Commentary

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Written by Joy L. Campbell

On June 4, a youngster approached a non-Jamaican man at a fast food outlet in Mandeville. The boy asked the man for money. According to news reports, the man gave the boy $500.00 and told him to go to the bathroom. He followed him there.

Security personnel grew suspicious. On investigating, they found the boy bent over, and the man behind him with his pants down. Someone called the police. The man was jailed and went to court yesterday. He was charged with gross indecent assault and remanded until June 22.

Subsequent news reports still have me confused. The boy was first reported to be under 10 years. Last night, the anchor said he was 13. The size of the boy I saw-with his face blanked out-confirmed that he might be as old as that.

The accused has been mentioned as a Columbian national, as well as a Dominican national. Who knows?

A relative of the boy was vocal about what had happened to him. I shared her concern; however, I had some questions, the sort that the judge presiding over the case asked of his mother.

Why was the boy out begging, and worse at 11:00 at night? Where was she at the time? I asked myself what the child was thinking.  Was it right to give in to the stranger? Which also raises the question of whether the boy is mentally competent.

The whole incident highlights some of what is wrong with us as a country. I’ve been wracking my brain, wondering how and when we got to where we are now. I’m not so old that I cannot remember a time when we were a more civil and gentle lot.

When word got out that the jailed man was to appear in court, a crowd gathered. I could use ‘mob’ to describe the group, but I’ll let you decide. These bystanders rushed the police vehicle transporting the arrested man. The police hustled him up the steps of the courthouse with the people baying at their heels.

The same thing happened when the session in court ended. The police made several attempts to get man off the premises and had to get their guns out to ensure they got him out safely.

Now I know we have a big challenge with unemployment in Jamaica, but it boggles the mind that people have so much time to waste. Why would I want to stand in the blazing sun and wait to hear the outcome of something I never knew about until I heard a rumor in the street? Why would I want to beat someone to death because he committed a crime? I admit I might feel differently if this boy was my son, but then I could make the excuse that there is no way my son would be out at night begging. I’d like to think I could restrain myself from committing murder if he was assaulted. I need to think about it some more though.

There was another incident months ago, wherein a group of men broke into a church and stole some items. The residents of the village blocked the getaway car and caught one of the four men. They beat him, chopped his hands off, trimmed his locks, cut off his head, and threw it into a field of ginger.

Most would agree the men had no right to desecrate the church, but having caught one of them, why not turn him over to the police?

So he might escape or get off lighter than people think justified, but was taking his life the right thing to do?

And if any of those people who killed him attend church, did any of them think twice about sitting up in there praising God with blood on their hands?

My gripe is with the way we are doing things these days. Our first reaction is Jungle Justice. My question is – what does that say about us as a people? When did we get to this stage where our first reaction to a wrong is to lash out in a malicious and destructive way? What do we say to non-Jamaicans about the way we react? (The other members of the team the accused man was with said they feared for their lives) Do we have any excuses for why we behave the way that we do? And is there any way to return to a time when we each were our brother’s keeper? 

About the writer:
J.L. Campbell lives in Jamaica and is always on the lookout for story-making material Her short stories and articles have been published in Bookends, the literary pages of the Sunday Observer When she isn’t plotting and researching new projects, she enjoys cake decorating, gardening, and reading. Her action/adventure/romance novel, Contraband, will be published in April 2010 Visit her at http://thejamaicanwriter.com 

About the author

Joy L. Campbell

J.L. Campbell is an award-winning, Jamaican author who writes romantic suspense, women's fiction, new and young adult novels. She has written sixteen books, seven novellas, and two short story collections. Campbell's mission is to write stories that entertain and educate readers. She is also a certified editor, and writes non-fiction. Visit her on the web at http://www.joylcampbell.com