A DOCTORS PLEA T. C. Phipps-Benjamin It was extremely disheartening to read about the deflated and emotionally drained spirit of the federation’s Medical Chief of Staff at the JNF Hospital, Dr. Cameron Wilkinson. On the night of February 25, 2009, he tended the bullet-ridden body of one of our nation’s teenagers, whose life met a brutal end. The esteemed doctor had been in lifesaving mode before, flanked by a supporting cast of doctors and nurses with lifesaving medical devices within reach. Why was that night so different for Dr. Wilkinson? He is an accomplished doctor who has cared for victims of violence while residing and working in the US. But in his words, “When you see persons here who you know from a kid, some of them you remember when they were born, and you see them being gun-downed just before they reach their prime, it’s very, very distressing”. To understand why our youths are fighting and killing each other like savages, adults have to pound the pavements and find our youths where they are. The price for not doing so is painstakingly high. Three more of this federation’s lives have expired since the death of the teenager, and we still cannot answer Dr. Wilkinson’s question why? Why are our youth fighting? What are they fighting for? Gang Nation recently premiered on the Investigation Discovery channel. In one episode, host Ross Kemp visits El Salvador and gets a firsthand account as to why parents bury up to eleven (11) of their children a day, making El Salvador one of the most murderous countries on earth. Many of the victims belong to the MS13 (Mara Salvatrucha) gang, one of the most notorious gangs in the world. Their rivals, the 18th Street gang, nestled deep in the heart of El Salvador, is just as blood thirsty for the skin of the MS13 members. Turf war that started in the US between rival gangs has been transplanted to El Salvador by men, basically hungry for something to identify with. When host Kemp engages the young men to understand why they kill, their reasons seem pointless and in defiance of the human desire to live. The crux of their “beef” seems to be territorial. In the name of the fight for turf dominance, they subject themselves and their families to sleepless nights and certain death. St. Kitts and Nevis is a nation rife with ideas; a rich federation of people whose joy is not to wallow in misery. We love the sweet beat of Calypso music and quickly run behind any “pan dat knock”. So it is in our souls that we must dig “urgently” to unearth that same passion for fun and excitement to take our youth back; to re-model our once peaceful society. We already know the consequences if we don’t act. A stifled economy, havoc in our schools, families cowering behind their doors, nationals fearful to return home and the list goes on. The efforts on the ground are grueling, but we must not stop. Seeking solutions can become distressing and draining. Our Medical Chief of Staff and his staff feel this way each time they behold life flee from the bodies of our youth. But giving up is surrendering our nation’s future. What do we do when a doctor pleads for answers? What do we do when the energy to go on fighting to save lives is sapped from our nation’s caretakers? While political parties throw their financial muscle behind events and strategies that will drum up support from the electorate in order to win a national election, young men are scheming to “buss gun shot pon one anodder.” Constituency offices open one after the other, but guess who don’t rush to meet political candidates at these offices with tales of their chosen lifestyle? To know what is going on in their heads and why they idle by day and seek the enemy after dark, we (PARENTS, politicians, community leaders, teachers, preachers and the like) have to reach them where they are. Our people have attended numerous town hall meetings and have tabled idea after idea. Gun amnesty has been shot down as a “not so viable option to combat our crime wave”; rounding up unemployed or troubled young men to subject them to boot camp in an attempt to reshape their lives seems to have been placed on the shelf. Organizations have put their proposals forward, and although it takes time before many suggestions can be implemented, each minute, each hour, each day we wait translates into the demise of another young man. WE HAVE TO TRY SOMETHING… .ANYTHING. Many of our youth have become too comfortable with crime. We need to shock them with the ugly sight that our medical personnel and law enforcement see everyday. Young boys need to visit our jails and hospitals to see the brutal and bloody reminders of gang culture. Let them see the filth and disgust of living in our jails before they become so cold and hardened. Let them see the not so glorious side of “bad man lifestyle”. Let them see “bad man does dead too”. A few months ago, Ms. Jackie Pondt caught the interest of several citizens with her passion to Silence the Violence. She envisions a national rally involving every citizen in our federation descending on Basseterre and Charlestown, hands joined in unison on the same day, at the same hour, pleading for a wholesome involvement from every man, woman and child to eradicate the beast that has nibbled away at the bellies of our communities. She created the STV committee with the objective of restoring our communities and anticipates a unified effort from ALL Kittitians and Nevisians that reaches beyond social, religious, and political boundaries. Her hope is that a national rally can serve as one of the ingredients to fuel our efforts to rid our islands of crime. A doctor’s painful plea runs deep. To save our youth and to keep our medical personnel sane, we cannot allow the violence around us to silence us. We must “Silence the Violence”. What should we be fighting for instead? To Stop the Murders, Stop the Tears, Stop the Burials, Stop the Fears Silence the Violence Let Us Heed a Doctor’s Plea!
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