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Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Dead Parade


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Having a gun pointed in your face can be a life encapsulating event; a compressed orgiastic moment. It’s amazing what you can see in microseconds especially after basket ball and Michael Jordon taught us how long one second can be.

The first time my face encountered a real gun was some time in the sixties in Montserrat. A group of us was listening enchantingly to war stories told by a World War II veteran exhibiting the Luger pistol he had captured. Even though he had shown us at least three times that the gun was empty, when he suddenly pointed it in my face, my entire life flashed by in slow snippets in vivid technicolour.

The second and last time a gun greeted my face was when I was reluctantly leaving a night club in downtown Kingston in the seventies after a troupe of policemen came in. It was really a case of fools rushing in where angels should fear to thread. On that occasion I did not see an orgy of my life rewinding and fast forwarding, probably because my life had become much too complicated. Or maybe the jaw-dropping go-go dancing I had seen in the club, called The Keg, on lower Orange Street, had taken me through my life’s journey when the police interrupted.

During the many sleepless nights of my internship I tried, unsuccessfully, not to get accustomed to the Pavlovian link between the sound of gunshots and the sound of the telephone summoning me from my bed to the hospital. Indeed, I tried hard to confuse the sound of gunshot with the sound of backfire from a car. But Jamaica had many good motor mechanics and many more active gunmen.

When the last comptroller of Customs of Antigua and Barbuda was brutally murdered, I thought initially that it was an outside job, an international hit (as they say) until the Scotland Yard detective said what was only too clear. My protective mechanism had crept in to prevent me from admitting the obvious for fear of what could happen to any citizen, including me, my family and friends. The crime scene was too bloody to be a professional job. Violently spilt blood is a very hospitable substance. Like any good host, it is reluctant to stay in one place. It will always find and mix with the materials in its path. Hence, it took me less than ten seconds after we boarded the Computer Challenger yacht in Barbuda to know that that too was a local job. It was one hell of a bloody mess.

Since those two local murders, the numbers of guns and deaths and injuries from gunshot wounds have shot up. Some people will not like to hear the truth but if guns were rampant during the tenure of the last government and guns are still rampant and even more rampant now, with a change of government, could it be that forces other than politicians are facilitating the entry of guns into a one-time halcyon Antigua and Barbuda? We have a nasty, satisfying habit of blaming politicians for everything. And please do not say that the last government still has operatives in strategic places. The alternative might be too hard to countenance but it may very well be people in high places, other than politicians, who are facilitating the movement of guns.

Any teenaged virgin with eyes tightly shut and fast asleep knows that the vilest goings on can take place right inside the church of God, in schools, hospitals and offices of professional business persons. We all know that unsuspecting professionals can do unsuspecting, worthless things, professionally. This is why I laughed, and almost got high from doing so, one time in Jamaica when we were held back in a road block to allow a speeding ambulance escorted by outriders to run through. Someone in our car remarked that it was alleged that the best way to transport drugs and guns was in a speeding ambulance, with police outriders to boot (literally).

But the most heart wrenching gun story was told to here right here at home. A hard working police officer noted how difficult it was to fight the war on drugs because someone always seemed to know when a raid would take place. One week later he was almost as distraught as the mother of a young man who was killed on or near a basket ball court. The good officer, convinced that the mother knew the alleged perpetrators, could not understand why the weeping mother, aching and boiling over for the loss of her son refused to say a word to him.

It reminded me of the time almost fifty years ago when, despite my protest of innocence, I received a thorough ass-ing for allegedly pouring water in a bottle of Jergens lotion with few precious drops of lotion remaining in the bottle. Then it was discovered that someone else had done the watery deed. Moreover, one person witnessing the rain of licks on my backside knew the guilty one. To this day, no one apologized to me or even put my licks on credit for the next occasion when I was really guilty. How then, did they expect me to run to them and inform them of what was really going on in the outside toilet when some boys and girls would seemingly and seamlessly disappear?

Now I know that sometimes you have to take the wrongly inflicted licks and say that the national toilet is really full of shit. Something rotten is going on here. We cannot wait until people in high places get shot and killed to use the national resources we already have to put a stoppage to gun crimes. If we were to do that, we would be admitting two very awful things: Some lives are more important than others, and worse, much worse, like little Bo Peep’s sheep, the guns have finally found their way back home, bringing their tails and tears behind them.

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