Improving Jamaica's Relationship With the U.S.

Question: Has President Obama been better for Jamaica than President Bush was?

Bruce Golding: I think in terms of President Obama, he came in at a time when the United States was faced with so many challenges; the global crisis. And then he inherited so many external challenges, Iraq, Afghanistan, and so on.  I don’t think that... we would love to see more attention paid to the Caribbean, but I don’t hold that against him because he has to order his priorities. 

When we did meet with him at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad a year ago, we urged on him the need to increase the focus on the Caribbean. He sent us a clear signal to us at that time that the United States would be adopting a different policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean, a more enlightened policy, a more engaging policy, and we welcome that.  We in the Caribbean, of course, seek some special attention because of our particular vulnerabilities.  We are small, we are open, we are subject to so many external shots.  And he did give a commitment that he would meet with us as heads of government in the Caribbean.  That meeting has not yet taken place.  We’re going to be in touch with the State Department to see how quickly we can arrange for that meeting.  We’d love if he would visit us in the Caribbean, but we are quite prepared to meet with him here in Washington... here in the United States.  And we are hopeful.  We believe that he has an understanding of our particular circumstances and our needs and we believe that he will be empathetic. But we understand that we have to find our place on his order of priorities.Question: What outstanding issues with the U.S. have been particularly troublesome?

Bruce Golding: We do have an issue that we are working together to resolve and that has to do with the procedures that are used in extraditing Jamaicans.  We had an issue, as you know, with Christopher Coke. The perception was, was... had developed and has been concretized in the minds of some people that this was some clever attempt on the part of Jamaican government to prevent the extradition.  Absolutely not.  We simply insist that the extradition must proceed in the manner that is prescribed by both the extradition treaty we have with the United States and the laws of Jamaica to which that extradition treaty has to be subservient. 

Now, the application that was made in the case of Coke represented a violation of Jamaican law in terms of the evidence that was used and how that evidence was gathered.  Not that the evidence ought not have been used, but that it required the approval of a judge of our Supreme Court—and that process was ignored.  And we have to be very careful that we don’t allow these precedents to be set and to go unnoticed because then they become the norm, and then they undermine the value of Jamaican law.  We raised that matter with the United States; the response was not as understanding as we would have wanted. 

My own party, very concerned that the implication that this would have to a continuing dispute with the United States, sought to engage a legal firm in the United States to see to what extent they could assist in getting a dialogue going at a higher level.  That went awry. That went completely off track and things were done which ought not to have been done.  I’ve had to take responsibility for that.  But Coke was eventually extradited.  He is on trial here. We are working with the United States to see how we can fix what went wrong to ensure that in future instances we don’t have that problem.  And I’m hopeful that in the discussions that are taking place, both at the level of the Department of State and the Department of Justice... I hope that we will be able to resolve those issues.

Question: Is there more work to be done to improve relations between the U.S. and Jamaica?

Bruce Golding: There’s always further work to do because there are always so many issues that arise from time to time.  I think it’s unfortunate that Jamaica has been without a U.S. ambassador since the beginning of last year.  That is to be corrected shortly and an ambassador has been chosen.  We are anxious to welcome her to Jamaica and we believe that her presence will provide a basis for improving the conversation on so many issues; issues that have to do with the region, and matters that are of common concern to the United States and Jamaica. But particularly matters having to do with Jamaica itself, its own challenges, its own development deficit, the kind of partnership with the United States that we have been accustomed to in the past.

Recorded on September 25, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman

A recent dispute over the extradition of drug kingpin Christopher Coke strained the country's relations with the Obama Administration. Prime Minister Golding says they're on the mend.

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Politics & Current Affairs

Political division is nothing new. Throughout American history there have been numerous flare ups in which the political arena was more than just tense but incideniary. In a letter addressed to William Hamilton in 1800, Thomas Jefferson once lamented about how an emotional fervor had swept over the populace in regards to a certain political issue at the time. It disturbed him greatly to see how these political issues seemed to seep into every area of life and even affect people's interpersonal relationships. At one point in the letter he states:

"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."

