Editorial — 15 August 2018
Two traumatic tragedies

We would like to comment on two traumatic tragedies which occurred last week in The Jewel. One was the apparent suicide by hanging of a 7-year-old boy in Seine Bight, which is a beautiful seacoast village a few miles north of the more famous Placencia, and the other is the murder, apparently by Belizeans, of Richard Foster, 74, a famous British photographer and filmmaker.

More than four decades ago, a teenaged boy, no more than 14 or 15 years old, hanged himself in his home near the corner of King Street and West Canal. There was a dominoes team which used to play competitively called Hillico, or Hillico’s.  The team members were almost all senior citizens, including the now centenarian, Gilbert “Bertie” Ellis, Sr. It was a fine team, and the older men had introduced this teenager from the neighbourhood into their team. Their practice sessions were held on the streetside almost in front of the teenager’s home. He was the only youth on the team, and he was an excellent player. We also believe he was attending high school.

We remember the teenager as quiet, polite, and introverted. Our shock and sadness were extreme when we heard that he had ended his young and promising life.

Words like “shock” and “sadness” are inadequate, however, in trying to explain Belizeans’ response to the news of the suicide of this Seine Bight child, during the usually happy summer holiday months at that. A 14 or 15-year-old suicide is bad enough, terrible, but a 7-year-old?

 Let’s turn to the murder of a British expatriate who lived near the Belize Zoo on the George Price Highway. Many years ago, we saw a documentary film which recorded, in a sensitive and unforgettable manner, the changes in Belize’s earth and waterways, flora and fauna and wildlife, when the first rains come after the long dry season. Our belief is that it was Richard Foster who made that film.

Whatever the case, the facts are that Richard Foster was world class in his craft, and a great lover of Belize and its wildlife. Such an expatriate retiree was a very valuable asset for Belize, in several ways. When we heard of his disappearance, and then murder, our hope was, for whatever it was worth, that it was not Belizeans who had committed this heinous crime.

Our sense is that such a septuagenarian artist, living near to the popular Belize Zoo for so many years, would have been a totally innocent victim. Richard Foster would have never suspected he would be targeted so malevolently. But Belize has become this kind of dangerous place where innocence is no protection. No one is safe. The newspaper’s sympathies go out to his widow, his family, his friends, and his fans.

In conclusion, we return to the case of the 7-year-old’s grief-stricken family, friends, and community in Seine Bight. Our sympathies to all. We ask ourselves at times like these: where did we go wrong? What could each of us have done differently?

At times like these, when we consider these two traumatic tragedies, we see the need for us Belizeans, from time to time, to reduce some of these party political intensities. In this context, we appreciate even more the successes last week of our national female volleyball team and other athletic youth. As a people, we Belizeans are experiencing terrible stress. That terrible stress was reflected in these two tragedies. The tragedies have nothing to do with our often trivial party politics. The tragedies have to do with Belize as a society, and the larger landscape of the human condition.

God bless Belize.

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Deshawn Swasey

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