Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It Shows

The city of Nassau looks like hell. It looks as bad as we feel. The center of town is full of abandoned, derelict buildings, entire streets are in ruins. A sickening pall hangs over Bay Street, the old marketplace is a barren lot behind chain link. Potter's Cay is a reeking, ugly health hazard. Inland, poverty and willful neglect combine to crumble the walls and pile garbage on the sidewalks. Past that, hundreds of acres of pine forest have fallen to the developers' big machines and desolation is everywhere. When I see our thirteen year old son looking out of the car window at his hometown, watch his spirit sadden and shrink as he looks out at the shabby, dirty streets, my heart breaks, desperation begins to rise inside me. I am thinking, "This is my responsibility. This is my town, the home I have given him. Why is it like this? What can I do?" I think of my new baby daughter, how perfect and beautiful she is. I don't want to be ashamed to show her her hometown, I don't want to tell her, "That's just the way it is in the Caribbean once you get past the hotels." Or worse: "That's just Bahamian mentality." As if Bahamians were someone other than us. (This was my parents' explanation to me when I was a child.) Worst of all, I don't want to have to fall silent when she asks me what I ever did to make things better. I think about how the broken down appearance of Nassau is really a metaphor for all that is ailing her, it is the manifestation of our collective broken spirit. We the people are tired and it shows.

We have to rally.

We have to call on the government to crack down on the owners of all the abandoned buildings in the city and force them to restore them. We must restore and preserve the historic buildings that survive. We have to shut down the godawful mess under the bridge once and for all and put the fishmarket along the waterfront on East Bay Street. We must understand the connection between the rise of the mega hotel on Paradise Island and the decline of our quality of life as citizens on New Providence. We must forget about another gigantic straw market full of imported goods and instead plant that space with grass and trees, maybe a much smaller market with only truly native work. We need green parks so very desperately. We have to stop the deforestation, stop the destruction of the big trees. We must protect more coastline for Bahamians. As citizens we must all become more individually responsible for our properties, our neighbourhoods, our public spaces. We owe it to our children.

We have to restore Nassau so that we can restore ourselves.

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