Ways of Seeing: Top post-election priority: Peace
Here in St. Croix, I live on the west side of the island, waking up at six for work each morning. Though the sun rose from the other direction, the promise of beauty on the western horizon pulled me easily from bed. The clouds turned a soft pink, reflected in the ocean, and a glow settled across the flowering trees and sugar mill ruins. Rainbows were a daily gift, yellow butterflies lifted from vines in small clouds, and twice I saw pods of dolphins moving south off the bay. Throughout the day iguanas marched haughtily around me as I worked, frogs and toads gurgled in pools and puddles, and small lizards darted through the lush vegetation. When the sun crossed its zenith and sank towards the ocean, the orange and pink cast itself forcefully upon swaying palms before fading to starlight.
When isolated in such exquisite natural surroundings it is easier to forget the pain and trouble in this world, until, like a hurricane, it makes landfall nearby. Sitting on the porch with my coffee in hand, watching a rainbow slowly extend through the sky, it could have looked like any morning. But my mind had lost the usual peace and excitement for the day, and instead was ablaze. Five people were shot last night. I couldn’t get it out of my head. On this beautiful island with its sweet wind and warm waters, this island which is only twenty-eight miles long. Three incidents in one night, five people shot, and one dead.
Much like the mainland U.S., St. Croix has a gun violence problem. The U.S. Virgin Islands have seen over forty fatal shootings in 2020 so far, with many victims hit randomly in crossfire. Five people had been shot in one night and it wasn’t an anomaly. Sitting on the porch in the soft glow of morning, I tried to make sense of how this could happen. The island felt like it had two alternate realities, but I knew in actuality they were one.
Often I comfort myself by looking to nature for solace, but looking away is no solution. This year has been full of struggles, and compartmentalizing them has become default. We are exposed and desensitized to violence every day — not just the blatant squeeze and release of a trigger, but the innumerable violences, big and small, occurring all around us.
Coretta Scott King said “I must remind you that starving a child is violence… Suppressing a culture is violence… Punishing a mother and her child is violence. Contempt for poverty is violence. Even the lack of will power to help humanity is a sick and sinister form of violence.”
In the past year, a pandemic swept through the globe, killing and destabilizing, as protests against police brutality rocked our nation and as children sat in cages at our border. As Muslims in China were put in concentration camps, as Nigerian youth fought against abuse from their government, as oil spilled and as fires burned.
St. Croix is a breathtaking island, and Vermont is a haven of natural beauty, and while we must cherish these things, I urge myself and others not to look away or disengage with the outside world. It has been a trying year and we are all tired, but we have to keep our eyes open. We need to keep neutrality at bay and continue fighting every way we know how against these violences. Against the separation of families, against police brutality, against the prioritization of profit over people in the pandemic. By the time this is published, a president will have been elected. Regardless of who it is, there will be no immediate solutions and no immediate healing. Voting is of the utmost importance, but still it is a fallacy to believe one man will save us, regardless of which man that is to you.
After election day, no matter what has happened and no matter how tired we are, we must move towards peace. Not the illusion of peace, not law and order or quiet or calm, but towards a space and time where we do not tolerate a single violence. Until then, don’t look away.
Leeya Tudek is a South Lincoln local and an undergrad at University of California at Santa Cruz. She spends her time back in the 802 hiking, dogsledding and swimming in the rivers. She loves to paint and write, and most recently embarked on her first filmmaking journey. She is currently living in St, Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.
It’s hard to ignore Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Republican firebrand and likely preside … (read more)
Do you remember when Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” came out? I saw it in a crowd … (read more)
My family takes a trip together nearly every year. Once the trip is over we immediately lo … (read more)