A SCENE from Potter’s Cay this week.
WHEN I was young, we carried books to school, not guns. When I was young, I knelt by the side of the bed and prayed asking God to make my family happy, not to keep them safe from the bullets of an evil lunatic or the fury of a troubled teen. When I was young, l was innocent, but the world did not look then like it looks now. The weather was unpredictable, not the person sitting next to you.
What has happened to us?
Did we have it too good for too long? Was it too easy to slide through the days, going to and from work or school or a beach or park without concern for our lives? Was it too simple to go to the store and expect that the shelves would be stocked with any little thing we needed, including baby formula? Were we so spoiled by excess that we never stopped to think how it got there or that one day it wouldn’t be there?
I don’t know about you, but to me it felt like, and still feels like, a lot changed during COVID that isn’t going to change back. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I feel like the world shifted slightly, those who were troubled got more so, those who were okay with showing up for work every day and didn’t question it started asking why. Why do this for the rest of my life? Even when we got the news that the pandemic was now an endemic, so we just had to learn to live with it, not panic about it, we knew something inside us had changed. Things seemed exaggerated and at the same time diminished. Was it just me or was it seismic?
There were physical manifestations. We woke up and realized climate change was real and hurtling at us faster than Al Gore followers predicted. Americans bought guns. And more guns. And now there are more guns in America than people. World power was shifting. North Korea became a serious nuclear threat. China, not satisfied with getting Hong Kong back under its wing, started threatening to take the democratic Republic of China (Taiwan), too. And all of a sudden, NATO became the club everyone wanted to join. Mess with one of its members and you mess with all of us. It didn’t stop Putin in Ukraine, but might restrain him from attempting to gobble up and feast on other European countries.
It was the change in violence not the reliance on zoom that made for the most startling change. In the U.S., there seemed to be no end to it, as if the country were having a war with itself. There have been more than 200 mass shootings this year, mass shooting defined as four or more persons excluding the gunman, and the year is not even half over. That’s more than one a day. At a place of worship, a school, a subway, a grocery store on a busy Saturday afternoon. Everyone keeps using the word evil, but no one is explaining where all this evil came from or why now.
And again, I ask, what has happened to us? Are we failing as a people? Do we need to have a good sit-down session with ourselves, where did we fall off a cliff, how can we climb back up, how can we do better? It isn’t just the giants of the world. It’s hit home, too.
Look at this scene from Potter’s Cay this week. If that is how we treat our environment – a finger of land surrounded by water, a place that should be a postcard-worthy treasure but instead is a cargo-cramped, boat-jammed, ill-conceived disaster where people eat within tossing distance of piles of trash, garbage and debris, we disrespect what God has given us.
That disrespect has no limits, no NATO to say ‘Don’t you dare spread your wings here.’ That disrespect for the environment is evident from the corner of Fox Hill Road where nine signs litter Eastern Road and the owner of the property who no longer lives in the area should be ashamed. That disrespect is evident from that corner all the way west until you get to Old Fort Bay and south along Carmichael Road as far as the eye can see. When did we stop hearing the refrain cleanliness is next to godliness, not that I ever fully understood what godliness was, but I knew that cleanliness mattered because it had something to do with respect.
Without respect, we slip into a state where authority totters on the brink of anarchy. What do we have in Nassau today? Police are worried about gangs. Gangs are more worried about other gangs than they are about police. Five thousand students leave school this month, the lucky, hard-working ones will do fine. Others face loss without a routine and some form of structure or the financial wherewithal to get a start in the adult world. Many will not even be able to fill out a job application form though they are willing to work hard. And yet there will be a few shining stars.
Still so long as the sun shines on The Bahamas, there are a thousand reasons to be grateful. A moment ago we had a light rain and for the first time in the 36 years I have lived in this house I saw a rainbow reflected in the stainless steel sink in the kitchen. If we not just sweat the small stuff, but appreciate it, the small stuff will be our reward even as we try to figure out, what happened to us.