Lament For Our Failing Nation

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It’s the over-saturation of our minds as we face the daily, recurring, gnawing trauma of everyday life in Trinidad and Tobago.

Growing up in a small island where we are all interconnected and live closely with each other, one would think we would be easy to govern.

A country with an abundance of petroleum, natural gas, asphalt, ammonia and a supposedly vibrant energy based economy. How can we possibly go wrong?

Yet we are faced with staggering crime statistics, heinous crimes, shootings, gang-related warfare, an overwhelming influx of guns and drugs, robberies anywhere and at any time.

It makes the old saying ‘being in the wrong place at the wrong time’ a fallacy, because in Trinidad, there is no wrong place or wrong time.

We can be assaulted in our homes, while trying to maintain a semblance of sanity with our heavy burglar-proofing, our fancy alarm systems, our high tech cameras.

We are like sitting ducks, waiting to be attacked, robbed, beaten, shot at, killed.

No one is immune. Everyone knows a victim of crime and it is not just the victim affected, but the immediate families, extended families, friends, co-workers, neighbours, all having to face the trauma in their own way, the ‘it could happen to me’, the hurt, anger, frustration, the paralysing fear.

To compound the situation, we now have an influx of immigrants.

No minister has accurate statistical data on the population of immigrants.

With no proper screening of persons and newspapers that carry headlines of immigrants being arrested for crimes ranging from possession of guns to shootings, we have added to our already unstable situation.

With many parts of our border open, anyone and anything is entering. How difficult is it to spend our resources on effective control of our border? Is there some hidden agenda behind the reckless handling of our nation? Unseen forces at play?

Why the helplessness of both the UNC and PNM to tackle these problems? Why is the expenditure for security not balanced with results? Why are corrupt police officers allowed to thrive and prosper?

Why are gangs being given contracts? Why has the legal system not been revamped to reflect justice for citizens? Why do citizens wait for decades for justice for crimes against loved ones?

Why the constant ineptitude in attempts to solve our crime situation? Why the decades of waiting for an efficient law enforcement and judicial system?

Why must we be the sacrificial lambs? Why are we not considered valuable resources? Why must we fear constantly for the lives of our children?

Why must our psyche be scarred continuously? Why aren’t there harsher laws for deterring crime? Why are we constantly feeling the pain of the nation? We as a nation need to address the root of the problem. Research is paramount so we can understand how the problems of criminal behaviour can be effectively addressed. Until we know what are the causes, we cannot treat the problems. How are our nation’s children to be steered in the right direction?

What avenues are there for these young people to stay clear of crime, negative influences, gang initiations? How can we as a people reach the impressionable before it is too late? We have generations of very young teens already basking in crime, initiated, hardened, bred into the vices of guns, drugs, robberies and rapes.

What can social programmes, government bodies, citizens, do to slow down the descent of thousands of innocents into hardened criminal activity?

How can we reach the vulnerable before it is too late? How can we understand as a nation that whatever happens in the downtrodden communities cannot be left to go untended?

How do we raise our consciousness to understand that we are all interconnected and everything that happens in these communities ultimately affects us all? We cannot continue to live in a vacuum.

We are all being sucked in involuntarily and if we do not acknowledge these cries for help and the urgent dire need to intervene swiftly in the most powerful and effective way, we will continue to spiral out of control and all will be lost to us as a nation.

We need to be our brother’s keepers. It is not us against them, but all of us together that need to work to solve our crisis.

Catherine Murphy