Today, we Americans find ourselves in a similar situation, with our political environment even more splintered due to a number of factors. The advent of mass digital media, siloed identity-driven political groups, and a societal lack of understanding of basic discursive fundamentals all contribute to the problem.

Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.

The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?


Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression

In a 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey by Cato, it was found that 71% of Americans believe that political correctness had silenced important discussions necessary to our society. Many have pointed to draconian university policies regarding political correctness as a contributing factor to this phenomenon.

It's a great irony that, colleges, once true bastions of free-speech, counterculture and progressiveness, have now devolved into reactionary tribal politics.

Many years ago, one could count on the fact that universities would be the first places where you could espouse and debate any controversial idea without consequence. The decline of staple subjects that deal with the wisdom of the ancients, historical reference points, and civic discourse could be to blame for this exaggerated partisanship boiling on campuses.

Young people seeking an education are given a disservice when fed biased ideology, even if such ideology is presented with the best of intentions. Politics are but one small sliver for society and the human condition at large. Universities would do well to instead teach the principles of healthy discourse and engagement across the ideological spectrum.

The fundamentals of logic, debate and the rich artistic heritage of western civilization need to be the central focus of an education. They help to create a well-rounded citizen that can deal with controversial political issues.

It has been found that in the abstract, college students generally support and endorse the first amendment, but there's a catch when it comes to actually practicing it. This was explored in a Gallup survey titled: Free Expression on Campus: What college students think about First amendment issues.

In their findings the authors state:

"The vast majority say free speech is important to democracy and favor an open learning environment that promotes the airing of a wide variety of ideas. However, the actions of some students in recent years — from milder actions such as claiming to be threatened by messages written in chalk promoting Trump's candidacy to the most extreme acts of engaging in violence to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
upholding First Amendment ideals.

Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones, speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on controversial issues is "always acceptable."

With this in mind, the problems seen on college campuses are also being seen on a whole through other pockets of society and regular everyday civic discourse. Look no further than the dreaded and cliche prospect of political discussion at Thanksgiving dinner.

Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner

As a result of this increased tribalization of views, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to engage in polite conversation with people possessing opposing viewpoints. The authors of a recent Hidden Tribes study broke down the political "tribes" in which many find themselves in:

  • Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
  • Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
  • Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
  • Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
  • Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
  • Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
  • Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
    Patriotic.

Understanding these different viewpoints and the hidden tribes we may belong to will be essential in having conversations with those we disagree with. This might just come to a head when it's Thanksgiving and you have a mix of many different personalities, ages, and viewpoints.

It's interesting to note the authors found that:

"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."

You'll find that depending on what group you identify with, that nearly 100 percent of the time you'll believe in the same way the rest of your group constituents do.

Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:

  • 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
  • 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
  • 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people's preferred gender pronouns.
  • 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
  • 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
  • 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.

Understanding the fact that tribal membership indicates what you believe, can help you return to the fundamentals for proper political engagement

Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:

  • Avoid logical fallacies. Essentially at the core, a logical fallacy is anything that detracts from the debate and seeks to attack the person rather than the idea and stray from the topic at hand.
  • Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
  • Have the idea that there is nothing out of bounds for inquiry or conversation once you get down to an even stronger or new perspective of whatever you were discussing.
  • Keep in mind the maxim of : Do not listen with the intent to reply. But with the intent to understand.
  • We're not trying to proselytize nor shout others down with our rhetoric, but come to understand one another again.
  • If we're tied too closely to some in-group we no longer become an individual but a clone of someone else's ideology.

Civic discourse in the divisive age

Debate and civic discourse is inherently messy. Add into the mix an ignorance of history, rabid politicization and debased political discourse, you can see that it will be very difficult in mending this discursive staple of a functional civilization.

There is still hope that this great divide can be mended, because it has to be. The Hidden Tribes authors at one point state:

"In the era of social media and partisan news outlets, America's differences have become
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.


Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."

We need to start teaching people how to approach subjects from less of an emotional or baseless educational bias or identity, especially in the event that the subject matter could be construed to be controversial or uncomfortable.

This will be the beginning of a new era of understanding, inclusion and the defeat of regressive philosophies that threaten the core of our nation and civilization.