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Opinions of Thursday, 14 February 2008

Columnist: Gyan, Eric

The Pictogram of red

Once again, Valentine is here with us. With clever little tunes to any FM or TV station, one could hear the lyrics of love songs and fraternal greetings. Besides, various shop centers are decorated in excessive florid style to announce the season. It is a season that lovers, especially the youth, have always loved to see and wish for. Perhaps it is the only time that one sees human traffic in gifts and cards shops as well as boutiques and provision shops all in a bid to get something for their cherish love ones. Failure for one to demonstrate his or her love at this golden season of love can be disastrous and the aftermath can be numerous as the sand of the shore.

But the aged often times have asked when this whole hullabaloo of Valentine started and why it has become so well-liked of late. They have only known Christmas and Easter and certainly not Valentine of which they are complete novice. Well asked! Because most of the youth who are carried away on the esthetic wings of love during this season even lack the genesis of how this whole Valentine came to be.

Many stories have been told as to how Valentine started. But two of such stories that touch the cord of passion for Valentine Day’s celebration are as follows;

History has it that Valentine was a priest who resided near the suburb of Rome around 270 A.D. His passion for Christ and his gospel was so strong that he was imprisoned for not paying allegiance to the Roman gods and also helping prisoners who had flouted the same promulgation by the Emperor to escape. Valentine worsened his case by preaching to the guards. He also restored the sight of a blind girl who was adopted by one of the guards and this also led to the conversion and baptism of 46 family members of the guard. When the news of their conversion got to the Emperor, he became outraged and ordered that Valentine beheaded. Valentine was then beheaded on the 14th February and on this day; year after year, he was remembered for risking his life to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ and to free the prisoners.

Another version also has it that St. Valentine was a priest who lived around the third century during the reign of Emperor Claudius II in Rome. It is expounded that Claudius II wanted to form a big army and he taught that singles rather than the married would make better army than the married and those who had families; hence he outlawed the married among the young men. St. Valentine considered this as outrageous and therefore performed marriage ceremonies for the youth secretly. One day, he was caught and imprisoned. Before his excursion which was on the 14 February, many young people visited him in prison, some throwing flowers and notes at his windows to depict that they also believed in love. Among such young people was the daughter of one of the guards who used to visit Valentine frequently to encourage him. So on 14 February 269 A.D. Valentine wrote a note before his death to thank this young lady and he signed it; "Love from your Valentine." Since then, lovers’ especially young people have always remembered this day as a day of love and friendship.

Although the authenticity of these stories cannot be guaranteed, one thing stands out vividly. That is LOVE. Love which is defined by the tenth edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, among other definitions as “an intense feeling of affection” is a principal thing everyone must strive for. God is love. And we must also love. Where there is no love, there is no joy, peace, freedom, justice, togetherness and development.

Even as we demonstrate our love to our loved ones in this season, let us remember those who need our love just as St. Valentine loved the guards and the prisoners. There are many people who need to be loved. Such people include; prisoners, the sick and those who are living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs). Many of the times, PLWHAs are stigmatized and discriminated upon. They have been left alone to suffer for their fate. No one seems to talk to them and care about what they would eat or drink. They are often times treated with ignominy and they have gradually subsided to throw in the towel. Now is the time for us to show our love. Our visit, our encouragement, our text messages, our support, our gifts and our proper attitudes towards them are all that they need from us as our love. If we only love those who love us, then perhaps our love is not complete.

Whilst many people fail to demonstrate their love to PLWHAs in this season, they rather indulge in practices that put their lives at risk. Many young people have been deceived to think that sex is love. As a result, many young women have given their virginity as a Val’s gift, while others have indulged in unprotected sex all in the name of love. It is for this reason that the symbol red is used. Love is good but if it is not put in the proper context, it destroys.

No wonder, the symbol red has being adopted internationally for HIV/AIDS in the form of the ‘red ribbon’ to meaning the following;

• Red like love, as a symbol of passion and tolerance towards those affected.

• Red like blood, representing the pain caused by the many people that died of AIDS.

• Red like the anger about the helplessness by which we are facing a disease for which there is still no chance for a cure.

• Red as a sign of warning not to carelessly ignore one of the biggest problems of our time.

Love is sweet, love is good, love is peace and love is a principal thing. In fact, all that we need to make our world an enjoyable place to live is to love one another. However, we must love with care even as we celebrate Val’s Day.

Gyan Eric University of Cape Coast, Ghana

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.