No Justice for Angels

The strong get more

While the weak ones fade

Empty pockets don’t

Ever make the grade

Mama may have

Papa may have

But God bless the child

That’s got his own

That’s got his own.

—God Bless the Child, Billie Holiday

Somebody’s child. Born out of love. Carried for nine months. Dead on the front page. Too obscene to forget. Too callous to comprehend. Somebody’s child. Reminding us that some of us are editors and can choose to put other people’s dead children on the front pages of their putrid tabloid newspaper, and some of us are mothers who weep for our dead children and some of us consumers who allow newspapers to feed our blood lust. Turn your face away. It is too much to bear. Too much to fathom that your life and your child’s life could end up being on the front page of someone’s putrid little tabloid. A day’s worth of newspaper sales. Your child’s life, all her smiles, and her discoveries, every flutter she made in your belly, every moment you marvelled at the wonder of human creation.  Something that you made. Out of love. Reduced to a headline and a front page.

Turn your face away. Wish it could be for good. It’s not the first time. They’ve done this obscene, crass and indecent injustice to somebody’s loved one. You know if it were their child, they would want to mourn in private. They would not want thousands of fingers on the face of their child. Taken in such a brutal way. Will this stop people from buying their driver’s licence? Will this stop people from the road rage? What do we do when we can’t take it anymore? Boycott? Try to ignore them out of existence? So that no other family will ever have to confront their loved one laid bare on the front page of a putrid tabloid again? So that children can have dignity in life and death too? Defenceless ones can rest in peace too? Innocent ones can maintain their innocence without the stink of those who try to capi-talise on human tragedy, whose desire for profit removes them from any connection to their humanity?

Why do they think they can do this to us? Why do they think we will take it?
Maybe we like it so. Maybe we are so inured now. So cynical about life and death that a dead baby on the front page of a putrid tabloid is no scene. Number one newspaper indeed. Good news newspaper indeed. Number one may be an enviable position if it meant that you were confronting us with our ugliness as well as our beauty. Number one may be something to aspire to if it meant that truth was not in the gore of the wound but in the exploration of the wounding and the speed of trying to find the healing. Oh it is too much to bear. It is time for us to rethink what stories we tell and how we tell them. To ask who or what is truth and what right do we have to utter it?

Because every time you think there’s nowhere else below for us to go, the bottom falls out again and we descend further into our la basse of unfeeling. Every time you think it couldn’t possibly get any worse, that children couldn’t possibly be more of an abused and voiceless group, some adult is there to prove you wrong. You have to wonder if the devil is really real. If the devil busy in truth, just running about kicking Trinis in their backsides prompting them to do the most evil of acts, under the guise of truth-sharing. Who is wrong in this situation? Is it the mother for having the child in her lap out of a car seat, out of a seat belt? Is it the photographer for capturing the face of a dead child laying in the grass? The editor who thought it would make a great front page?

The child for being born in the first place? Somebody’s child, oh God. You turn away from her face. Her perfect cherub cheeks. But she stays with you. Haunting you, keeping you awake at night. There is no justice for angels who land in highway grass. There is no love for innocence in this gory time. Turn away, close your eyes. Try to forget her eyes forever closed. Like their hearts that cannot understand why this is wrong. Protect your heart from the hurt, because they think they are right and they in their putrid tabloid righteousness will do this crime again. And get away with it. Leaving us hurting, crying, grieving for innocence lost that can never be regained in the thousands of hands of their readers.

Hope is Gone

8 year old Hope Arismandez

They say I’m hopeless
As a penny with a hole in it
They say I’m no less
Than up to my head in it
Hopeless, Dionne Farris

Hope is gone the headline says.  Hope is gone and again the country is plunged into shock and horror and distress at the death of another innocent.
Hope is gone and for a few days some of us will mourn.  Some of us will weep and wonder how this could happen.
We will not however, fly into a rage when we hear big hard back men suiting girls in school uniform.  Girls that could be their  daughters, their sisters.
Hope is gone and I am wondering how many more times we will have to face these headlines before our police service gets training in child protection.
Hope is gone and nobody sees the connection between sexual abuse in our homes and police officers who go skinny dipping with 14-year-old Colombian prostitutes.  And why a 14 year old would be a prostitute in the first place.
Hope is gone and in our homes we watch marathons of Law and Order Special Victims Unit, wishing the officers in a make believe American police drama would step out of our television sets and chase down the murderer of Akiel Chambers.  Try to figure out why those little boys killed Sean Luke.  Seek justice for Amy Annamunthodo.
Hope is gone and some of us have no more tears for dead children.  Some of us who are complicit in the abuse of our own children cannot weep.
Some of us who know of primary school girls and their taxi driver men will not be able to mourn.
Some of us mothers who are so busy hustling that we can’t begin to give power to our fears about what the man and woman watching our children is doing to them.
Some of us fathers who don’t know or don’t care to know how our children survive will not feel the pain of Hope’s father.
Some of us who struggle with our own pasts will have no tears for Hope or her mother.
Hope is gone but many of us have been hopeless for much longer.
Hope, for many people, has been gone a long time.
Hope dies everyday, in classrooms where the desperate acting up of troubled children is labeled as disruptiveness.
Hope dies everyday in the back seats of taxis, in the over-populated children’s homes.
Hope is the loved and highly favoured child.  The unloved and abused child.  Hope is the child that is not protected.  Hope is every child in Trinidad and Tobago, because every child in this country is at risk until we have real laws and until we get it through the thick skulls of our men that after 12 is not lunch.
Hope is gone but everyday a thousand new Hopes are born.
A thousand new Hopes to be preyed on. A thousand Akiels and Seans and Amys.  Thousands of children to fall through the open cracks of no child protection legislation.
Hope is gone and parliamentarians will fall asleep on the job and all the talk about laws to protect children will be lost in the noise of ole talk about various nonsensicalities.
Hope is gone and we will continue to shed crocodile tears for every child whose life is so brutally snuffed out but never put pressure on the people who can really begin to make a difference to protect all our children.
Save your tears.  Don’t cry too much for Hope.  Move on quickly.  File away that pain because you will have to reach for it sooner rather than later.
Put it somewhere you can reach it easily.  For the children in your neighbourhood.  For the children in your children’s classes.  For the children who curse and shout in the streets.  For the children languishing in homes and on the streets, surviving the only way they know how.  For your own children that you can’t always protect from the bullies, and the rapists and the seducers.
Hope is gone and with her our capacity to guarantee the brightness of our future.