On occasion, the unimaginable unfolds and there is shuddering and wondering; shuddering in fear and wondering what more is in store for regular citizens going about the routines of day and life.
There are few things more ordinary than visiting the marketplace on the first day of the weekend, more ordinary than sampling the array of produce on display.
After moving from one stall to another, there is the increasing weight of loaded and heavier bags, which reminds that the pocketbook is getting lighter. There are crowds and voices and some of the jostling that are part of any Saturday at the market for hundreds of years.
Last Saturday, introduced the unprecedented and the unnerving at La Penitence. Gunfire. An attempted execution gone wrong, and with trapped shoppers everywhere, but in the right place. Saturday at the marketplace is the best time for getting the best for the family from the best efforts of toil and soil. It has always been the right atmosphere and environment for safety and the comfort of chatting with strangers, as well as those familiar. Well, not this one.
Last Saturday was not a one-dimensional botched execution, but a running gun battle with a flurry of bullets hurtling about with lethal intent, and sending exposed shoppers ducking for cover; any cover affording the sanctuary of some meagre safety.
It didn’t matter how meagre, as all that mattered was somehow eluding those bullets fired recklessly at target(s), and with that being the one and only priority. The immediate urgency of finishing the job by finishing off the man. So, what if it took fusillades of steel-jacketed warheads between stalkers and targets, and then with the tables turned the bullets whistling past in the other direction? Who gives a damn?
Last Saturday brought home a disturbing reality. From the extremely limited, single-tracked outlook of the criminally minded, the uncaring and untroubled priority is that of accomplishing a mission. This is so, whether such is representative of an invading, a wounding or, as was the primary objective over the weekend, the finality of a killing.
From the perspective of a reeling frightened citizenry, a wall stares in the face, burdens the consciousness, and threatens to collapse on head: where else could this happen? What more is left to be seen or, worse still, experienced as determined by fate?
For if a crowded, bustling weekend marketplace is neither out of bounds nor encompasses the unthinkable and the undoable, that victim, too, currently out of reach, then it follows that other places are similarly not off-limits nor best left alone until later. A crowded cricket ground wasn’t.
Where else should provoke worrying? It could happen through reckless and callous disregard for the solemn sacredness of a house of worship in session, or a home of mourning in lamentation, or a funeral procession and burial rites in motion. That does not leave many places for decent law-abiding members of the populace to congregate to share in the freedoms once taken for granted.
The authorities tell the public that statistically things are better. Matters look encouraging numerically. But when bullets are flying about, and one’s own number could be up, then there is zero comfort found in what any and all other numbers mean. When bullets are going back and forth, as if this is Sunday afternoon practice on some isolated range, then the little men and women have little option but to find the hiding place and security of the nearest floor and the farthest retreat.
Rather regrettably, this is the forlorn story of today’s Guyana. The gunmen advance arrogantly, while the working men and women retreat fearfully. The gun is king and conqueror. It has an unchallengeable supremacy currently. Porous borders can be quickly pointed to as the main contributory factor. How we fool ourselves!
Saturday was the marketplace; tomorrow could be anywhere.
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