Tim seemed to be doing just fine as he opened Monday’s Newsspin with an innocuous peachy-preachy sermon about how regrettable it was that Emancipation Day— “a time for deep reflection”—had long ago transmogrified into just another boozy public holiday replete with tragic trappings; another Funday; another opportunity for the largely unemployed and broke workforce to forget its troubles and dance. As if to make matters worse, Tim observed, this time around there had been not a word, not a word, not a related word from “the authorities.” All of which struck me, in our socio-economic circumstances, as, well, just a tad naïve, not to say ironic.
I wondered what other countries observe Emancipation Day and vaguely recalled reading somewhere (that was a long time ago, the source now eludes me!): “Emancipation Day is celebrated in many former British colonies in the Caribbean and areas of the United States on various dates in observance of the emancipation of slaves of African descent.” I had formed the impression that, “areas of the United States” notwithstanding, Emancipation Day was mainly a Caribbean ting, a black-Caribbean thing, that is—unlike our irresistibly all-inclusive carnival.
I cannot recall offhand whether Africa was among the nations that ostensibly observe Emancipation Day. With all its on-going horrific black-on-black tribal violence, its trafficking in black flesh, its genocidal tendencies, its enslavement of little black girls and boys for the prurient enjoyment of deviant Europeans, perhaps I should let this particular sleeping dog lie.
Just before he turned Newsspin over to his lunch-time audience on Monday, Tim remembered to read a Bar Association press release that proved to be yet another toothless threat from a legal fraternity long tolerant of its working conditions, at any rate, such as have always existed at the nation’s court buildings, the upkeep of which is the government’s responsibility.
The first caller blamed the regrettable Emancipation Day situation on local parents that had neglected to teach their offspring to be appreciative of their freedom, for which countless nameless slaves had paid with their African blood. The second concurred but then quickly sank his fangs into Tim for what the caller perceived as the host’s empathy with the complaining lawyers. From the caller’s perspective they, more than any other group, were responsible for the mounting crime and the growing tendency among citizens to take the law into their own hands. Nothing Tim said in his own defense or in support of the complaining unidentified lawyers was enough to change his caller’s mind.
A third caller all but damned lawyers as the root of everything evil on this Rock of Sages. He blamed them for the notoriously slow pace of justice; for what he considered an open conspiracy to keep young and poor citizens locked up for years without trials; and for not standing up to a legal system that clearly had been designed to keep the underprivileged behind bars for the smallest infractions.
As if in support of his conspiracy theory, the caller reminded Newsspin’s host that local MPs and judges were members of the same fraternity, therefore hardly likely to confront one another on the matter of justice for regular Saint Lucians. “And let’s not pretend you don’t know what I’m saying is true, Tim,” he added. “You know it is!”
What had started out as a well-intentioned invitation to revisit the past had served only to fan the flames of barely contained public rage. Of course the people have long had good reason to be angry. George Odlum, before he suffered the inevitable consequences of residing too close to monsters, had unleashed from a public platform in Castries the following smart bomb: “The politicians have fooled the people too many times. The next batch of politicians to fool the people should be hanged in Columbus Square.”
If in 1972 the people had already been “fooled too many times,” imagine the damage to their mental health after being betrayed by their elected representatives for more than half a century.
Yes, so Saint Lucians are angry. And not without cause: the only security force between law-abiding citizens and others who profit from criminality and mayhem has effectively been rendered sheep in wolves’ clothing, soft targets for doped-up teenagers often better armed than the protectors of the people’s life and property. Recently, police officers at Richfond had to duck for cover when emboldened drive-by snipers opened fire on their quarters.
The nation’s only crime lab has inexplicably been shut down for months, even as the killers, the rapists and other social spirochetes wreak their peculiar brand of havoc on the unprotected and frightened citizenry. Recently the prime minister announced without evidence—and without a declared resolution—that some of the worst crime experienced in Saint Lucia was committed by politicians, business people and police officers. He told journalists in London that we have “a problem with corrupt cops.” This at the time of the Ollie Gobat murder, still unresolved.
The jobless majority cannot afford transportation to the nearest hospital, let alone doctors’ fees. For too many the answer to their problems was attached to the end of a rope or in the barrel of a gun.
Saint Lucian voters are evidently mad as hell about the prospect of being forced yet again to choose between lesser evils come the next general elections. If only the nation could discover the courage to unchain itself from its self-constructed predicament, I suspect Emancipation Day would immediately take on useful new meaning—for all of us!