GUNS AND NOSES
Dr. Lester CN Simon
Having a gun pointed in your face can be a life encapsulating moment. It’s amazing what you can see in microseconds. The first time my face encountered a real gun was some time in the sixties in Montserrat. A group of us, relaxing after a drama production, was listening enchantingly to war stories told by a World War II veteran exhibiting his captured Luger pistol. He had shown us at least three times that the gun was not loaded. When he suddenly pointed it in my face, my entire life went flashing by in vivid technicolour.
The second and last time a gun bumped into my face was when I was reluctantly leaving a night club in downtown Kingston in the seventies after a squad of policemen barged in. It was really a case of fools rushing in where angels should fear to tread. On this occasion, I did not see my life flashing by, probably because it 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 already taken me through my life’s journey when the police interrupted.
During the many sleepless nights of my medical internship in Jamaica 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. Wary and weary of guns, I tried hard to confuse the sound of gunshots with the sound of backfire from a car. But Jamaica had many good auto mechanics and many more active gunmen.
When the last comptroller of Customs of Antigua and Barbuda was brutally murdered, I thought at first that it was an outside job. My protective instinct initially prevented me from admitting the obvious for fear of what could happen to any citizen, including me, my family and friends. But the crime scene was too much of bloody mess to be a professional, outside job. For that same reason, it took us less than ten seconds on boarding the Computer Challenger yacht in Barbuda, to suspect that that too was a local killing.
Since those two local murders, the numbers of guns, deaths and injuries from gunshot wounds have shot up. Some people do not like to hear the truth but guns were rampant during the tenure of the last government and guns are more rampant now. Could it be that forces other than politicians are facilitating the entry of guns into a once 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 that people other than politicians are facilitating the movement of guns.
Any teenager knows that the vilest goings on can take place right inside the church, in schools, hospitals, offices of professional business persons and such places. We all know that unsuspected professionals can do unsuspected, evil things, professionally. That was why I laughed hysterically one time in Jamaica when we were held back in a road block to allow a speeding public vehicle, escorted by outriders, to run through. Someone jokingly remarked that it was alleged that that was the best way to transport drugs and guns.
Despite the sordid gun stories I heard and witnessed professionally and otherwise in Jamaica, the most heart wrenching one was 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 police 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 killers, could not fathom why the weeping mother, aching and boiling over for the loss of her son, refused to say a single word about the suspects.
It reminded me of the time fifty years ago when, despite my protest of innocence, I received a thorough lashing for allegedly pouring water into a tall, family sized Jergens lotion bottle, with few precious drops of lotion remaining. Later, 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. To this day! How then, did they expect me to run to them and inform them on what was really going on in the outside toilet when pairs of 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 feces (for want of a four letter word). Something rotten is going on here. Almost all of the murders are committed by our own born and bred Antiguans and Barbudans. I repeat, almost all of the murders are committed by our own born and bred Antiguans and Barbudans. In the while, we prepare for an invading, imaginary army from outer space and blame the immigrant army of Caribbean nationals. Foreigners do commit crime, as we did in the Virgin Islands. Frankly, if most of the gun crimes here were committed by hardened criminals from overseas, all of us would have been stiff, tone dead long time.
The pen is indeed mightier than the sword but words know their targets. Bullets are worse than stray animals. 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: that some lives are more important than others, and worse, much worse, that, like little Bo Peep’s sheep, the guns have finally found their way back home, bringing their tales behind them.