Certainly the shooting that happened on Parliament Hill on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 was a tragedy. Two men died. And one man was forced into the traumatic circumstance of having to kill another man.
It’s enough that these things happened.
But why the sudden burst of anthem singing? And why this sudden compulsion to identify an enemy? Are we a country so beaten down that we need to rise up, wiping away our tears as we vow to “stand on guard for thee”? What is going on here? Have we lost our collective minds?
What is so great about Canada?
There are some things, I suppose. It’s to our credit that so far, our rights to mobility and privacy have been so well upheld. It’s a great thing that our court rooms and parliaments are open forums. I suppose that if we are forced to define what’s meant by freedom, these things would factor in.
But in the wake of the shootings on Parliament hill, mobility and privacy are the very things that are under threat –not from any gunman, but from our own leaders, who seem to be leveraging this event into their hawkish ambitions to be the guardians of righteousness –protecting citizens from themselves for their own good. And how convenient this patriotic fervour can be in times when the government needs to drown out dialogue about an economic policy that promises to keep public services down, and to rape the natural environment in the name of protecting the wealth of the richest people in the world!
And let’s not forget ourselves. Patriotism can blind us to the fact that there are things in Canada that are not so great. Did no one see the tent city in Oppenheimer Park? Shall we simply ignore the fact that an RCMP member is on trial for perjury after causing the death of a man who came to Canada to visit his mother? Shall we simply gloss over the historic fact that for over a hundred years of our formation as a nation, our way of life destroyed the way of life of the original citizens of this “soil”? Does anybody care about the sad legacy of so many women who have disappeared on the Highway of Tears?
You may say that I’m reaching –that I’m negative. I’m not. You may say that I hate Canada. I don’t
And you may say that these terrible aspects of our nation are isolated incidents – things that no country, no matter how great, can avoid. And maybe they are.
But if that’s true, why then is the recent Parliament Hill incident NOT an isolated incident? Why, when Nathan Cirillo was shot, did we launch ourselves into vainglorious sentimentality over our downtrodden nation? Was it because he was wearing a soldier’s uniform?
And why, in light of all the other incidents in this country is he being called a hero? How can those of us who never knew him deem him to be anything? Certainly heroism can’t be ascribed to him for his job, standing as an honour guard for a statue, any more than it can be ascribed to a taxi driver. The simple fact of his murder doesn’t make him a hero. Why are we all of a sudden clamouring for a hero?
One has to ask if there would have been an attack at all if an honour guard had not been present to remind a man with radical beliefs of our newly militarized history, courtesy of Stephen Harper’s conservative government. It’s fair to wonder if the presence of a soldier in full regalia on public display was a trigger for the killer’s deluded mind.
Why do we need an honour guard at the war memorial? Is it not enough that the public can walk by the statue and pay their respect to those whose historic circumstance placed them in the midst of horrible tragedy: tragedy that didn’t stop when the guns were silenced? Do we need a spectacle to tell us how we should view this work of art, or how we should view the meaning of our dead?
Have we forgotten how terrible war is? Should it not be a thing we remember with a bit of sadness and sobriety? Is it not a disservice to engage in sudden bursts of sloppy sentimentality and vainglorious patriotism?
Those who died didn’t die for this. I know, because I have spoken to a few of those who fought and survived. For them, war was not glorious –not in the least. My grandfather feared fanaticism of any kind, including nationalism or religious zeal. He knew they were the foundations of thought on which Naziism was built. And here we have a prime minister who embraces both.