“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who
helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against
it is really co-operating with it.
“The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in
times of great moral conflict. The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression
and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good
—Martin Luther King, Jr
On my return to Trinidad and Tobago from a long trip, I couldn’t get over
how lovely this country is.
Washed by steady Christmas rains, the streets gleamed, the water on
pavements, leaves, hedges, bounced sunlight, and the mountains stood strong
and green, a reassuring patriarch.
I could see one shoulder, slightly higher than the other in my husband,
relax into his back in a way it hadn’t for five weeks.
The return put a kind of sleepy, silly smile on our faces, and we gave
ourselves up to the warm breezes of these islands.
At home, once I began to unroll the dozens of unread newspapers over the
weeks, the bubble burst.
Thirty murders in half-a-month, ten rapes by a man who is HIV-positive,
two bodies thrown over the hill, 20 mothers weeping over dead sons.
Armed robberies are no longer news. Corrupt policemen are the norm. The
regular dropping of guns and drugs on our coastlines just elicits a steups.
Policemen admitting guns are more accessible than sweeties on the block,
that practically every young man owns one, or can rent one at a moment’s
notice doesn’t raise a single eyebrow.
Have power to change
In journalism school, we were taught that “dog bites man” is not news,
but “man bites dog: is, so even the gang killing is old hat now.
A murderer who is caught, speedily tried and brought to justice will be
big news—if it happens.
One family during the past five weeks (a family that had already suffered
from a kidnapping and a murder at their business place), suffered four armed
robberies during Christmas.
An elderly couple, driving about in their new car off a highway, were
threatened by a group of youth who deliberately tried to pick a fight with
the old man over his driving, pulled him out of the car and roughed him up
with the hope of stealing his car.
The talk is now just about survival. “At least we are alive.” “At least I
wasn’t raped.” “They only tied us up and pointed guns to our heads and took
our money. At least we weren’t shot.” “We are alive.” “You can’t escape
We’ve talked and written until our hands and mouths hurt. We asked
repeatedly for the rule of law, transparency in government, education, a
work ethic, a working democracy, for men to be fathers to their sons, for
the judicious use of oil wealth, the flow of guns and drugs to stop.
Let us report each crime, even if we have no faith in the police, to the
anonymous Crime Stoppers.
Let us reach out to angry young men. Let us resist aggression,
corruption, and shoddy service. Let us stand up against mediocrity, insist
And let us keep faith with Martin Luther King’s beliefs that had the
power to change an entire generation.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for
Time to reclaim our power, our country, those hills.