By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published November 12, 2018, in the Western Mirror
Sometimes even sports has to take a backseat to the meandering emotions of everyday life.
In memory of Garfield and Jacqueline: Haggai 2 v 9
Late Thursday nights or early Friday mornings are the time when I usually pen my Monday sports column for the Western Mirror. Years ago I would have started writing my columns earlier in the week, but with added challenges and responsibilities, I’ve had to make necessary adjustments to the headache of my editors. Last Thursday like so many other Thursdays, I sat to compose my weekly sports column; however, lately, I am finding it hard to write about sports.
It was a minute before midnight on Thursday night that I saw my phone light up. Typically, I don’t call individuals after 8 p.m. nor before 8 a.m., so I usually expect persons to observe similar etiquettes. However, this call was not an ordinary call. The name of my childhood friend of over 28 years appeared on the caller identification. Initially, I wondered if his phone dialled mine by mistake in his sleep at this late hour of the night. The proposition is not farfetched since I have been guilty of having my phone do the same to others. After answering the phone, the tone of my friend’s voice revealed my lingering fear; something was gravely amiss.
A week earlier, I was heading to church from work to catch the hardware in my hometown as I needed a few things for a function later that evening. While driving, I saw a group of men on the side of the road moving erratically yet in unison as if a vehicular accident had happened. However, from my glance, there was no mangled vehicle on the side of the road. Twenty-four hours later, I accidentally came across some news that floored my soul.
The call I got last Thursday night was about a friend of mine and church brother who was killed while sitting in his taxi. This devout father has passed with three kids left behind, a grieving wife and a shaken church community and faithful friends. Six days earlier, a young lady, who I taught years ago and who calls me “daddy” to this very day, heard that her mother was murdered at the very location where I saw the group of men moving in a panicking fashion two Fridays ago. This mother is dead, leaving behind three kids, distraught friends and a lamenting extended family.
It was just a few hours before the tragic murder of the mother of my ‘adopted’ daughter two Fridays ago that I was speaking to a group of teenagers who are trying to better their lives through education. I encouraged them to follow the right path and to be the difference in this murderous Jamaican society. I implored them to find better ways to resolve their disagreements and not follow the examples of other Jamaicans who believe that the only respite is the taking of another’s life.
Last year Jamaica recorded over 1600 murders which equated to a murder rate of over 50 homicides per 100,000 residents. This bloodletting had Jamaica ranked among the top-five most murderous countries in the world. In 2016, Jamaica was also ranked among the top-five highest (per capita) national homicide rates in the world. In Jamaica, persons lose their lives for some of the simplest reasons. Our mastering of conflict resolution is nonexistent, and in the slightest situations of discontent, at that moment, we believe it is justifiable to kill another.
With the implementation of public states of emergency (SOE) in various parts of the island, certain sections of the island have seen declines in the number of murders and their murder rate. However, wanton death still lingers as was evident two Fridays ago and last Thursday.
It was also last week that we awoke to the murder of four individuals in the community of Little London in Westmoreland. This senseless taking of life has to end, and as a society, we have to find better means of dealing with our conflicts. Whatever happened to compromise, diplomacy, offering the next cheek, apologising, being fair, speaking the truth, friendships, and being considerate?
It is like we have become the vilest of all creatures without thought, just base emotions and actions. Currently, our cure for acts of evil against us in Jamaica is “an eye for an eye.” However, it was Dr Martin Luther King Jr who said, “The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert.”
Can we convert the way of thinking in our Jamaican society where as soon as someone feels unfairly treated there solution is not to exterminate their fellow man through violence as they would a pest?
King Jr once declared, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence, you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence, you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.
“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
We have lost too many stars through brutality and destruction. The nights in Jamaica seem so dark at times that many consider leaving this beautiful Isle of wood, water and prosperity for other shores of more tranquillity and greater love.
I hope one day I won’t have to leave this isle or become a victim of its violence.
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
Zaheer E. Clarke is a sports columnist, freelance sportswriter and a multi-award-winning blogger. Zaheer still remembers the puzzled look on Jacqueline’s face before she broke out in laughter at her daughter’s graduation when her daughter looked at her mom and said, “Mom, meet daddy.”
No one was prouder than Garfield to have this young man and his fellow church brother, who he knew from he was a little boy, become his lecturer at University. His effervescent smile and the pride in his eyes and from his lips were ever present.
I would like to dedicate this column to the lives of Garfield and Jacqueline, who fathered and mothered so many individuals outside of their immediate families. Their life’s work, efforts and generosity will never be forgotten. Sleep in peace, my friends.
This blog article was published in the Western Mirror on November 12, 2018.