(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 21 July 2012)
I had intended to write about Jackie Hanover’s great new song this week. However, the sad events of the past week made writing about a song–regardless of how awesome it may be–seem inappropriate.
Death is no time to sing and dance. So, I will write about Jackie’s song another time. This week I will talk about my son. Whatever else they may have been in the community,the three men killed earlier this week were sons from their first breath on this earth.
This week, I saw my eldest son for the first time in three and a half years. I cannot even begin to explain how much I have missed him. He followed the love of his life to Australia and is now a permanent resident in that country, leaving his mom and the rest of his family back home and missing him incredibly.
It is quite expensive to travel between Australia and the US, so this is the first time since he left that we have seen his face. There were days when I missed him so much that it physically hurt in my chest to think about it. Still, I did not know just how much I missed him until I was at the airport looking for him.
Uncontrollable tears started streaming down my face as I looked for him. When I found him, I ran to him and threw my arms around his neck crying without restraint at this point and trembling from the joyful emotions of it all.
I have been able to hug him anytime I wanted for a couple days now. I’ve been able to kiss his face. I’ve cheerfully told his fiancée all kinds of stories about his childhood and teenage days. I have him for a few more days to spoil and hug and kiss. I am one very happy momma.
As he woke me up playing a guitar in the other room this morning, I smiled at his inconsideration because his fiancée told me he does this to her early in the morning while she is still sleeping. My wry smile did not last long as the realisation of this week’s deaths was the next thought to cross my mind.
Those men had mothers like me. They had mothers who ached to see their faces and who felt that pain in their chest when too much time had passed since the last time they were able to hug their boy. Those sons in Linden had something else in common with my son, the heart of an activist.
My son takes after his mother in this regard. He questions everything and has no problem challenging dubious decisions by leaders. In fact, my son easily digests the decisions of leaders, processes the short and long-term repercussions of such decisions and can pronounce on the impact to society because of the decisions and then offer better solutions that do not include playing political games with the lives of people.
I can imagine how it would feel if my boy was shot dead because he was protesting an increase in the cost of electricity – and I have no doubt that if he lived in Linden, he would have been at the front lines of that protest and one of the loudest in the group. It is very easy for any mother to grasp the scope of the pain that Linden mothers are experiencing this week.
It is a hard, hard thing for a mother to come to terms with the sudden death of a child. But when that death is at the hands of society’s protectors while the child is taking a stand for what he believes is right, it is even more difficult.
After all, we teach our children that they have a say in the way they are governed. And we teach our children that they can trust law enforcement officers to protect them and their rights, like their right to free speech and their right to live.
What are the mothers of these sons to do now? What are they to feel? How are the mothers, fathers, siblings, friends and neighbours supposed to accept the unnecessary deaths of these sons?
The mothers of Liberia were so fed up with the death and violence that they organized a movement that started with thousands local women praying and singing in a fish market daily for months. Then thousands of women mobilized by their efforts, staged silent non-violent protests that included a sex strike and the threat of a curse. Ultimately, their determination brought an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003.
After the collapse of the government in Somalia in 1989, Wajir soon found itself caught up in inter-clan fighting with a flow of weapons and refugees that made life increasingly difficult. The women just wanted to be sure they could get food for their children. With this in mind, they formed a group called the Wajir Women’s Association for Peace. In the end, this work of this group of women kept peace in their community and prevented the death of many.
Likewise, the mothers in Linden, and Guyana as a whole, have the power to bring the change the leaders of the nation cannot (or will not). The solution is really quite simple, if there are leaders willing to stand up and refuse to play this ridiculous game or to accommodate any leaders who play the game.
Guyana’s women can easily be the type of leaders that the predominately male leadership refuses to be. The nation’s mothers can put an end to the death and violence and save the lives of their sons (and daughters).
My son is safe this week. No one is shooting at him for standing up for himself. But understand this, Sisters, this is one mother who would do everything within my power to make sure the games stopped if it was a matter of protecting the life of my son.