When I was a lad, the hanging of condemned murderers was a common practice in St. Kitts. There used to be a lot of excitement in Basseterre whenever there was a hanging.
On the night before the hanging, a public notice was posted on the big prison gate, to alert the public to the forthcoming event. Early in the morning, long before the designated time for the execution, people from the Basseterre area would saunter around the prison area to share their sentiments on the fate which an unfortunate human being was about to face.
The police always forced the spectators to stay a safe distance from the site of the proceedings, so most of the crowd would gather in the Park at Losack Road.
They could not see anything, of course, but they focused their attention on the time, waiting for 8 o’clock and strained their ears to catch the sound of the prisoner falling through the trap door.
Now many years since my youth, the situation has remained basically the same. The rumour that a man was to be hanged on Tuesday morning was so exciting that it spread like a wildfire through the town, across the countryside, and overseas to distant countries.
It is obvious that the crowd is still ready to gather in the vicinity of the prison on the morning of the execution to display their morbid curiosity.
The interest of the crowd in the execution of a prisoner always reminds me of the scene from A Tale of Two Cities as Madame Defarge and her band of women sat through the entertainment of the beheading of the enemies of the French Revolution.
The last time that the public was entertained by a hanging was when Wilson, a young man from Ottleys Village, who carried the nickname S#!t, was hanged for the murder which three persons were alleged to have committed. I wondered then if he was hanged because his nickname was S#!t.
I have always thought that hanging a man who commits a murder is unproductive when it comes to stopping other young men from committing more murders.
Since S#!t was executed ten years ago, many murders have taken place in St. Kitts and Nevis and the patience of the most tolerant citizens has been so outraged by the wanton acts of violence that even those who should know better are driven to the conclusion that the remedy for the violence is to kill the murderers. Walk them to the gallows, say a prayer for them and dispatch the bastards to eternity.
So what about those who wound their victims so badly that the victims remain maimed for life; those who attempt murder like the chap Darien Govia who got 10 years.
What about those who rape young children and old women and what about those who rob with guns and knives?
Aren’t these just as much a bunch of bastards as those whose crimes end in the death of their fellows? Yet they are allowed to live for the rest of their lives doing penance for their sins. And what about those who were convicted of murder and were spared from the gallows?
Was Wilson executed because his name was S#!t? And what might be the special reason why this young man Michum is to be executed, if the news is true at all.
It can’t be that this selective justice is because Michum’s crime was so gruesome that he has to be banished from the face of the Earth. Before Michum got into trouble six years ago, there were men who had been sentenced to die for the very violent deaths of their victims.
One of them had bludgeoned a watchman at the Mary Charles Hospital to steal his radio. Another had choked his victim to death and then hid him in a toilet pit. Another had walked a long distance to where his girlfriend worked and shot both the girlfriend and her mother.
Within the past six years there have been equally gruesome and senseless killings. One young man from a well connected family stalked his victim and killed him on the way home. Two brothers went to the home of their victim and butchered him with machetes and almost killed his girlfriend.
All of these cases seem to me to be just as cruel and stupid as Michum’s act, that fateful evening when he and his cohorts tried to rob a vendor and killed her friend.
Most of the people who refer to the killers as lowlife bastards do so in frustration with the wanton nature of the killings. The acts appear to be wilful and the young men appear to be so insensitive of the suffering which they cause to the victim’s families that normal people are outraged by their wickedness. They even seem to be oblivious of the predicament in which their crime has placed them. They do behave like lowlife bastards, to the complete annoyance of the rest of us.
But you know something about these lowlife bastards? It is we who produced them, formed and fashioned them. They are our handiwork and everyone of us who lives upright, who does not break into houses to steal or rape, who doesn’t walk round with guns or sell the guns, must feel some sense of guilt that we might have done something or left something undone, which contributed to the moulding of these young criminals.
Of course the parents are responsible. They brought them here and they raised them from infancy. When these youngsters turn out to be bad it is the parents’ fault. But listen, the parents are expected to fail, the majority of them. Nobody trains parents how to raise their children and it is wrong to expect the average parent to instill in their children all the rules of good social living.
It is because of the inability of the parents to turn out good children why society develops other support systems like schools, clubs and churches and, if they fail, prisons.
Of these the school bears the heaviest burden in the upbringing of our youth, especially the high school which deal with adolescents on the threshold of adulthood.
When the high school succeeds, its students enter the world as well adjusted young people, obedient to the law, respectful of themselves, and cooperative with the society around them. Much is made of the success of these young people, celebrations take place, prizes are awarded, songs are sung and positive wishes are made towards the future.
When the high school fails, it produces murderers, rapists, thieves, prostitutes and idlers.
The high school does not of course set out to deliberately groom these deviant young people. This grooming comes from the system of education which the high schools are expected to administer.
The elitist education which the high schools dish out to our adolescents is aimed at fulfilling the aspirations of the academically endowed 25 percent of the high school population. The other 75 percent spend their time at the high school in utter frustration which festers into a canker by the time they reach 16 or 17 years of age.
It is in this non-achieving catchment that the criminals and other deviants are groomed.
It we could find a way to raise the level of expectations and self esteem in this large group of our high school population, trust me, this will reduce crime and divert our community from its Wild West inclinations.