Putting a stop to murder

Perhaps it was too good to be true.

This past weekend was fun. Several thousand people turned out for the John Lennon tribute concert on Friday night at the Botanical Gardens. On Saturday evening, there was a standing room only crowd at the WER Joell Tennis Stadium for the Gombey Festival.

Late that night, musicians played at Barr’s Bay Park before hundreds more people. That wasn’t all. Children and adults visited BIOS for the annual Marine Science Day. Shakespeare’s Macbeth was performed at Fort Hamilton. The football season started in earnest.

All these events passed off peacefully, perhaps fittingly, given that Friday was the International Day of Peace. Given the economic gloom surrounding the Island, these events did something to lift spirits.

But the calm was broken on Sunday night when Lorenzo Stovell was fatally shot.

Stovell is the third person to be killed this year. Whether that gives Bermuda a high murder rate or not is irrelevant. Three people too many have died in 2012.

If the manner of a killing can be weighed, then the cold blooded murder of a man sitting alone in a wheelchair in a chartered bus rates pretty high on the despicable scale. It would be nice to think that the cold-blooded nature of this shooting would shake the community sufficiently to start dealing with the problem. But there have been too many murders, and too little action, to make that seem likely.

At the other end of the scale, there are those in this community who seem to feel that because Stovell was paralysed because of a previous shooting, and because he may have been affiliated with a gang, that somehow he deserved to die, or that his death has less significant than, say, a child’s, or, for argument’s sake, a white businessman’s.

It is an indictment of this community both that a 24-year-old man in a wheelchair can be murdered in cold blood, and that there are people who feel that the loss of any life is of no consequence to them.

When we reject the value of one human life, we reject the value of any human life, and we are as guilty as those who pull the trigger. Why? Because we say that murder is all right, as long as the victim is not us, and because the victim somehow does not meet our standards of behaviour. And we make those judgments without really knowing anything about the victim.

When we do that, we also remove any responsibility as a community to identify the causes of gang violence and murder, and to do something about them. And that is why people continue to be murdered.

To be sure, there are some who are trying to do something about it. The police continue to have success in arresting and convicting those who commit serious crimes. But the police themselves admit that that is not enough, and that while they can solve crimes, they cannot be expected to prevent every single one of them. Prevention requires changing the circumstances that lead to gang violence.

Doing that demands a community-wide solution, and it needs to be done quickly before it consumes us all.

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