October 27, 2014 by rebelwithalabelmaker
A lot of us were not quite sure what to do. Wednesday morning, our news exploded with—what? Gun violence? Acts of Terror?
We are not used to this. We had no script. What do we say to one another in the elevator? How big a deal do we make? And above all, how do we make meaning of this? We do not control the events, but we do control the narrative. What is the Canadian response to these types of events?
Measured. Very measured.
Our national broadcaster covered the situation with calm and reassurance. The Islamic community responded immediately with messages of support, kindness, and clarification (which I wish were not necessary). News reports uncovered Muslim heritage and did not stop there as though it were a cause in and of itself. We talked about mental health, drug addictions, and homelessness. We asked how a man with this history was able to attain a gun under Canadian Law. A gun which, I might add, can only fire seven or eight shots before a 30 second pause is needed for reloading. (This pretty much negates any hypothesis that this man was working in concert with terror groups—if he were, they’d have given him a decent weapon and we’d be dealing with an entirely different event).
There were idiots, of course. Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a speech about terrorism, and was staunchly criticized for it as the facts came out. There were media outlets that were sensationalistic, too—and they were not rewarded for that behaviour. They were laughed at, criticized and occasionally even compared to Fox News.
I saw something a little more personal in this story. My stepson struggles with mental illness (one of many factors in this story), and for the entire time I have acted in the role of his mother (since he was ten years old), I have lived in a society that asks me to answer for what he does. So, in this story, I thought of the parents. Reading the mother’s press release broke my heart, so I wrote her an open letter on this blog. And then I sat back and waited for the retaliation. The “what about the victims?” and the “she must have done something” and all the uninformed vitriol that has faced parents of shooters and those who support those parents. I prepared to—for the first time in my blogging career—refuse to post relevant comments to my blog.
Not one negative comment. Not a single one. Out of the thousands of views (which is very abnormal for my tiny blog, by the way), I saw no trace of a negative reaction. Dozens of people have written me or commented on the blog with messages of support for this mother. Hundreds have shared the post, often including their own messages of support.
I need to tell you this because that is where the real meaning of the post is—not in what I wrote but in how people responded to it. I need to tell you this because this tiny corner of the story parallels what has so overwhelmingly happened on the larger stage. A refusal to accept terror mongering, mudslinging, and firing up of aggression.
A refusal to abdicate our responsibility to choose how we will respond. Seen as a whole, the underlying theme of our conversation is unmistakable. “You do not extinguish terror with war. These two things are not opposites. The opposites of terror are reassurance, compassion, and reason. When faced with terror we do not declare war. We declare calm.”
Maturity, order, and the occasional idiotic speech from Harper. It doesn’t get more Canadian that that.