As the dust settles from last Saturday’s General Election, Malta seems to be stuck in a familiar scenario: Half the island is celebrating joyfully, and the other half is in mourning. Some people are calling relatives and neighbours to gloat. Others call to commiserate. Many are sighing in relief, whilst others are moaning and grinding their teeth in pain, anger and despair. In other words, not unsurprisingly, extreme partisanship seems to be as alive and kicking in post-election Malta as it was a week ago in pre-election Malta.
In line with the Commission’s vision of a reconciled and just society built on the values of truth, temperance, creative courage and merciful patience, we wish to offer the following ‘tips’ which can help us navigate this post-election period without losing sight of what is truly essential in our common struggle to build a more inclusive and fraternal society.
- Win or lose, we are called to live together
In a country in which any form of disagreement quickly degenerates into conflict, we have to learn (or re-learn) the art of respectful dialogue which includes a genuine willingness to listen to each other and learn from each other. As we learn to work together for the common good of our good and each other, we believe that – contrary to popular belief, – it is possible to discuss controversial national issues without tearing ourselves apart.
- Win or lose, we are called to treat all people with dignity
Go through whatever emotions you have but never let hatred and contempt for people ‘on the other side’ consume you. We might not understand why the other person voted that way or decided not to vote at all. But although it might seem impossible right now, try giving him or her the benefit of the doubt. Whilst holding firm to our beliefs, our response to those who have a different political opinion is not to disdainfully dismiss or ridicule, but to respond with merciful patience and humility. Maybe we can try and substitute mutual respect for judgmental disdain. We can listen without dismissing. And whilst we’re at it, why not try and give kindness a shot, whilst rejecting rudeness in all its forms? Finally, if over the last few weeks, I have wounded others, whether intentionally or not, this could be a good time to reach out and apologise.
- Win or lose, prepare for loving action
Political participation should never be limited to the act of voting once every five years. And our responsibilities as citizens do not stop in the polling booth. We voted on Saturday to help determine who will represent us in Parliament. In no way does that vote absolve us from taking seriously our ongoing civic responsibilities. Apart from holding our Members of Parliament accountable, we also need to keep letting them know how to best represent us, what are the values we stand for, what kind of society we wish to live in, and the direction of travel we wish to embark on as a country. As explained by Pope Francis in Fratelli Tutti, “we should not expect everything from those who govern us, for that would be childish. We have the space we need for co-responsibility in creating and putting into place new processes and changes. Let us take an active part in renewing and supporting our troubled societies.” Lowering the temperature of partisan pique is certainly in everyone’s best interest. Taking a ‘break from politics’ is not.