Sacred Spaces

Despite our communal living, or because of it, there is a need for a space where privacy, procreation, worship, learning, work and rest are accorded the highest protection. We are always vulnerable but in recognizing and affirming dignity and respect due each person and sacred spaces to live and work, we guarantee a society that is functional and engenders debate and reflection.

Debate and reflection are crucial for our engagement with ourselves and each other in examining the quality of our bonds and the commitments we make in a democracy. We, invariably, will make mistakes in the quality of our care and the sincerity of our concern, hence the need for a space for reflection.

Sacred SpacesWherever we find ourselves and however dark the night, these sacred spaces allow us to disengage from the routine, mundane, or pressing anxiety that life can be. Challenged by our fears, we are nonetheless insistent that as we walk through cemeteries to see our lovers, or take to bridges that we do not personally examine on our way to work, or attend the graduation of a difficult child, we are assured of a civility of which we can be proud.

Our vulnerability is not the issue. Our vulnerability`s protection is. That space, that buffer has to be guaranteed and honored by state agents and citizens who are minded to disregard each other`s humanity and dignity. For that reason, illegal aliens pursued by the state can safely take refuge in a church, there is lawyer/doctor confidentiality, a man`s house- however humble- is his castle, a confession to a priest is privileged, a worker`s expectation to go about his business safely is not unreasonable.

My concern with vulnerability`s breach is not the few bad apples apology we trot out, or the empty condemnation and threats to lock up the miscreants whom we cannot apprehend, but rather the acknowledgement that if these sacred spaces cannot be guaranteed and defended before the atrocity and carnage is a heart rending picture of grief and loss, is our experiment at nation building viable?

The metal bars on homes, then business places, then schools, now churches, though quite artistic, begs the same question. Is anything sacred anymore? Assuming the answer is yes, who is responsible to defend before the fact, the values we say we hold dear, and give folks the confidence to be and do that which is legal and natural, routine and prayerful.

We have been known to dazzle and underwhelm with responses that say we cannot predict the future and hence we could not have anticipated an action thus readying a preventative response. In the same vein, our politics churn out misfits who can only moan the wretches who live among us as if they are aliens, and we dutifully don our funeral garbs, pray for divine intervention and console ourselves that the fallen brother or sister had a big funeral.

Sacred Spaces 2Something is wrong with the quality of our community, not its quantity, when we are consoled by the size and grander of a man`s funeral when he was attacked in a sacred space. It ought not to have come to that. More importantly, what are we going to do about it?

When a government, whose sacred responsibility it is, in my view, abdicates or neglect or is unable to defend by preventing, mark you, not by apprehending killers after the act, excuses its incompetence to maintain sacred spaces, whether by lack of resources or the courage to lead by example,  we have failed the fallen, betrayed the aged, perpetrate fraud on all those we had encouraged to dream, to struggle, to persevere, to believe. The implications are profound, but as we in our individual and collective selves retire from the freshly interred grave, we are seized by the realization that a culture that marginalize sacred spaces is marked for death.

Pointing out the obvious is easy. However, we decide to fix the incontrovertible will be inconvenient, but stopping short of admitting that we have failed each other, or in the case of Jamaica, which, for so many of us, is the place and culture that nurtured a quixotic character and fire in us, a failed state, would be putting nostalgic yesterday ahead of a transforming tomorrow.

We must allow tales of ghost and goblins, three-legged horses, fear of dark and scary monsters to terrorize us till we find the courage to walk alone in the dead of night, still fearful but purposed by love and devotion to challenge life and circumstances for those we love. We know we will encounter brutes and cowards along the way, robbers even, but death as a certainty in the course of work and play? Ask yourself this question as you contemplate how a paradise has been lost and to be recovered. If you have to choose between a coward and a thief as your leader, what would you do?

If that is what we have to look forward to, our parents, living or dead, should be damn shame of what we have become for all the education we have garnered.

Peter Peterkin, Readers Bureau, Fellow