There are no words that I can find or use to adequately describe my grief and repugnance over the ruthless and malevolent manner in which the right to live, to be free, to enjoy the constitutional freedoms and rights every citizen of this country is entitled to, were summarily and permanently removed from Courtney Crum-Ewing. All he was doing was what citizens in democracies do all over the world every day. And no nation in which citizens can be assassinated for exercising their right to free speech, their right to peaceful and nonviolent protest, their right to petition a government for redress for perceived or actual grievances, or the right to engage in any non-violent and lawful political activity, even by the widest stretch of one’s illusory imagination, can logically and objectively be described as a democracy. President Barack Obama, in his address during the memorial observation of that event 50 years ago when civil rights activists withstood brutal violence from law enforcement as they proceeded peacefully and non-violently, and with courage and determination, over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama in pursuit of voting rights, made the point that air-brushing the history of America, as many are wont to do, is neither a true manifestation of patriotism or love for one’s country. In the same context, air-brushing events and circumstances in our country, as many are wont to do, as many continuously regurgitate arguments and postulations that imply that those who refuse to adhere to that paradigm are not patriotic or have any love for Guyana, as the Potus pointed out, manifest neither a patriotic heart and consciousness, or unconditional love for our common national motherland. To the same effect that one’s love for one’s child, for one’s parents, for one’s family members, is not conditioned by blinding one’s eye to negative attitudes and behaviours that detract from their positive social development and growth, the same obtains in every citizen’s personal interactive relationship with their nation. Unfortunately it would appear this age old principle seems to have become old fashioned and unpopular in our collective understandings of late.
Editor, there is a frightening similarity with the circumstances in which Courtney Crum-Ewing was dispatched from this life, and that which obtained in the assassination of Ronald Waddell a decade or so go. We rant and rave about violence, about democracy, about the importance of the rule of law, due process and the presumption of innocence, all of those lofty moral and ethical underpinnings that are important pillars and foundations of true democracy, but our very actions, expressions and attitudes clearly reflect an inconsistency with such ideals. Moral and ethical principles cannot be relative or convenient. They must be consistent, based on objectivity, impartiality, and applied to issues without favour or affection, malice or ill-will. When they do not, they become just symbolic and cosmetic, flowery and shallow words and clichés flowing off lips and keyboards with the assumptions that they will be perceived as a true reflection of one’s binding and enduring commitment to those ideals.
Laura Hillenbrand, author of Unbroken, based on an account of survival, resilience and redemption during World War II wrote, “…The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when their tormentors suffer….” For those who are in pain and anguish and anger over Courtney Crum-Ewing’s ruthless assassination, and it is my fervent hope that most of Guyana is thus emotionally tormented, unlawful retaliation will neither relieve that which torments them, nor creditably serve his memory and his social and political activism. He was a man of peace, evidenced great humility, and his death should not become a vehicle for vicarious exhibitions of enmity and antipathy. That sentiment has been flowing through the letter pages of newspapers under the hands of many who have always been consistent in their admonishments about violent behaviour, and resolute in their appeal for peaceful directions in pursuit of whatever conflicts afflict our human nestings. Most notably are the contributions of Professor David Hinds and retired Major General Joe Singh. At the same time, Editor, I will not be reticent about pointing out the dissonance that is evident in the discovery of a few that it is wrong to apportion blame before the completion of a valid and objective investigation into a serious crime or issue. And I do so not in argument against the basic principle that is intrinsic in the message. Rather, I do so to call attention to the fact and to the reality, that over the years adherence to such lofty principles seems to have been unimportant in their numerous letters apportioning blame for alleged serious crimes to those with whom they might feel some political or other disengagement. Again, you cannot examine and pronounce on issues in Guyana and the world through a prism of moral relativism.
Finally, Editor, Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr, the American who became a martyr because of his non-violent civil and human rights activism, cautioned us that, “We should never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” I have no hesitation in contending that the recent social and political activism of Courtney Crum-Ewing represented a courageous embrace of that creed. He died because he refused to be more concerned about the repercussions that his actions might invoke in the social environment in which those actions were being undertaken. And today we can rest assured that his soul remains pure, untainted, and although the despicable and heinous actions of his assassins have physically taken him away from his domestic and national family, in the words of the Pakistani girl Malala who manifested an indomitable will to dream for better for one’s nation, “They can only shoot his body but they cannot shoot his dreams.”
RIP Courtney. My sincere condolences go out to your loved ones whose pain and sorrow I hope none of us ever have to endure.
Keith R Williams