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Monday, February 19, 2018

The young woman, she said, took her entire family in the Jagessars’ 2018 San Fernando Carnival band last Monday. Six of them. Three generations.

Her five-month-old son had been a hit, she said, at Kiddies’ Carnival just the day before, people eager to snap his picture.

I assume unnecessarily unreasonably deafening music trucks that are everywhere at Carnival were there, too, as the children paraded. I assume the same communicable diseases we imagine blowing through the Carnival streets were there. Or more: you know children are such vectors.

But Bianca, wearing a costume, took the same infant back to Carnival Monday, nestled in a halter.

A past health minister jumped up: “Madness! Loudness! Suffocation! Child abuse! Carnival mentality!”

Cameras shot child and woman onto newspaper pages. “Dancing and prancing on the road.” “Having a good time.”

A woman police, it was reported, bouff she (one not among the hundreds who stayed home during the terror threat, but who came to work to wreck cars, block roads and shut Carnival down early).

The Children’s Authority issued a press statement “in high praise of the…officer,” citing the $50,000 penalty in section 4 of the Children Act, Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

The social media mob chimed in: “Wicked mother.” “All mothers who support her are even worse. She should lose custody of the child.” “Shaken-baby syndrome.” “Guns. Violence.” “Lawlessness.” “Most unhealthy thing—mother’s instinct will tell you.”

Not everyone was hysterical. So why couldn’t more people who thought she’d erred in judgment, and ought to have skipped Carnival for a year until the child was older, just say so simply? Some comments were unable to mask their racial dog whistles. “People should be sterilised for stupidity.”

But why were Bianca and her mother Francesca of such interest to the news media? The teenaged gap between their ages—“Granny, 37”—a headline?

The Children’s Authority, I opined, would do far more good creating accessible childcare for parents during Carnival.

All year round, in fact. What an outrage, Facebook shot back, that the national budget (which we all know pays for Chutney Monarch, calypso tents to close, stages where women wine and jam, and to broadcast such wining) include childcare for women to wine and jam. In makeup. Restrict state-sponsored childcare to deserving parents.

“They should have given her back her money and told her to take her child home,” Fuad Khan said of the Jagessars.

Lionel saw his bottomline differently: “Many people come to us and say they have nowhere to leave their children. We tell them Sunday is for the children.

T&T has swept another young woman up in a wild national orgy of mocking and judgment. But Bianca spoke up for herself: “I want people to stop minding my business. I know where my children are. Tell them to go and take care of their families.”

So did her mother, originally mistaken for her.

“I believe mother and child should be together.” Children were safer in the band than left with some relative. “I play mas when pregnant.”

The most troubling comments for me were those that signalled Carnival is a “luxury,” “not a necessity.” Who has created that Carnival?

“I personally believe people go mad around Carnival time, and she is just one of them,” Dr Khan was quoted. I personally believe politicians can go mad when out of power. I also know it doesn’t require Carnival for Trinbagonians to join in madness toward each other.

But no, it’s not each other. It is really usually women of a particular class, or race, we feel appointed to judge this way, to deem unfit. Our secret is to never name why out loud. And that’s the madness—or self-delusion—I want to name.


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