Dead women, dead babies, and the death of outrage
Heart to Heart
Within the space of a few days three pregnant women were murdered, three unborn babies dead, and accompanying the tragedies was the death of outrage.
Not even the prime minister, herself a woman, was moved to make an early statement. With the exception of a few groups and individuals who issued press releases and made public comments, the widespread hue and cry that should be the natural response to the horrendous nature of the crimes could not be heard. Strikingly absent was the voice of the organised church. If any public utterances were made by the leading members of the clergy, I have not heard them.
What a country! As one person puts it, "After all, this is Jamaica. Nothing moves us. We have become so accustomed to death that "a nuh nutten" anymore. We have seen a nine-month baby sodomised and killed and toddlers raped and brutalised. Teenagers have been murdered, beheaded and dismembered, and the sexual abuse of five and six-year-olds is now a common practice."
Every single one of us as Jamaicans falls into one of two categories: "commission" or "omission", "nonfeasance or malfeasance". There are those amongst us who have contributed directly to the state of crime by aiding and abetting criminal activities - importing guns and ammunition, shielding and covering up for murderers - mothers who know that their children are
gunmen, but will say that they are completely innocent.
Then there are those of us who do nothing at all but talk on cellphones and on verandahs about how "Jamaica mash up", and "gone to the dogs", but are not prepared to be a part of the solution. The comment I hear these days is that "Jamaica gone. It can't come back." Some of those folks, I'm told, have taken flight.
How many of us write letters to newspaper editors or to our members of Parliament, call a talk show, join a group or start one? How many of us has asked a person in need, "Do you have food to eat", or "How are your children doing in school?"
I am convinced that we can start a positive revolution simply by the way we speak to each other. In fact, I am calling on all of us to begin a campaign to bridge the gap between police officers and ourselves, simply by changing our language.
The killing of Kayann Lamont, a woman eight months pregnant, by a police officer, is as alarming as it is mind-boggling, and there can be no excuses or justifications for what happened. It is incomprehensible that a professionally trained, armed police officer could come up against an unarmed woman eight months pregnant, and end up killing her and her unborn child. Clearly, something is very, very wrong.
Having said that, I am more aware than ever before that we must now find solutions to the deepening crises in our country, and one solution is a concerted, unified, national campaign for citizens and police to forge a new and harmonious relationship.
It can start by agreeing to a mandate of mutual respect, driven and spawned by simple courtesies and acts of civility - "Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Evening" - for starters. I believe that if we treat police officers with respect, they will have no choice but to treat us with the same respect.
Our children especially must know that police officers are friends and not enemies. This is where community policing is particularly important in facilitating that one-on-one relationship which is crucial to good policing. I saw where community policing worked well in the Grant's Pen community and it can work just as well elsewhere.
But none of the solutions will work unless there is a shared agreement to tackle the problem of corruption both inside and outside the police force. You can't have a "corrupter" without a "corruptee", which means that citizens are as culpable as police officers. The difference, however, is that while citizens may disobey and violate the law, police officers are sworn to uphold it. In other words, regardless of the types of temptations that are placed in front of a police officer, he or she is duty-bound to resist and to do what they are trained and charged to do - uphold the law, not break it.
I am keenly aware that reform of the police force is easier said than done given the complexities of the social, political, and economic variables and dynamics. Nevertheless, something must be done and done now, before the country sinks into total anarchy.