Violent crime and our ‘good sons’

There is scarcely a day when a daily newspaper or radio and television headline news does not report another shooting.

Too often, the result is death.

Frequently, the result is serious injury, leaving victims scarred if not maimed for life.

This is because of the intrusion of a gun culture into The Bahamas.

Born in the early drug wars of the 1970s, its roots are now buried deeply here as in other parts of the world where gun battles are pitched to settle old scores dating to unsettled civil wars and ethnic rivalries or as in Jamaica where politics turned violent in the middle of the last century.

A 2017 IDB survey of violence in our region revealed that murder rates in The Bahamas, as in a few other regional countries, were comparable to countries in armed conflict.

Bahamian governments have spent countless man-hours and multiple millions of dollars in multiple fiscal years on social programs and in the anti-crime fight: strengthening crime fighting tools, increasing the number of crime fighters and legislating stiffer penalties for violations of the law, with disappointing results.

Numerous public and private sector initiatives, including church-sponsored programs, encourage healthy leisure time activities for youth, promote non-violent settlement of disputes and seek to dissuade membership in dangerous gangs; still dangerous lifestyles proliferate.

Crime rates continue their upward trajectory begun in the late 1970s, even allowing for periodic dips in a particular criminal activity in any given year.

It turns out that too many of us Bahamians are not the friendly, genuine, social people we like to believe ourselves to be.

Far too many of us are driven by greed. In our determination to satisfy our greed, everything is negotiable: our morals, our ethics, our Christian upbringing, our basic understanding of what is right and what is wrong.

It never ceases to amaze us that following a shooting the victims are portrayed as someone’s “good son” who helped pay the bills, looked out for his siblings, never troubled anyone and had no enemies.

Sometimes there is a lament that a “good child” kept “bad company”; that a “wayward son” had “turned his life around and wasn’t troubling anyone”. Inexplicably, someone took aim and killed the law-abiding son!

We do not believe that all these victims are accidentally and tragically “in the wrong place at the wrong time” when we see pictures of the deceased circulating on social media showing them in life behaving badly, displaying gang signs and generally flaunting their disrespect for law and order and decency.

More likely than not, most of these individuals are participators in or have connections to or knowledge of crime.

Someone’s “bad company” is another person’s “good child”.

It is not too late to alter the course of young lives so that troubled youth become responsible adults. To do so we must make a concerted effort to change behaviors that deride honest living, mock politeness and disparage traditional family life.

We urge parents to become more accountable for the behaviors of their children, particularly for those who continue to form a part of their households.

Parents must lead by example, living within their means, paying their way and meeting their obligations.

Parents must not shelter the guns and contraband of wayward children; nor should they accept benefits from the crimes of their children. To do so is in itself a crime.

Parents have an obligation to question the source of their children’s possessions, particularly when it is clear that these are not purchases from honest sources using honest funds.

Children must be encouraged to pursue education and to seek employment but they should not be pressured to contribute financially when they are unemployed. Unemployed children cannot assist in paying rents, mortgages or utility bills nor can they gift cars, jewelry, cell phones or indeed, buy groceries.

Excuses and blaming someone else for killing “good sons” are unacceptable; they ring hollow.

We can defeat the gun culture which invaded us but only if we stand up for what is right.

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