Letters — 13 January 2018
Desensitized

It was an afternoon like no other in Belize City. Not a cloud in the sky. I decided to take a stroll to the local Chinese shop that has the cheap “chow-mein”. It had been months since its succulent strands laced with soy sauce and watered-down ketchup blest my palate. Christmas was a few weeks back, and of course it was a sin to abandon the home and eat from Sue during such a holy time. It would only bring dishonor upon my family that had the “true-true Christmas” with the proverbial boom and chime and the sorrel wine.

As I made that one small step for a man unto the boulevard that is nestled within the heart of the “Southside”, my cravings abruptly subsided.

8 rapid blasts of gunfire shattered the hush of the neighborhood and I was stopped dead in my tracks … figuratively. I checked for injuries as jolts of adrenaline to my limbs fooled me for a second that I was hit. “I’m okay”, I told myself. I looked left and right, glancing at the many faces that lined the boulevard. Some didn’t hear it due to their loud festive music, but soon realized that something went down due to the commotion of those who did.

“Bwai, shot buss choo di hole deh,” mentioned one bystander as I made my way to the shop. “Boss, I gwen fass,” shouted a seemingly dispensable employee of a nearby establishment as he sprinted closer to the action. As I neared Sue’s shop, some women were stationed at their post selling “fresh outta di barrel” clothes.  They laughed with excitement as the police trucks rushed to the scene of where the injured lay.  I ordered my food but left before being served as I, myself, gravitated to the fresh crime scene.

Now, I’ve heard in the past people say that you can “smell blood”, but I never had. Nonetheless, I somehow instantly recognized it. It was boiling on the concrete sidewalk.  Sizzling in fact. A soupy pool of crimson, fresh from a man’s body gawked back at me as I stared. Mortified.

Even more in shock was the victim himself, thrown into the back of a police pick-up truck. I later learnt that he was not the primary target, but was just in the wrong place at the opportune time for the bloodthirsty “men”. His condition is critical. Yet, on this crime scene with no yellow tape like you see in the movies, a mad dash to be an onlooker probably won you a garland of some kind in that neck of the woods. Housewives became makeshift reporters that gave live coverage of the events. They were all so elated and bursting at the seams with excitement. This was the most horrifying thing I saw that day.

Yes, there was a second pool of blood and trails of blood even, that ran for several frantic feet into the street from when the other victims made desperate runs for their lives; but as traumatic as all that was, it was still outweighed by my utter bewilderment at how everyone seemed to react. They were all so indifferent. This made me conclude only one thing: we have been desensitized. Trained and conditioned to suck it up; taught by a systematic movement of some sort to tolerate violence and murder. As Robert Marley condescendingly lyricized: “Some say, it’s just a part of it, we’ve got to fulfill the book.” But, we don’t.

The truth is, and without variance, we as a society in Belize City have been shaken and troubled by the plague of gun violence. In some ironic twist, however, it has been as if though the plague of cruel murders has merely silently wreaked its havoc. This of course is judging from public reactions to these acts of violence. And in my opinion, it is this silence which makes us accomplices to the heinous deeds of a few bad men.

I say this because the bullpen styled shouting contest that erupted in the aftermath of the attempted murders was only a second-hand emotion. Only the testimony of hearsay could be gathered before the short-lived spur of narration and proclamation ended. There was no vital realization. No recognition of the loss and the danger. There was no real catharsis.

I agree with anyone who says we should not live in fear. But, living fearlessly should not come at the cost of our own sensitivity towards others. How have we as a people become so desensitized to perhaps the most grossly abhorred of human activity? Murder.

Perhaps overexposure to the element of gun violence has the residual effect of indifference. Or perhaps, deep down, we still have that innate craving of our ancestors for blood sacrifice and carnage – replacing the gladiators with our own randomly plucked innocent fellow citizens. Their blood cries out from the ground, indignant: “Are you not entertained!?Are you not entertained?”

We live in a society where it has become obvious that despicable and vile acts occur from within places of power like Parliament, the Police Department and, by extension, the “Special Assignment Team,” to places of what could be deemed as “low,” such as small factions we call gangs; but we, as a people, must not let that discourage what I think should be our overriding creed: tyrants should be driven back and despots must flee!

I mean, what kind of haven of democracy do we really have, when the murders only subside for special political moments? And now that the Barrow administration wanes and the motivation for (apparent) peace diminishes along with it, what are we to do other than pretend we don’t live in some state of fear? Perhaps, we’ll resort back to the hangman. Who knows? More blood to quench the unrest. An eye for an eye, that’s what many are calling for.

But while I’m over here hypothesizing, why not the rest of us stand-up against violence in our communities in whatsoever capacity possible? Let’s go beyond the catharsis and rid our nation of vile corruption on all fronts. From the top, down. He who has an ear, let him – let her hear!

Richard Williams

-R. Williams

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Deshawn Swasey

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