You’ve got to be used to my emotional rantings by now, especially after a period of absence. I assure you this will be no different. So I’ve just finished reading the transcript of Obama’s speech for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the march at Selma. I’m an absolute wreck right now, bear with me.If you haven’t figured it out by now, I live in Jamaica. Yes, the Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, premium quality marijuana, reggae music and endless sun, sea and sand Jamaica. The very same. We have many issues, on many levels, but I remain hard pressed to trade it in for any other nation.
Ten years, soon to be eleven, I made the choice to return home after years of living, studying and working in the United States. It’s not that I didn’t love the conveniences of pumping my own gas, drive thru banking after “close of business” and 24-hour shopping – this is my home. I was born and raised here. My family, my parents, siblings, friends since birth, my support system, are all here. I’ve made friends since my return that one would never be able to tell haven’t been part of my life since I was able to walk and talk. These things are priceless to me – any opportunity would have to be beyond exceptional to take me away from these things, but more importantly, to take me away from a chance to contribute and give back to my HOME.
This is the land of my birth.
If you’re Jamaican, you know the song. Even if you’re not, you know the sentiment. More than plants and trees grow in the soil. Hopes. Dreams. Ambitions. Promises for the future. These things are as much a part of the land as the red dirt and limestone. If you’ve ever seen the Jamaican flag you know how distinctive it is. It stands out anywhere it flies. Our athletes draped in it are unmistakable, no matter the sport. I was one of those Jamaicans living in the USA who had a Jamaican flag as the front license plate on my car, with zero apology. Our pride is our greatest unifying factor.
It is also our greatest weakness.
It is our pride that prevents us from speaking out in the face of corruption, abuse and murder of our children, decimation of our economy and our culture fading into obscurity and catch phrases on T-shirts.
Everything is NOT “Irie”.
My question is this – when are we going to emancipate ourselves from the notion that we must always show a brave face to the rest of the world while our children die, while our people succumb to the devastation of poverty, while we fester and rot into nothing under the pall of corruption that engulfs every facet of our society?
When are we going to realise that it is OK, to not be OK? When are we going to accept that paltry promises in return for votes are nothing but lip service? When are we going to accept that we have no future if we do not protect our children and have them aspire to be more than their circumstances?
The news in the past few weeks has been the same flavour every day: corruption, murder, crime, doom, gloom, and a vast assortment of nightmares. When are we going to accept that not one, but two, 14 year old pregnant MURDERED girls are not isolated but symptomatic of a society where older men preying on young GIRLS is praised and not condemned? When are we going to impress on our women that children and men are not financial plans? When are we going to impress on our men that CHILDREN are off limits for their sexual desires, both boys and girls?
When are we going to wake up?
You hear on the nightly news off the incidences of “jungle justice” – mob attacks, sometimes fatal, on offenders of some of what I mentioned above as well as other crimes. How exactly does our government expect a populace to have any faith in the system that panders to those who can afford justice, and crucifies those who cannot? What alternative do they expect the man on the street to see? Corrupt politicians, police and who knows who else… it is so ingrained to “get a bly” and “go round the system” and “check a link” that I’m not even sure we know what “right” and “just” even looks like as a people.
I work in an industry where I see the face of criminality and corruption every single day. I find it a challenge to maintain my hope and not fall into severe desperation to find an alternate reality. I contribute to the efforts of law enforcement and the judiciary in my every day work and their hopelessness and frustration has slowly but surely become mine. I still get up everyday and try to find the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, but it is a monumental challenge more and more every day.
I could go on and on and on as the roads already mentioned have many twists, turns, and even dead ends. Where I will go is here – I am a Jamaican parent. I am a Jamaican parent of a Jamaican child. His future is not his future alone. His future is entwined with that of every Jamaican child.
It takes a village. Not one that gossips and turns a blind eye and wonders “oh how could that have happened?!”. It takes a village who cares when the 40 year old man is having sex with the 16 year old girl who already has 2 children. A village that cares for everyone from the babe in the womb to the elders past their prime of health and strength.
A village that does not turn a blind eye to corruption and injustice because “a so it always go” and “man haffi eat a food”.
Until WE, as Obama said, WE, become that village – every outcry and moment of outrage is worth as much as the dirt on the bottom of my shoe. WE is owned by no one. WE is the responsibility of everyone. Lend your voice, but more importantly, lend your action. He said it today, our march is not done.
I will ramble for many, many more words, but I will only leave you with a simple question.
What is your legacy to your nation, remembering that your children ARE this nation?
Do better, Jamaica.