Isn’t it reasonable to believe that most people who are engaged in the process of living should have concerns about the arc of their lives, their challenges, frustrations, possibilities, opportunities and all the complexities of life? If my question seems reasonable, then should not I feel free to express exactly – what keeps me up at night; or why I get worked up enough to spend time thinking, researching, and writing about a problem that is not entirely mine alone? Because I care! I have never been allowed the luxury of apathy, or the privilege of pretending that its somebody else’s problem; it is the way many of us were raised, like any number of immigrant Americans we feel strongly about the debt of gratitude we owe this country. But personally, as an immigrant, I also owe a debt of gratitude to Jamaica, the country I called home before now; and that revelation brings me directly to my point of contention.
As a Black man living in America, I am appalled at how unprepared we were in our response to the Corona Virus pandemic; our unpreparedness manifested itself at every point of defense we should have had in place. Our homeland security alarms were off, so was our emergency medical response, our emergency medical stockpiles were depleted, and the capacities of our hospitals were inadequate. The economic inequities fueled by the ever-widening wealth gap has created a new and growing underclass. If America with its enormous resources failed to protect its people adequately, what horrible consequences can we expect in Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, Grenada, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Puerto Rico, the rest of the Caribbean, and all Latin & South America? The immensely popular aphorism, “when the United States of America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold,” could not be truer at this time. We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg as we experience supply chain problems, price increases and an ever – worsening inflationary spike. But that is not all – it is the psycho-social impact of the sum of all those problems that has spawned a senseless crime wave that is overwhelming America and its neighbors. I have identified an interesting parallel between Jamaica and the United States which most mainstream Journalists would dismiss out of hand, simply because of the size differential of both countries, but as an informed Jamaican I am afforded a more nuanced viewpoint.
Afterall the United States is approximately 895 times larger than Jamaica with a population of 330 million, while Jamaica numbers under three (3) million people on an island barely the size of the state of Connecticut. Yet here I am chronicling the comparative Balkanization and tribalism of American politics to the Garrison style tribalized politics of Jamaica. Much like America’s social upheaval of the 60’s, Jamaica’s social upheaval accelerated as well, and much like America, Jamaica’s love for guns has made gun violence the preeminent crime on that island, so I ask the question – who is mirroring whom? I am neither a sociologist nor a criminologist, but I can sure recognize a pathology when I see one. But the comparison even grows uglier, whereas the United States have in the recent times sent oversight missions to other democracies to ensure free and fair elections – Americans are now known worldwide since January 6, 2021, as dissenters of the democratic process and clearly opponents of free and fair elections.
So, as Americans live in fear of gun violence in every major city and their rural towns, so do Jamaicans, in every major city and rural town; now you can understand why I have a problem when the American government issue’s a Travel Advisory to avoid certain countries when too many of its own cities and towns are shooting galleries. In America the unemployment rate among young Black men has remained historically high much like it is in Jamaica, and as young Black women in America are leaving their male counterparts behind economically, a similar trend is true in Jamaica. Former President Bill Clinton famously said, “Follow the trend lines, not the headlines,” that’s exactly what I am doing, and the trendlines are indicating that since 2016, America is trending toward what they called others “banana republic status.”
Now here is where my sleep deprivation kicks in, and I am again following the trend as I search for meaning and solutions; traditional America has a Church on every corner, (you understand what I mean) and five times that number in Black and Brown neighborhoods, there is a similar trend in Jamaica. Now back in the era of the ground war for civil rights in America these Churches were open as a place of refuge for its community; but guess what, (with very few notable exceptions) in this era, the Churches are no longer “cities of refuge” for the community, they have become marketplaces or money exchanges that care little about the souls of the community. The trend in Jamaica is no different, to its credit, The Roman Catholic Church is consistent in its efforts to assist the poor and the sick, but it remains mired in its own crisis of clerical sexual abuse and lack of accountability and is fast losing its credibility as God’s representative on earth. (Do you ever wonder who arranged that job)?!!!
Where are they during this time of crisis, especially among Black and Brown people?
Man at his best is a spiritual being who craves a connection, a relationship with a being or beings more powerful than himself, to satisfy his ego he organized religion which ideally should protect his family and community from all else. Like so many of man’s plans it went awry. The Church is no longer the buffer or the refuge it was meant to be, instead its now part of the corporate structure of America, enjoying tax exempt status and all the rewards that encourages excess. It is this betrayal by the Church and the willful blindness of its members that keeps me up at night, because they have the numbers and the influence if they are unified to complete the arc of justice, Dr. King reminded us that, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Open the doors of your Churches to accommodate the real needs of our communities, they need to talk to someone, they do not need to be converted or saved, they need love, compassion and understanding. Your food banks “feed the people for a day – but teach the people to fish and they will feed themselves for a lifetime.”