We are not living our brightest moment when we describe the horrible violence in our land as a “sign of the times,” and this is precisely the response we are getting from many of our church leaders and their flocks. The last book in the Holy Bible, Revelation, prophesies of the Apocalypse — the destruction of the world. Many church leaders and their flocks are interpreting these horrific times as fulfilling that prophecy.
If we, in the face of our horrific crime situation, looked soberly at this last days of the world pronouncement, we might conclude, sincerely, that it is a crutch to lean on because we feel helpless, or, disappointingly, it is a cop-out to blind ourselves from the plight of our neighbors who have less than we have or are going through experiences that we feel insulated from.
If this murderous time we are witnessing today is indeed a sign of the end, then it is only for Belize, and maybe a few countries around us. We certainly aren’t living in the end times of the USA, with a murder rate of 5 per 100,000; Canada, with a murder rate of 1.76 per 100,000; Sweden, with a murder rate of 1.14 per 100,000; or Japan, with a murder rate of 0.2 per 100,000. A couple of those countries have lived through times when they had a very high murder rate; they didn’t bring it down by putting their heads in the sand and predicting the end of the world.
Jesus the Christ counseled that no human being knows the day or the hour, and it is for sure that in those countries that have been able to contain or reduce violence, there are people, irreligious and religious, who took the bull by the horns and set about improving their justice system and creating opportunities for the marginalized. Belize is going through hell at this time, and if we will put an end to the havoc in our world, if we will navigate through this storm, we need all hands on deck.
We are a small developing nation, and that makes our lives, as a physical resource, that much more valuable than the lives of citizens in highly populated nations. The Lord knows that we are a nation desperately in need of all our resources, and we all need to do more. There are physical things that must be done to arrest this violence that is causing extreme pain and paralyzing our nation.
Our religious leaders are uniquely placed because they can address our problems without being too political. Any criticism of the misdeeds or lack of action by some petty leaders in our nation will draw their ire, but a clear heart before God and the conviction that our God still condemns anyone who murders their brother or sister, should give us the courage to boldly make a stand for crime prevention and justice in this land.
There are too many politicians whose main interest is the party they belong to, and there are some religious leaders whose primary interest is increasing their flock. If the first sees the interest of the nation as secondary, and the latter’s primary concern is the business possibilities that exist in a larger flock, then self-interest alone should spur them to action. The story is that potential party members and church members are falling in the streets in numbers that put us among the group of most violent nations in the world. Seriously, desperately, we all have to labor to stem the flow of blood in our nation.
If you’re high on alcohol, or weed, don’t drive
At this time of the year, especially, organizations like the National Drug Abuse Control Council (NDACC) make a special effort to bring to the attention of drivers the dangers involved with driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. It is for sure that drivers in Belize have been behind the wheel while under prescription or illegal drugs at levels that reduce attention spans, but our knowledge is that Belize has seldom been testing drivers for substances other than alcohol when they are involved in accidents.
Many Belizeans must have driven vehicles after smoking marijuana, while the drug was illegal, and now that it has been decriminalized, some quarters are making a link between a perceived increase of serious highway accidents and the new law. These quarters were against relaxing the control of marijuana; they are adamant that the drug not be legalized and are advocating for the revocation of the latest status.
Numerous studies coming out of Colorado since recreational marijuana was allowed in that US state in 2012, indicate that there was a spike in serious road accidents, some sources say more than 6%, immediately after the law controlling marijuana was relaxed.
Angela Chen, in a story titled “Traffic deaths rose, then fell, after three states legalized marijuana”, published on the website www.theverge.com, said that a study published in the journal, Addiction, found that in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington State, states that had legalized medical marijuana, there was an increase of traffic deaths.
Chen said that the increase was temporary, that “rates went back to normal after a year”, and that one of the authors of the study suggested that the likely explanation for the spike has to do with new users of marijuana who didn’t understand the drug.
It is difficult for a comprehensive study on this matter to arrive at definitive conclusions because there are so many factors in traffic accidents, some of those being speeding, driver fatigue, driving while drug or alcohol-impaired, poor maintenance of vehicles, poor tires, bad or inadequate roads, negligence, and stress caused by health, emotional, or economic issues.
One factor that has exacerbated traffic accidents on our highways is increased use of motorcycles, a mode of transport that is not as safe as traveling in vehicles. It is possible that decriminalization of marijuana has had an impact on accidents on the highways in Belize, but that is speculative, not fact. What is a fact, scientifically proven, is that too much marijuana in the system impairs motor skills, so it is wise for drivers to be aware of its consequences.
Have a blessed Christmas, Belize. And drive safely.