Letter of the Day | Story's tragedy, a ray of hope
THE EDITOR, Madam:
The Sunday Gleaner (November 5, 2023) story, 'I was only trying to protect my father', describes Jamaica's psychosocial temperature. The story is an interview with Tameka Henry,the mother of the 11-year-old boy, Fytzroi Robinson, who “came to national attention two weeks ago after a video went viral of him being pepper sprayed then pinned to the ground by a police officer with his knee and fist ”.
Tameka Henry, who works on a cruise ship, represents hundreds of thousands of mothers who seek overseas employment. Historically, the main push factor for migration is the reduction of poverty and increase in prosperity. However, the bruising psychosocial impact is now rearing because the research data shows that female immigration rose dramatically from 51 per cent between 1972-1979 to 80-87 per cent in 1980 ( Early and Contemporary Patterns of Anglophone Caribbean Migration, Holger Henke). Given the historical-cultural reality of female-headed homes in Jamaica, Henry’s testimony of sadness shows that migrant mothers may be suffering from both grief and a mother’s guilt.
The mother’s absence from the home triggers an emotional void within the children, leaving some traumatised and grieving the loss of a primary nurturer. Along with Fytzroi's burning desire for his mother’s return for Christmas, his dramatic change of behaviour with the police from shy to boisterous represents a grieving child who fears losing another parent.
The father represents a plethora of caregivers who are perhaps alone, without the historical contribution of the village, the neighbourhood, the school, the Church or the extended family. The story also demonstrates a father under tremendous stress, to the extent that, regarding a fundamental safety measure such as a child seat, he claims “the government said no to that law a long time.”
The police in the story represents the State that is insensitive to the psychosocial condition of its citizenry, either due to ignorance or as a result of a highly stressed workforce. Consequently, the State prioritises brute force to address societal behavioural challenges. In some instances, state employees who are to serve, protect and reassure are themselves abused. So, the abused becomes the abuser.
Notwithstanding the story's tragedy, a ray of hope is observed in the commitment and responsibility of both mother and father “to restructure their lives” to address the challenges of absenteeism. This consciousness is, perhaps, needed in far more families, the bedrock of society, who are undergoing similar circumstances of grief, guilt and loss.
FR DONALD CHAMBERS, JP