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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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The Devil and the Governor

Dear Source:

Once again Virgin Islanders are getting ready to conduct the most important function of democracy: the voluntary handover of authority to make decisions on their behalf.
Yes, we are fortunate to live with a political system that our forefathers fought so hard for.
So why is it, that time after time we somehow fail to achieve what a vast majority of voters want?
Why is it that obvious mistakes made by one elected leadership seem to repeat themselves over and over again?
Your vote is cast and the winning candidate is now your elected official.
He gets a title (governor or senator) and he gets a salary paid for by all of us. In exchange, he must serve you and the rest of the people in the Virgin Islands, even those who did not vote for him.
Time to celebrate, time to look forward to years of prosperity.
And yet, this seems to be the starting point of a long string of disappointments, dwindling confidence and mounting disrespect for the people you gave your vote.
So, what is the root cause for this never-ending story, and how do we get real change without jeopardizing the democratic principles?
The best explanation I ever heard came from a wonderful older Cruzan woman we have known for 16 years:
"The devil lives in Government House, and every time a new governor moves in the devil is right there on the doorstep: Welcome, Sir! Let me show you around and help you make yourself real comfortable!"
You may not be cool with the devil stuff, so try and go back two or three thousand years to the oldest democracy known to us. The Greeks back then were keenly aware of the dangers and temptations of power. Ate, Hubris and Nemesis are more than mythical Gods. They represent stages of the human mind and show you how easily we humans corrupt.
Look it up! Interesting stuff!
Our Constitution has a number of built-in safeguards minimizing the damage one person in power can do, but as we have seen it in the Virgin Islands a governor can do a lot of harm in the limited time he is in office.
But don't put all the blame on the governor. After all, he has the devil to deal with.
You, the voter, has to realize that your job isn't done with the vote.
Democracy is fragile by nature, and it is your duty to act as its guardian angel around the clock.
You get to write that letter to the editor, and if worst comes to worst, get out on the street, march to Government House and scream your lungs out. Refuse to get ignored!
Remember when Turnbull gave himself a pay raise making him the best-paid governor in America? You, the people, gave him hell (no pun intended) and You Won!
A very good day for democracy. (And a bad day for the governor).
I'm not sure how often the devil visits the Legislature, but surely he was there the other day when the so-called Public Utility Rate Stabilization Bill was proposed, this time in a joking mood. Unfortunately, the joke was on all Virgin Islanders. A better name for this bill would be: How To Feed Your Dog With Its Own Tail Bill.
I also had the pleasure of reading 'The Governor's Voice' that was inserted in the Avis. It must be wonderful to live on those Islands he is talking about. Where are they?
And you wonder why we have lost confidence and respect for our senators and our governor?
The majority of voters in the Virgin Islands are African Americans.
Since the 60's, a very successful campaign has brought awareness to where you came from, how you got here, how you defeated slavery and finally obtained the rights that make you what you are today.
So can someone explain to me why you let your elected leaders so blatantly take advantage of the trust you gave them when you voted them into office? I'm at a loss myself.
Who you vote for is, of course, a very private matter, but I suggest you ask yourself one very important question: Who can I trust to resist that little devil who lives in Government House? Because if you don't, before you know it, your new governor will look like a carbon copy of the one we just got rid of.
I would keep an eye out for the one who promises to drive his own car to work, the one who promises not to hide behind the walls of Government House, the one who promises to schedule appearances on talk shows and town hall meetings, the one who insists that each senator becomes accountable for a certain area in the territory, the one who is not afraid of Federal oversight until we can prove that we can handle our own affairs, the one who will work hand in hand with our congressional representative, the one who promises to show up unannounced in class rooms to listen to the students and Never surrounds himself with armed guards to boost his own importance.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could break the evil circle (again, no pun intended) and have a governor we can be proud of instead of ending up with an embarrassing liability?
I know there are a lot of frustration and disillusion out there, and why not? Can anybody mention a governor in recent times who we were sorry to see leave?
Our new governor could become the man (or woman) that could lead us out of the mess we are in, but he must be a role model. Unless we see changes in the governor's behavior, do not expect to see changes anywhere else.
In a well functioning democracy strong leadership is not needed, but, as it stands, we surely need someone who is not afraid of confronting some of the stale, old non-functioning institutions of this government. Even if it hurts!
Steffen Larsen
St. Croix

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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