Profiles in Courage & Love

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
November 03, 2010

ViolenceOne will never know what transpired between Sarbrina Lall-Mitchell and her murderer. Sometimes love relations go awry with devastating consequences. No one has ever explained fully why feelings that seem to so wonderfully new when love first dawns turns so completely into its opposite when loves dies and the deadly serpent of jealousy entangles the human breast.

Sometimes out of the tragedy that this bundle of misplaced emotions engenders a more salvific and ennobling love arises from the simple act of wishing to protect the beloved. Sometimes it finds its recrudescence in the simple words: “I forgive” or “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Seth Lalla, Sabrina’s son, is only eleven, the age when I lost my father. Imagine the courage he displayed when those who were supposed to protect his mother ran away and left him with the inevitably: how do I protect my mom when a mass of blind fury is trying to deprive my mom of the most precious commodity: life itself.

Imagine Seth’s helplessness. Even as the lone guard ran away to save his life, in his weakness and innocence, Seth called upon his inner reserves to try to save his mother: “I saw him pull out a knife from his pocket. I wanted to save mummy so bad but he began to stab her. And I tried pulling him off her but he just continued stabbing. I tried to tell him if mummy’s dead who would look after us and he stopped and watched me but mummy was already on the floor and covered in a pool of blood and my school clothes were covered with blood.”

Pastor Dennis Lalla, described his daughter’s relationship with her killer as “eleven years of hell.” As a father he was protective. As a man he knew abuse when he saw it. At 65, he knew the relationship was not working in his daughter’s favor but understood why, in the name of false, unrequited love, she stuck around hoping for the best.

“Leave him. Go to America. Start a new life,” he urged her but she was bound, even unto death, to an emotion that betrayed her. She could not possibly have known about her lover’s murderous intent or that his pretended tenderness was an act. He couldn’t know “he bided his time” as he claimed he loved her.

Her killer may have believed that he “loved” or, better still, “desired” her. But love and desire are not necessarily the same thing. Love involves a heightened concerned for another human being; that if I care for you sufficiently I will not want any harm to attend you to do even though I suffer negative consequences in the process.

Sabrina’s killer was not really in love with her. He may have desired her or wished to control her life. He may have wished to possess her in much the same way a man or woman possesses or owns a house or a car. These are inanimate objects that have no way of reciprocating kindness. Possession has little to do with love and its exalted passion.

James Henry Leigh Hunt was a central figure in the English Romantic Movement at the beginning of the nineteenth century. One of his poems, “The Glove and the Lions,” was anthologized in one of the West Indian Readers that we used in our primary schools. It tells of the story of a woman who pretended to love a man and who, as a manifestation of that love, called upon him to do extravagant things to prove it.

One day King Frances and several friends were at court watching the lions, with horrid laughing jaws, tear up one another up in the arena below. Their passions-that is, to the degree that animals have passions-were vicious, brutal and deadly. As the king and his party looked at the lions fight, there was a strange commingling of “valour and love, a king above, and the royal beasts below.” Taking savage delight in the lions’ brutality, the king exclaimed: “Faith, gentlemen, we’re better here than there.”

Amidst the revelry Count de Lorge, a noble, sat with his lady, “a beauteous lively dame/With smiling lips and sharp bright eyes.” They had come to enjoy the royal sport. And then it happened. Before anyone could think about it, she dropped her glove into the ring, looked at him and smiled. She thought. In his nobility, he would do anything to prove his love for me.

He had to prove his manhood or so she thought: “His leap was quick, return was quick, he had regained his place./ Then threw the glove, but not with love, right in the lady’s face./ ‘By God!,” said Francis, ‘rightly done! And he rose from where he sat:/’No love,’ quoth he, ‘but vanity, sets love a task like that.'”

Vanity is defined as having excessive pride in one’s abilities or one’s attractiveness. Sometimes we call it conceitedness. No matter how we slice it, vanity resides in the belief that somehow the world revolves and sets around you. Every one must cater to your needs. Solomon counseled: “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.” This is why the alleged killer saw in Sabrina nothing other than a defiant object who had refused to bend to his will. How could she reject his irresistible maleness and attractiveness?

Love presumes a rejection of ego and false pride. Whatever other ingredients it may have, it must involve a deep and heighten concerned for the beloved which is why Jesus Christ, in his unbounded love, advised: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down [or sacrifice] his life for his friends.”

This is why Pastor Lalla, a great man, reflected the embodiment of salvific love when he said of his daughter’s killer, “I want to talk to him and tell him that I forgive him and that I am praying that he will find God.”

We mistake vanity for love. Sometimes we confuse self-indulgence with generosity. Much too often we confuse the dictates of our hearts with misguided inflexibility of our minds. There is always room for all of these emotions and rationalizations. The trick is to apply the appropriate emotion; at the appropriate time and in the appropriate place. The inability to discern the difference leads to devastating consequences.

May God always give us the wisdom to discern the difference?

