If someone were to lose his or her life under your watch would you hold yourself responsible? What if the life was lost because those charged with protecting him/her failed to do their duty? What if he/she died because friends and family feared for their own safety?
He materialized at the STAR one day without warning and, in the course of conversation, showed his scars from bullet wounds: two to the chest, two to the back. We featured his nightmarish story about certain individuals who had sworn to take revenge after they suspected he had reported their activities to the police. Indeed, via our story we pleaded with the authorities on his behalf. Either they never read the paper or they didn’t care enough to act. The look in the eyes of the young man as he told his tale left no doubt he believed his life was over; that he knew his days on this rock were numbered.
In 2013 I learned that an 11-year-old had been shot. A bullet had grazed his head. Miraculously father and son had managed to get away with their lives. That divine rescue was short-lived. The boy’s father was killed a short time later. The individuals came to mind this week. Crime remains on the increase, and the police continue to struggle with the problem of getting witnesses of serious crimes to assist law enforcement.
This week I thought, too, about where that first-mentioned young boy would be at this time, had he lived. My introspection was grounded in a meeting with another young woman who seemed tainted by her circumstances. One of seven children in her household, the now 17-year-old lived with an older man who had taken her in. She spoke casually about how she was forbidden to make contact with their neighbours, and also about how she roamed the streets, sometimes at night, for lack of anything better to do. She recalled meeting another man and his family at the beach who invited her to come live with him. Questioned why she’d be comfortable with such an arrangement, she shrugged and smiled without answering. As I had in the case of the young man who lost his father, I wondered what lay ahead of her. She was young enough for anyone to be concerned, but old enough for society to consider her an adult. There was no parent to counsel her what to do or not do.
Again my earlier question: if someone was to become a victim of circumstances under your watch would you hold yourself responsible? What if that someone had refused your help? What if they’d gone down the wrong path because people who were supposed to care for them, the authorities included, had let them down?
The monsters in our midst continue to prey on our most vulnerable with impunity, while the rest of the population pretends not to know what’s going on under their noses. They are self-convinced the reports of criminality have nothing to do with them, that the rapes and the murders and the other brutalities suffered even by children are for the police to deal with. That it’s not their business. Ah, but it is their business. Our business, yours and mine. Hopefully we’ll face the truth—before we are in no position to offer disclaimers and excuses for looking the other way.