Thursday, February 22, 2018

Slaughter of the innocents

IT'S NOT supposed to happen. Children are not supposed to die, not at Christmas and not by violence, especially not at the hands of a youth of 20. Thoughts of yuletide pleasures have been dampened as the world, not just America, is painstruck by the horror story of 20 little lives taken in a small American town.

At the first news bulletin, the question surfaced: "Any Jamaicans among them?'', Connecticut being well-known territory to our people, many of whom came into the area through the farm work programme and remained or returned to put down family roots.

We aren't represented in Newtown but we have not been spared the pain of imagining any of our offspring being victims. Even children are asking why? Why would innocent children come to such an end, within sight of the most joyous time of the year, especially for young ones? Theologians and scholars, parents and others will always be faced with the questions "Why? Why God?''

Ever since the day when a friend called to alert me to the Newtown tragedy, I've been haunted by it. Why? Why these children, from as young as six years old? We have a family member in 'Merica who is not far from that age. What if he had been among the 20? Morbid speculation or honest reaction?

The president of the United States shed tears. He paused more than once to regain his composure as he addressed a nation in shock. As a father, he could not hide the pain. As a nation's leader, he carried the burden of his office, asking why and how we came here to a time like this?

It is said he is a Bob Marley fan so he would know the lines: "How many more will have to suffer, how many more will have to die? Don't ask me why." Unhappily, he not only has to ask the questions but is expected to find the answers.

Times like these will always bring out the cynics. "Poor people pickney die violently all the time, so what's the fuss?'' One question brings another. "Would they mourn for us?'' I'd hope to God they would.

And then, there's the idiotic response: "More children are destroyed by abortion, so what's the fuss?'' Now, how did that get in there? There will always be persons who wouldn't miss any opportunity to flog their own dead horse.

As is to be expected, the gun lobby "Up So'' is beginning its pushback against the public outrage at the role of guns in mass murder once again.

Some of the orchestrated arguments include: Why regulate the sale of assault rifles but ignore the mental health of buyers? Does this mean for them that you must be mentally ill to buy expensive, lethal weapons, thereby boosting the enormous profits made by the gun industry?

A truly awful feature of the Newtown slaughter is that the mass murderer was equipped with pistols and assault rifle belonging to his mother. He rewarded her by slaying her first. We will never know why — for he took the coward's way out carrying his secrets to his grave. Now everybody is talking about his mental illness. It strikes me that Mom should've had a bit of head examination, too, long before this.

Two pistols and one semi-automatic rifle as her personal armoury and she a teacher of children to whom she could well have shared messages of peace and love. What drove her to build up her own little stash of destruction?

This kind of madness has happened many times before. This is no time for sarcastic questions and answers but we still cannot keep from asking—how often must this story be told? How often will America—and other countries—have to mourn, like a biblical Rachael crying for her children, slain by a mad Herod chasing shadows?

We here know too well what grief the gun can bring, the lives lost because of a trigger pulled.

In the words of a very wise man: "A gun has no conscience, no eyes, no ears, no heart.'' This is not the kind of thing with which we should be occupied in this season of peace and goodwill. Unfortunately, we seem unable to escape it. So, the question continues to resonate: "How came we here, Lord?''

• Courtesy Jamaica Observer