13 Responses to “Profiles in Courage & Love”


  • If Trinis had the right to bear arms he would have been a dead man.

    • No cousin kalam Mohammed ! Not too sure you wish to change the numerical demographics of your loving country, by going this route . Let’s just agree for the record ,that political or social changes, ain’t easy, while supporting our hard working , extremely well paid,new ,Canadian/ Edmonton Phd,Police Commissioner ,as he continue to do his excellent job, of hunting down criminals chiefly around the East West corridor and similar enclaves where only Afro Trinis, culture deficient, savages, chiefly resides , yes?

      http://www.newsday.co.tt/news/0,92149.html

      http://www.trinidadandtobagonews.com/blog/?p=519

      Listen fella, your Trinidad and Tobago is a fairly Democratic , yet very immature , gullible , imitative nation of people. In time , they’ll recognize that a society cannot fully advance , and develop in any sustainable way ,if the very young , aged, women , or generally weak ,amongst us , are not protected, and taken care of simply because they cannot vote , can no longer be economically productive, or are too poor to offer a nice political contribution to some MP ,or uncaring tribal political Party.
      Live and let live for the time , and enjoy your Carnival,Chutney Soca, Pagwa, Hosay,and Arima Parang, ehh?

  • The psychological grip this man had on this woman was great. She did not stand a chance. However, is her death in vain??? Are there other women who are in need of assistance and rebuilding of their psyche??? Can a functioning democracy with a female PM continue to condone such acts of hatred and jealousy against our precious daughters and wives. Or is there enough understanding of domestic hatred that a decisive social aparatus can be built to prevent this from happening.

    I remember speaking to a victim of domestic abuse. I said to her in plain language if your life is in danger– leave. She reunited with the drug addicted abuser. They had another child. Then he physically assaulted her again, this time she left,and the abuser was imprisoned. Today she has managed to rebuild her life. The last time I saw her I wish I could have gone over to her and said “You did the right thing”. I think the words I said to her assisted in her summoning up the courage to do the right thing.

    And yet there are instances of abuse where I have seen couples reunite and live happily ever after. However, for me the difference is drug abuse, alcohol or other mind altering drugs. If that is present then the only end will be such as this woman experienced, sadly.

  • A tender, intellectual, literary and insightful analysis of an unfortunate tragedy. The nation is in constant mourning.
    We are witnessing the results a nation caught up in a race for affluence.In the words of mark Twain, “The offspring of riches: pride, vanity, arrogance, tyranny”.

  • Oh yes , we know why this matter is garnering the attention it is getting at the moment , by even the good Doctor, and the selectively outraged characters that are jumping on the bandwagon. No khem stop blaming drugs for the social maladies , as female abuses were here long before drugs became a menace. Save us from your philosophical utterances, as during the Mark Twain era black women were not even considered human being , and so had no rights , even the one who bore a bunch of bastard kids for the 2nd President of the United States, as a result of nightly rapes, by that immoral, though eloquent Founding Father, of “all men are created equal,” fame.
    You end abuses on women in our society, and any where else in the world whether Asia, Africa, Middle East , South America, Russia , Europe , or Jupiter- if life exist there – when decent human beings decide to stand up for the Human Rights on behalf of the weak , and neglected amongst us- especially when they are not our families, or linked to some political entity , in ,and out of political power. Thinking that a female leader would be more sensitive to this issue , is simply delusional, as history would show where female leaders have ruled across the globe the atrocious track records of many such elitist power mongrels that thrive in a culture of privilege , and neglect for the weak, but what you, you , and yes, you ,really care?

    • “No khem stop blaming drugs for the social maladies , as female abuses were here long before drugs became a menace.”

      Drug is an excellarant in the system of abuse, however, personality type, upbrining, culture and excessive woman complaining are all mitigating factors, not to be ignored. In my experience however, I have found that the abuse is likely to grow over time if drugs is involved.

  • Apologies are in order to the name of John Adams, as I was referring to his lifetime Virginian , aristocratic rival, and 3rd President of dem United States, in Thomas Jef.

  • We must teach our professionals how to deal with domestic abuse. It is all too common in a place so small as ours. There should be a more forceful response by the police and other authorities for this kind of behaviour.

  • A one size fit all approach to problem solving is no longer feasible , as there are numerous explanations that can be put forth when attempting to understand this ,and similar atrocities , that continues to wreak havoc, chiefly on the economically poor , socially insignificant, and politically weak, in our nation , as well as globally.
    Those that were in a position to see,and or experienced the fall out ,and lasting impact , needs to move beyond talk , and into action-again , not only when some celebrity kid is involved,an important figure becomes a victim, or the crime is so ghastly ,that it gnaws away at the pulse strings of our collective conscience, and make so outrage , even beyond reason.
    In addition , many abuses do not necessarily end in death , but failure to address the problem nevertheless, are just as devastating , in the long term , as the cycle continues for generations to come.
    Since police and law enforcement officials ,in actuality , emanated from the very societies we are concerned about, it is naive to think that they would be keen to take effective actions, simply due to sophisticated training, and severity of laws .
    Finger pointing, ostrich-like ,head in the sand approaches , due to fear on tackling culturally sensitive taboo subjects , is a problem for our society.
    Change the culture , by addressing the issue publicly as a first step. Secondly, make efforts to help both victims and perpetrators , as this would be a sign of interest and concern.
    Long live our Republic!

