Slaughter of the innocents

Barbara Gloudon

Friday, December 21, 2012

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IT'S NOT supposed to happen. Children are not supposed to die, not at Christmas and not by violence, especially not at the hands of a youth of 20. Thoughts of Yuletide pleasures have been dampened as the world, not just America, is painstruck by the horror story of 20 little lives taken in a small American town.

At the first news bulletin, the question surfaced: "Any Jamaicans among them?", Connecticut being well-known territory to our people, many of whom came into the area through the farm work programme and remained or returned to put down family roots.

We aren't represented in Newtown but we have not been spared the pain of imagining any of our offspring being victims. Even children are asking why? Why would innocent children come to such an end, within sight of the most joyous time of the year, especially for young ones? Theologians and scholars, parents and others will always be faced with the questions "Why? Why God?"

Ever since the day when a friend called to alert me to the Newtown tragedy, I've been haunted by it. Why? Why these children, from as young as six years old? We have a family member in 'Merica who is not far from that age. What if he had been among the 20? Morbid speculation or honest reaction?

The President of the United States shed tears. He paused more than once to regain his composure as he addressed a nation in shock. As a father, he could not hide the pain. As a nation's leader, he carried the burden of his office, asking why and how came we here to a time like this? It is said, he is a Bob Marley fan so he would know the lines: "How many more will have to suffer, how many more will have to die? Don't ask me why." Unhappily, he not only has to ask the questions but is expected to find the answers.

Times like these will always bring out the cynics. "Poor people pickney die violently all the time, so what's the fuss?" One question brings another. "Would they mourn for us?" I'd hope to God so. And then, there's the idiotic response: "More children are destroyed by abortion, so what's the fuss?" Now, how did that get in there? There always will be persons who wouldn't miss any opportunity to flog their own dead horse.

As is to be expected, the gun lobby Up So is beginning its pushback against the public outrage at the role of guns in mass murder once again. Some of the orchestrated arguments include: Why regulate the sale of assault rifles but ignore the mental health of buyers? Does this mean for them that you must be mentally ill to buy expensive, lethal weapons, thereby boosting the enormous profits made by the gun industry?

A TRULY AWFUL FEATURE of the Newtown slaughter is that the mass murderer was equipped with pistols and assault rifle belonging to his mother. He rewarded her by slaying her first. We will never know why — for he took the coward's way out carrying his secrets to his grave. Now everybody is talking about his mental illness. It strikes me that Mom should've had a bit of head examination, too, long before this.

Two pistols and one semi-automatic rifle as her personal armoury and she a teacher of children to whom she could well have shared messages of peace and love. What drove her to build up her own little stash of destruction? This kind of madness has happened many times before. This is no time for smartass questions and answers but we still cannot keep from asking — how often must this story be told? How often will America — and other countries — have to mourn, like a Biblical Rachael crying for her children, slain by a mad Herod chasing shadows?

We here know too well what grief the gun can bring, the lives lost because of a trigger pulled. In the words of a very wise man: "A gun has no conscience, no eyes, no ears, no heart." This is not the kind of thing with which we should be occupied in this season of peace and goodwill. Unfortunately, we seem unable to escape it. So, the question continues to resonate: "How came we here, Lord?"

YESTERDAY — TODAY: Last Sunday afternoon, on the sidewalk outside the Ward Theatre, memories returned of the pleasures of a simpler time when Christmas came to downtown. It was a time of promenaders strolling from one end of King Street to the other, dressed in the colours of the year's "Chrismuss".

Word mysteriously circulated, designating the colour of the season. Who gave the word, no one knew but persons complied without questioning the source. Paper hats were everywhere with the slogans reflecting events of the year, reaching strangers, family and friends alike, instant communication long before YouTubeand Facebook.

Sellers of genuinely "Made in Jamaica" toys displayed their wares in wooden stalls set up around the perimeter of the Park at Parade. Little yabbas (clay pots) to "cook" dolly dinner, teenie clothes irons to "press" dolly clothes, gigs (spinning tops) for the boys — none battery-operated, simple now but believable then, in an age of innocence.

American apples were displayed atop candy bowls which weren't "bowls" at all, but boxes of glass and wood, containing coconut drops and grater cake, guava doasie and tie-teet, wangla and stretcher, popular homemade candy of the time, mostly forgotten now. Sounds of Christmas horns, called "fee-fees", added to the merriment. People walked the streets from Christmas Eve into Christmas Day, unmolested and free from fear.

Sparkling starlights which lit up the night, competed with the forbidden thunderbolt which sent dogs into hiding. The sound of carols spilled out from the Parish Church, Coke Church, East Queen Street Baptist and Scots Kirk, The Salvation Army kettles were there to be filled, to feed the needy and people responded. There was peace on earth and plenty goodwill with no ole tief and no guns to bring grief.

AND THE WARD ... A PALACE OF WONDERS, famed for its Christmas morning concerts featuring top artistes of the day, including Eric Coverley and Florizel Glasspole before he became Governor General. Music ... dance ... pop story and mek laugh with Miss Lou, Maas Ran and the Pantomime. During the year, the Ward accommodated worldfamous singers, players of music and dancers from home and abroad. Nowhere could match the Ward, the same Ward which now stands mouldering and decaying to this day, awaiting a renaissance for which we all fervently hope.

WHATEVER HAPPENED to giving? Word is, some of the Diaspora family are disappointed that there hasn't been more positive response from home to assist our people in the Rockaways, Queens, New York, who are still trying to recover from a real beating by Hurricane Sandy. Many had to live for weeks without electricity in houses partially ruined. Many had to depend on the kindness of others and some still do. Storm damage claims have not yet been honoured. They could do with a helping hand.

Remember how quickly persons like them would respond to our times of disaster. It was hoped that hearts and pockets here would've been opened to assist but not really. Maybe we haven't heard enough about it. It couldn't be that we don't care? REMEMBER NOW, Christmas is giving ... One Love.




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