Building bridges between conflicting parties, Linden Forbes Burnham, Linden/Guyana, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Police Riot Squad, Public protests
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. ~ Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)
Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary. ~ Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
Linden is a reminder of the achievements of Afro-Guyanese under the leadership of Linden Forbes Burnham, the first Prime Minister and President of our nation.
Linden is a reminder of the treacherous defeat of Indo-Guyanese.
Linden is a reminder of our struggle for independence.
Linden is a reminder of the dark side of our human nature that enables us to turn against our neighbors: robbing them of their personal possessions, burning their homes, and raping their wives and daughters.
In 2007, I met Chitra (fictitious name), a Guyanese-American woman of Indian descent. At the time, together with millions of Americans, I vibrated with the possibility of having our first African-American president. As a democrat, Chitra faced a dilemma. “I’m not voting for a black man,” she told me. “Black people can’t be trusted.” I could only stare at her in disbelief.
Chitra was nine years old when her home in the Linden/Wismar mining region was firebombed by blacks during the 1964 racial “disturbances.” Her trauma destroyed her trust in all Africans, regardless of their origin or character. Sadly, the deviant sociopathic behavior of a few has the power to poison the mind. Fear and hatred develop and perpetuate through subsequent generations. Using this knowledge, our political leaders manipulate and feed our fears for their own purposes and needs.
Residents of Linden, I applaud your courage in publicly protesting against what you perceive as an unjust and burdensome increase in your electricity tariffs. As citizens of a nation with a people-elected government, you have the right to peacefully voice your protest in the streets, to call attention to your plight and suffering. The Police Riot Squad committed a crime in using deadly force to silence protestors. I support your stand in demanding an inquiry and justice for the deaths of three unarmed male protestors.
Residents of Linden, I urge you not to resort to violence or destruction of public property. As Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us, only love can drive out hate. Moreover, victory through violence is only temporary, as Mahatma Gandhi warned us.
Guyana is a young nation with a turbulent history of racial conflicts. Both Africans and Indians have blood on their hands. The perpetrators for these crimes remain unaccountable. Do not offend me with denial. Do not make excuses. I, too, bear guilt for my silent complicity. All parties involved have to come to terms with this reality. We have serious unresolved issues that keep us divided, that prevent us from forming a government where all citizens, regardless of race or ethnicity, have rightful and meaningful participation.
It is time to start rebuilding the bridges that had once united us. I remember those days: those days before powerful external interests destroyed the bridges, however shaky, that made us strong and a threat to their interests.
Do we have the strength of character required to rebuild those bridges? Perhaps the residents of Linden will be the light that leads us out of the darkness.
Angela M. said:
An enormous challenge, Rose, for all of us – the success of which may very well mean the success or failure of our species’ survival.
Rosaliene Bacchus said:
Angela, letting go of our pain and forgiving those who have inflicted that pain can take a lifetime or more. I struggle with this in my own life.
Angela M. said:
I have found that letting go of pain and forgiveness do not necessarily go hand in hand. The former can be a physical and mental necessity to survive but the latter remains a complex – and often irrational – matter, where forgiveness cannot be complete and continues to haunt. Still, we must continue to work out our demons in the same way as we cannot continue without hope for resolutions, whatever they come to be.
Rosaliene Bacchus said:
Thanks for sharing, Angela.
In those cases where we are able, over time, to forgive the aggressor, we face the new challenge of rebuilding the trust that was lost.
The complexity of human relations compounds the challenges faced by a nation with a history of racist party politics.