  • Historically our society turned a blind eye to Violence against Women and, by extension children.

    Unacceptable comments support beating a woman

    *Ah go beat she if she say one word to me ’bout coming home in de morning from fete

    *She better wash de clothes, cook de food, and dingolay regardless whatg she feel. If not, a go show she who is boss”a threat to hit/beat the person”
    *She cyah go no way if she doh have meh permission. Leh she try it. Huh, it will be licks in de place…

    Men simply do not recognize how their daily, ongoing threats terrorizes their partners. The fear of harm, verbal or physical takes a toll on women. Resulting in stress, depression, and the ultimate – death by their partner’s hand.

    It is time that our small nation provide appropriate support for those who are battered as well as the batterers.

    In addition to this education on prevention, anger management should be mandatory in schools, churches as well as jobs, under the auspices of Employee Assistance Programs.

    The high rate of partner violence in T & T makes it a Public Health issue.

  • I wanted to wait for a while, before commenting, just to see what the usual guys have to say on the subject. Now, I have written extensively in the Express these last twenty six years, on domestic violence and have commented on it in both other major dailies.

    Our culture supports wife beating, that is why the men did not intervene, but ran for their lives, as least the security guard did. Had this been the much maligned USA, at least one guy would have whacked him over the head with a chair, the coffee machine, anything. Our culture has created a tolerance for violence against women that borders on the criminal.
    Now, before I married nearly fifty years ago, before we even became engaged, I laid the rules down to the man who said he loved me enough to want to share a life together.
    We will disagree about things, at times I’m sure( sort of summarising here) but, if we get anry, walk away. Do not EVER touch me in anger, because I would kill you”. He sort of chuckled, then realized that I was serious.He offered that that was the sort of thing that could make a man change his mind.”that’s why I am telling you now, before you buy a ring”.
    We stayed married for twenty years and parted amicably. I was always headstrong. Always had a job, always willing to support myself. We had two children, so if I had to leave, I could put a bundle on my back and hold one by each hand. It never came to that.

    Later, when I resumed dating, I told my close friend the same thing, seriously, without a smile. He knew I meant it.

    Women who are willing to tolerate violence towards their persons have low self esteem, and we need to give them a course in thinking that will answer the question” Why do I think I am nothing without a man?” If they can know themselves that much, they will tolerate psychological abuse, perhaps, but will retaliate with such violence if that coward puts his hand on her, that he will be scared for the rest of his life.Brothers have to be prepared to put some licks on any man who roughs up their sister. My brothers were younger than I was, but I had a cousin down Williamsville way who had twelve sons my age, slightly older, and younger. In other words, there were reinforcements if needed.One of my cousins had a husband who was a hitter. Once he came home late, half drunk and having gambled away his entire two weeks paycheck. They argued. He slapped her. She opened the fridge and busted open his head with one of those big Cydrax bottles we used to keep water in. He was the one who ran out howling, because his blood was in his eyes. He stumbled and fell on the stairs, she left him there to be rescued by the neighbors. End of licks.Any household in which physical violence plays a part, whether directed to spouse or children, is A Sick Household. Now I am known for making strong statements that get other people’s dander up, but let me repeat, any household where physical violence plays a part is a sick household. Our dual dubious inheritance of slavery and indenture brutalized our ancestors, and we have done nothing to remediate that brutality. Our three major religions preach/expect subservience of the woman. That is economic based rather than faith based. This is why you see few clergy wanting to start a march against domestic violence. Some of them probably beat their wives too. It is alleged that Canon Ramkissoon did. I don’t know. I was not his spouse.

    Clerics of the Christian traditions love to spout “Spare not the rod and spoil the child”(which I understand ha dnothi gto do with beating) but can ANTYONE find in the Bible, in the suras of the Holy Koran ,or in the Vedas, justifiction for the culture of violence we have spawned that crosses all ethnic, religious and economic lines?

  • Another woman falls victim to domestic violence. Are we on par with Sudan yet? Or with Bangladesh in their breakaway from West Pakistan. Violence is spreading through our land, from north to south east to west, women are dropping at the hands of men. Yet this topic, five days old has generated few comments, compared to those of the political silly season. We like it so?

  • Thats because Trini center is a drop in the ocean , and cannot fully be expected to address the needs of our nation. Ready to help form the International Organization for the Eradication of Abuse and protection of women and Kids? IOEAPWK
    Forgot , you are busy serving already on the forum for equal justice. Just kidding.

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