To the gunman who bloodied Parliament Hill yesterday: thank you for making a statement.
Actually, you made several statements. But are they the ones you meant to make?
Whenever someone famously and violently takes a life, I wonder what brought the perpetrator to think that killing another human is the best option.
What did you intend to accomplish? Since you’re dead – and you surely knew that was a likely outcome – we can’t ask you.
Currently, we know you were born Canadian. You had a criminal record. You had long black hair and wore a scarf with a distinctive pattern. You were disconnected from your parents.
Maybe you idolized ISIL and wanted to commit “heroic” terror.
Maybe the violence that killed Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent inspired you.
Maybe you suffered from mental illness and needed to destroy something.
Maybe you wanted to see how much panic you could kindle.
Maybe you think guns are awesome, and wanted to shoot stuff like a tough guy.
Unfortunately for you, the intended meaning of your statement is unclear.
However, your ill-conceived, muddled message did do something for Canada.
You didn’t succeed in panicking the country. You didn’t unite us in hatred. You didn’t reveal us to be passive.
You made the nation think, instigating a productive, earnest discussion. Today, more than on any Remembrance Day or Election Day in memory, Canadians are soberly pondering what Canada is, and what we want it to be.
Yes, there are citizens using you to justify their personal Islamophobia – for which moderate, peaceful Muslim-Canadians certainly aren’t thanking you.
But mostly, I see thoughtful questions, careful consideration, and a calm pride born of remembering what makes our home special.
You’ve reminded us how extraordinary and beautiful it is that our government buildings have been simply open to the public all this time. We’re noticing the deep symbolism of soldiers guarding our national war memorial, unarmed. Because Canadians know that more guns do not equal more freedom, we affirm that our openness is not naïveté – we have chosen it; we cherish it.
You’ve demonstrated that cowardly violence does not necessarily result in a hysterical, aggrandized media frenzy; our CBC did us proud with calm, pragmatic reporting throughout the lockdown – no fear-mongering or jumping to conclusions. Twitter and Facebook followers philosophically discussed CBC’s questions “Is Canada changing? Has it already changed?”
We’re talking about justice, and whether our justice system is there for its people – when dramatic quasi-political deeds turn tragic; when acts of hatred go unchecked; when Aboriginal women go missing; when abuses of power go unabated; when environmental destruction goes unpunished. Our system is flawed, but we know justice is a process. We’re unwilling to abandon rational thinking for alarmism.
I admit I’m really sad about what you did. It hit our family close to home. My husband and several longtime friends were formerly Argyll reservists. In a slightly shifted reality, your victim could have been one of them. And obviously, the death of Corporal Nathan Cirillo represents the two worst parental nightmares: loss of a son, and loss of your child’s father. It is a heartbreaking tragedy.
I’m sad for you, too. Your life also ended yesterday, and while Cirillo’s death was clearly not in vain, I believe yours was. When you committed your life to hatred, you wasted it. You and Cirillo were young Canadians with the potential for remarkable lives in this country – and you ended them both far too early.
I’m also sad that you’ve further complicated an already-thorny question. As a pacifist, I’m distraught by ISIL’s atrocities, struggling with my belief that war is not the answer. I don’t want Canadian soldiers “taking a combat role” (read “killing people”) when the killing is so gargantuan already. Your twisted message has strangely strengthened both sides of this national argument.
Thank goodness Canadians have kept their wits.
Right now, they are sending caring, hopeful messages to each other, tweeting their most beautiful perspectives of Ottawa; Canada’s leaders of all political stripes are embracing each other; citizens are engaging in free expression.
And love. In Canada and abroad, people are nullifying your vitriol, defiantly scattering LOVE to the four winds, knowing it’s the more powerful force.
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