McCartney: We Deserve Justice
I pen this letter with mixed emotions today, hovering somewhere between immense relief and immense sadness. The sentencing of those arrested in my Brother Kurt’s death, marks the end of a long chapter of pain in my life and that of my family. Losing my brother is the most difficult thing I have ever faced. His passing has tested the limits of my own strength in ways that only those who have experienced loss can really appreciate. To have him taken from us in the way that he was is a reminder that we are all at risk.
As Bahamians, we continue to live in fear of the criminal element. Criminals who seem to operate without fear. Criminals who were bold enough to execute a home invasion at the home of the Deputy Prime Minister. Criminals who were bold enough to take the life of the Prime Minister’s press secretary. Criminals show us every day that they could care less about human life or property. No one is safe and while government officials would have us believe that crime is on the decline, I dare to say the FEAR of crime trumps those statistics.
While I am glad that my family has been able to receive some level of closure, I cannot help but think of the countless other families who are still waiting, patiently for their turn at justice. All things considered, Kurt’s case made it through the court system relatively quickly and for that I couldn’t be more grateful. The stellar work of police investigators, court officials and everyone involved helped to take some of the sting out of our loss. Even in my gratefulness though, I am hyper-aware of the perception that my status in life and my last name may have lent itself to the “smoothness” of the process and the existence of that perception saddens me.
There’s a familiar saying that goes: “Justice Delayed, is Justice Denied” and sadly, many Bahamian families are denied the kind of justice they deserve for their slain family members. Many cases often fall through the cracks of our backlogged judicial system, breeding feelings of pain and anger and discontent, which in turn act as a catalyst for revenge and vigilantism. It seems to me that we are caught in a vicious cycle where those who lose loved ones to violent crime then become perpetrators of violent crime, who in turn also become victims of violent crime. And caught in the middle of this spin cycle of crime are law-abiding men and women. People who are hard at work providing for their families, going about their daily routines, going to ATM’s, congregating at community parks or walking to and from work.
But how do we break it? How do we end the cycle? And what will it take for Bahamians to FEEL safe in their communities? Because despite what your politicians tell you, that will be the true measure of whether or not our crime strategies are working. Before we can boast about a reduction in the numbers, single mothers must FEEL safe walking home from work at night, fathers must FEEL safe enough to visit the ATM at night or in the early morning and children should be able to walk to the corner store without being a target. The answer starts with all of us taking both collective and individual responsibility for our actions and our choices.
Collectively we have to stop seeing the victims as “NUMBERS” and instead see them as they are: as humans. Mothers, Fathers, Sisters Brothers, Sons and Daughters; human beings whose deaths have left a hole in the lives of those they left behind. Collectively we have to decide how to properly punish those found guilty of acts of murder and rape and molestation. Collectively we have to address shortfalls in the system, clear the judicial backlog, and make justice accessible to ALL BAHAMIANS not just those we believe can afford it.
Equally important is the idea of individual responsibility. An ideal, which as political, community, and church leaders we must teach by EXAMPLE! We cannot be the kind of politicians who skirt the law but expect our citizenry to be compliant, we cannot be the kind of teachers, pastors and mentors who say one thing but do the opposite. Why? Because our children – mine and yours – are watching. Because they are taking their cues from us, because their inability to be productive law abiding citizens is a reflection of our failures as the generation responsible for teaching them.
We are more than numbers. We are human. We deserve to FEEL safe and BE safe and where necessary, WE DESERVE JUSTICE.