Just musing Belize………..
As I sit to write my article … I just could not get the images of this beautiful little girl out my head. I am to write about a far more casual topic but thought that it was more important to weigh in on what is going on in our beautiful country. Jasmine Lowe has become the face and name of a people who are absolutely fed up with crime. She is not the first child to have died by no means of a violent crime but at a time when we have been screaming for an end to the violence, at a time when it has become like one a day vitamins, at a time when mothers weep and a country is lost it seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I grew up in a Belize where we felt safe to play, where our children could play in the drains in the rain, where they could be left to enjoy a little thing called “freedom”. Gone are these days! Not today, yesterday, the last few weeks or months but for some years now. As I listen to the public at large screaming for justice and screaming for an end to violence I wonder how many of them have really sat down and soaked it all in, soaked in the stench that has been building from their inaction, their lack of parenting, their lack of will to make everyone accountable or for their short memories.
In 1998 I was a victim of crime awaken at the wee hours of the morning from my sleep by an intruder into my home that was built to protect me. Burglar bars and dead bolts on all the doors and windows. I remember thinking in the first instance “how did he get in?” to be followed quickly by “how will I get away? What does he want and then more importantly “will he kill me?” The sharp knife he held in his hand glistened as he made it clear that he had every intention to use it if I did not do as he said. I remember looking around my room thinking of ways to get away it seemed so impossible paralyzed by fear he seemed so huge in my eyes, standing at over 6’ and 190 lbs. His crazy yet focused eyes made me beg and plead for my life but to no avail. After a fight that seem to last for hours and being badly beaten and raped, he made be take a bath saying that I will wash the evidence off me. I remember clearly trying to preserve the evidence by trying not to let the water hit all the parts of my battered body that I thought might have some evidence of his presence. I remember thinking that even if he carried through on his promise to cut my throat that the police would be able to catch him. I was so disillusioned then. I know now that had I not lived and had I not been strong enough to pursue him and ensure he was captured and arrested and see this through to the bitter end he would be walking amongst us, free to do what he did to me to so many other women. I remember his mother threatening me and visiting my home and screaming at my windows that if I continued to pursue this in court she would have one of her other sons finish the job. I remember one police officer telling me to ignore the threats because if I returned threats I could be arrested for verbal assault. Go figure!
I say that to say this. It took two years after this to bring him this young man of 19 years to court and that was not an easy thing to do. At times I felt alone, tired, abandoned, and disheartened by the entire process. I never felt once that the system was on my side. I always felt that I was fighting to win and fighting to get justice. It was not easy not ever. His defense attorney tried everything to get him acquitted and if I was not the woman I am he would be a free man today.
Every week women and children are assaulted in Belize. Most never make the news because most never get reported. Many women and children feel ashamed and broken by this act of violence and feel as if they lack the strength to handle being persecuted after they have been denigrated in this manner. In this case little Jasmine died. As a country we are hurt and feel some disdain for her alleged killer. I cautiously warn Belize, not to feel comfortable that he has been caught that is just a small tiny step towards justice. Justice is long and drawn out road and the onus of responsibility to prove him guilty is on the country. He is presumed innocent. We are a country high on crime because our social decay and our smart lawyers have gotten us here. One case will not save us as much as I know it may feel that way now.
As I watch the mob and their cries for justice I think “how little they know of how difficult it is to gain that little word”. It takes commitment on many levels and their cries will not affect the ruling of the court if the wealth of evidence is not there to carry the charge. Our people are so distraught and so tired of watching our children die in such senseless and meaningless ways that we fail to realize we have so many alive that we still need to save. Our actions are being looked upon. How we carry ourselves and what we say and do is being absorbed by the little eyes and ears around us. Violence begets violence. We need to aspire for higher ground and I know it’s not easy I was there but I know it’s not impossible. I have nothing against the death penalty just abide by the law that’s what we want to teach our children to do and therefore we must teach by example.
I am a passionate and emotional woman! It’s who I am. I understand rage, I understand the want for revenge, I understand the want for blood because that is what I felt for many years. I also understand the need for true justice, for calmer heads, for good example. All I am saying Belize is two wrongs won’t make a right! If he is guilty then we must put our energies into ensuring that the system is brought to the highest standards, that we hold each and every one accountable for its failure and that we begin to search ourselves for where we might have added to the demise of our country. Don’t be fooled where we are today as a society is the direct result of past and present action, whether it was our selfishness by not being our brother’s keeper, by not treating others with the same love and respect we would want to dealt, by turning a blind eye, by our ignorance or our irresponsibility. We played a role in the demise and destruction of our country. Own it! It belongs to each and every one of us. Change it today, it’s not too late and our children are depending on us to do so!