Country hotta dan town

June 23, 2017
Valrie Walters is comforted by a community member at the murder scene of her father and two siblings in Mt Carmel, Hanover.

My, how things have changed. When I was a child growing up in the country, Kingston was the place country people didn't want to be.

Back then, Jamaica was much more peaceful than it is today. When I was five years old, there were 152 murders reported in Jamaica.

By the time I was in high school in 1976, that figure had climbed to 367, which was concerning. But for us living out in Trelawny and Manchester, not so much.

In 1980, Kingston seemed like hell on earth, what with the blood being spilt during the run-up to the elections that year. More than 800 murders were committed.

Over in St James, Hanover and Westmoreland, things were rosy. My father's parents lived near Bethel Town and I also had relatives nearby in Hanover.

 

EXCITING TIME

 

We had family, too, in Montego Bay and it was always an exciting time visiting. The worse thing I worried about was motion sickness.

Back then, cars were not as efficiently built as they are today so while sitting in the back seat, the smell of gasolene would make me nauseous and invariably force me to retch.

It was always a great relief to finally arrive at the destination.

Relief then was more than just the fresh country air, good food and peace of mind; it also had to do with the fact that Kingston was so far away.

The reports on the news had my relatives talking about how violent Kingston was. My guess was that more than 50 per cent of all the murders were committed in Kingston, St Andrew and St Catherine.

Today, things have taken a significant shift because St James, Hanover and Westmoreland, usually the most peaceful parishes, are now among the most violent.

I don't have the actual figures, but I suspect that of the near 700 murders reported in Jamaica this year, a significant number of those have been committed in those parishes. Clarendon is not far behind.

What that means for people like me, who once saw those parishes as places of refuge, is that there is nowhere left to run to escape the violence that once only plagued Jamaica's capital.

These days, the bloodshed is everywhere. Just look at the dramatic killing that took place on 'Top Road' in Montego Bay recently?

Those things never happened in country. Nowadays, they seem to be commonplace.

My, how things have changed. What is troubling is that they haven't changed for the better. One time, man used to 'fraid fi go town. Now dem 'fraid fi go country, too.

It is even more troubling that we don't seem to know how to make it go back to the way it was.

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