characteristics are pale for the course. But in political environments like we have in the Gambia, where the need for opposition unity is a necessity for any head wind against Yahya's authoritarian machinery, these arguments will provoke heated reactions and inflame the tender relationship between the parties that need to come together.
It is my fervent hope that anyone who is a flame thrower will stop and consider how their words impact people who put their lives and livehood on the line opposing a dictator where it matters the most... on the ground. They are human. Have family and friends who read and yes heard the hurtful things said about them. And it does impact them. Sometimes excruciatingly viscerally. And it is not even remotely necessary to cause them such pain. And their participation in politics and in political dialogue should never be the source of such pain. Particularly not from people who share the same vision. This is not a plea for censorship, but it is a plea for sensitivity and consideration. It is an attempt to raise consciousness. And it is an attempt to improve the quality of political dialogue such that controversial arguments can be made and challenged without them descending into personal animosities. Words matter. Our choices about words matter.
So the next time you feel like calling someone out of their name, think of that three year old's one liner "don't say that". Try it, it works...