In some Christian traditions Good Firday is also known as ‘Black Friday’, as many priests don black clothing to symbolise the mourning for the death of Jesus. Perhaps such a name is more fitting for this years Good Friday, for it has indeed become one for mourning, with the assasination of Mr. Kimwande Walker, shot to death in front of his young children, in a field full of families and friends enjoying traditional Good Friday festivities.
I should say here that I did not know Mr. Walker. Unless I am confusing names, I seem to recall watching him play as the goalie for St. Davids FC some years back, but I could be mistaken. I don’t know if he was involved in the gangs, drugs or anything else. All I know about him is that he was with his family, with his young children, when he was shot dead in what has to be the most brazen and graphic example of the lack of honour and respect that has come to infect some of our people.
Needless to say I offer my condolences to his family, and like many others worry about the trauma that they, and everyone else who witnessed this crime, has been hit with like a hurricane.
I am not a Christian, nor am I a religious man in the traditional sense. Personally I am an Atheist and Secular Humanist. All the same I was born and raised within the Christian Church, specifically the Church of Scotland (a Presbyterian Denomination), and growing up in Bermuda one develops a special fondness for Good Friday. Even here, in Scotland, I find myself scanning the skies for kites, hoping to locate fellow Bermudians, and enjoy at least a hot cross bun, if not some fish cakes.
Tradition has it that the reason we Bermudians fly kites on Good Friday was because an enterprising Church leader thought it would be a good way to interest his flock in the ideas behind Jesus’ crucifixion and ascension to heaven. The holiday and related traditions have since become very much secularised, but the symbolism involved is still very poignant and relevant to this tragedy.
There will be calls for tougher laws and penalties to crack down on these tragic crimes. I imagine that we will hear calls for curfews, restrictions on civil liberties and even demands for reinstating corporal and capital punishment.
To me those are largely reactionary, unncessary or unhelpful to the point of being counterproductive. They are likely to alienate people from the police, build resentment towards them and, at least in the case of corporal and capital punishment, legitimate and encourage the use of violence and murder as a way to resolve problems.
In short, they become a medicine worse than the disease. Furthermore, anyone reading our laws on these issues (gun crimes and the like) will see that we actually have very strict legislation, especially compared to other locations.
Don’t get me wrong, something needs to be done. I’m not for a minute advocating giving these thugs a free pass. Laws and state punishments however are not going to solve this problem. The community itself – the neighbourhoods, the schools, the religious groups, community leaders/elders and each one of us – is the only way to sort this mess out. And the focus cannot just be on the current crop of bad apples that are making headlines; we really need to focus our energies on making sure the next generation doesn’t get stuck in this trap.
For the current crop of thugs, including those currently serving in prison, one of the best things we can do is actually put our money where our mouth is, at least relating to the much touted, but chronically underfunded, Alternatives to Incarceration and rehabilitation services. I am of the understanding that most of these crimes are committed by almost career criminals, and if we are going to break the cycle of recidivism then we really need to invest in their rehabilitation – giving them the tools to be productive citizens, and the psychological support to help repair them too. In my experience a good number of these individuals have some mental issues (stemming from physical or substance abuse, or, simply, learning difficulties), and need more support in this area.
We also need to give our Parole Officers the funding and support that they need to do their job properly. At the moment many of these Officers are demoralised and, as much as they believe in the importance of their work, are unable to do justice to the tasks they face.
For the next generation, we really need to focus on the root causes of this anti-social behaviour, and to do that we really need to solve the housing crisis, the education system and the breakdown of the family support system. Too many children are still living in overcrowded and substandard accomodation, and far too many are being let down by the education system. For the family network, far too many parents are letting their children be raised by the TV or otherwise neglected, either due to long working hours, substance abuse and the breakdown of traditional support networks, of community support, and in this vacuumn some children are being exploited or deformed in their social grounding.
The majority of our children actually – miraculously – turn out generally okay, with no more psychological or social problems than other socioeconomic groups, but those that don’t are increasingly serious cases and threatening our common wealth.
For the immediate problem the only way to solve this problem is for the community to take action, to organise neighbourhood defence committees, to work with the police and support witnesses coming forward and to make sure the message is communicated that society will no longer tolerate this behaviour. It is also important that the community makes it clear that while they will not tolerate anyone continuing with this violence – and will turn them in – the community is also not turning their backs on these people, but willing to help them turn away from these behaviours and lifestyles. They need to be shunned by society – all of it – but welcomed back the minute they are willing to change.
I realise the above will be readily dismissed as ‘bleeding heart liberal nonsense’ but I honestly don’t think there is any other solution. The reactionary ones I see as more likely to exacerbate the problem, to have the opposite effect to that desired.
One is reminded of the religious significance of the date. Good Friday marks the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot, the subsequent humiliations of Jesus and his crucifixion. On Good Friday, 2010, our society was betrayed by our own Judases. The innocence of our youth has been crucified, with bullets for nails and the blood of Mr. Walker on that field. Mr. Walker probably wasn’t a saint (and who is anyway?), but on that Holy Friday he was doing something Holy, spending time with family and friends, demonstrating his love for his children.
Victor Scott Field is now our Golgotha.
While Good Friday is really a day of mourning for the death of Jesus – and now for Mr. Walker – it is important to remember that it is followed by Easter Sunday, a day of joy, marking the resurrection of Jesus.
I am not expecting Mr. Walker to somehow come back to life, but it is possible that Easter could mark the resurrection of the community as a reinvigorated agent for change, for the commonwealth. Today, Holy or Silent Saturday, is a day for reflection, for mourning the tragedy of Good Friday. Tomorrow people will go to their Churches for the Easter Sermon, others will wake up after this day of reflection, hopefuly ready to resurrect some sense of normality to their lives and to the community.
One of the key messages of Jesus, when he was resurrected, was essentially ‘don’t mourn – organise instead‘ and that is exactly what needs done now. We have mourned too many times for too many senseless tragedies. We have marched and beaten our chests. We have pontificated (like I am now, lol!) ad nauseum.
Now is the time for action, for greater community organisation, and for setting our house in order. We, today, are charged with a new Great Commission. The original Great Commission, given by Jesus before his ascension, was to organise and make real his teachings, namely to love God*, to forgive ones enemies, to love ones neighbours and to forsake materialism (in the sense of Mammon, that is, crass consumerism), and we could do worse than apply these ideas to solving our current problems.
[* As an atheist I would say that this depends on how you are going to identify ‘God’. Naturally, I do not recognise ‘God’ as a supreme omnipotent being, but instead would see this as a respect and wonder at the complexity and beauty of existence, the joy of being, rather than having.]