Remembering Canada

We are all Canadians.

At a time like this, following events such as those that we were all rapt witnesses to yesterday, it’s at once easy to make that proud announcement and difficult to remember what that really means. That’s understandable. Living through something as horrific, shocking and terrifying as yesterday’s shooting downtown causes us all to fall back on our emotions, our wounded pride, and our desperate need to make sense of the senseless.

Corporal Nathan Cirillo is what everyone would want Canada to look like. Young, good looking, fiercely proud of his country, selfless, kind to his neighbors and friends, an animal lover, father and fitness enthusiast, Cpl Nathan Cirillo seems the perfect image of what we are as Canadians. He was proud to stand honour guard at the National War Monument, as is obvious from the many heartbreaking pictures flooding Twitter and Facebook of Cirillo before yesterday’s tragedy.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau is nothing like what we want to think of as Canadian. A troubled man with a criminal past and substance abuse issues that turned to hate and embraced an ideology that glorifies violence and fear, he was not at all what we think of proudly as one of our own. It’s impossible to understand the utterly alien thoughts that must have been going through his head when he got out of his car, strode up to Cpl Cirillo, and brutally gunned the young man down. How do you even begin to understand something that can only be understood as evil?

We are all Canadian.

I once took a course in Canadian literature, and throughout the year we kept returning to the theme of challenging the notions we have of our national identity and our identity as Canadians. Now, especially, people instinctively feel what it means to be Canadian, and what Canada represents. We see it in the things we are learning about Cpl Cirillo, in the bravery and selflessness of the civilians and first responders who raced to try and save his life, and the courage of those who ended Zehaf-Bibeau before he could inflict a deeper wound on our nation. Leave the academic debate about history and so on for another day; we each felt what we are as Canadians, yesterday.

We are the things that the gunman was not, yesterday. We are a proud people, caring and compassionate, reasoned and humble. We believe in fairness and justice. We believe in equality and acceptance. We believe in freedom. That is Canada. That is not what we saw in Zehaf-Bibeau’s brutal actions.

We are all Canadians.

Nobody should feel sympathy for the gunman. He doesn’t deserve that, for the pain he has caused. But, we should feel compassion. Not for Zehaf-Bibeau, but for the unknown others who could become like him, if not for that compassion. It’s hard, so unutterably hard, to find that emotion within the tumult of many others that yesterday stirred up. We want to be angry, we want to blame, we want to lash out and cause hurt to those we feel caused our own. Compassion isn’t natural to find within the mess of emotions an injury and insult like yesterday stirs up. We want to dehumanize the one that caused our pain, want to cast him as so irretrievably other that we can make better sense out of ourselves and how something so terrible could happen to us. We want to call him “radical” and “terrorist,” because those are labels that shine a spotlight on the darkness that the monster hides in. Compassion can’t be found in there, anywhere. It can’t live in this hurt and confusion.

But, it has to, and we need to be able to find it in the darkness. We are all Canadians, and that’s what that means.

We need to find compassion for those wandering lost and confused in our complicated, crazy and frightening world, and find ways of healing them. They are the ones looking for somewhere to belong, to make sense, and for something to take away their fears. Hatred is such an incredible heat, it can burn through fear. That’s why some of us are reaching for it right now. But, all that hatred, bombs, labels and distrust can do is breed more of the same. That’s what the monsters want. They want us to forget the things that make us Canadian. They want us to become more like them, to make us hate and be hateful. If they can do that, they’ve won, no matter how many of them we kill. It’s obvious, isn’t it, that if we say killing a hundred, or a thousand Canadians won’t take away Canada, killing thousands of those we blame won’t take away what they represent either. Take away from one Canadian, or ten, what it is to be Canadian, and you’ve inflicted a much more serious wound.

I’m not a praying man, so I’ll instead issue my deepest, most heartfelt hopes, that we can remember we are all Canadian. We are not the monsters. What it is to be Canadian, what makes me proud to be Canadian, is all of the things that makes us not like the monsters. Don’t let them change who we are, to become more like them. Don’t let them make us hate, and treat others heartlessly, and break apart our society into suspicious camps of Us and Them. It would be easy to do, because we’re wounded right now, and afraid, but we don’t walk away from something because it’s hard or because we have to work at it. We buckle down, we dig deep, we find the courage and resolve in ourselves, and we do what is right.

Because, we are all Canadian.

Robin Hoodwinked: The Kathleen Wynne Liberal Platform

This is the second installment in my take on the platforms of the major contenders for Ontario provincial leadership. You can see the first here.

I’ve already alluded to my natural, human inclination towards bias. In the interest of full disclosure, for those who aren’t already aware, I tend towards being a Liberal supporter. In some circles, that’s almost like saying I like to torture small fuzzy animals, or I eat babies for breakfast and carve up the elderly for dinner. Really, it’s not even fair to say I am a Liberal, since my personal take on things is to look at the issues, measure and weigh the ideas, then choose who I will back based on my best assessment of their relative strength compared to the others. It just happens that the better ideas and policies, certainly the ones that I think have the most value, tend to come from the Liberal Party.

Which brings us to Kathleen Wynne’s election platform, also known as “The May 1st Liberal Budget that was really failed attempt at pandering to the NDP.” Political survival instincts are strong, and with a foul wind blowing Kathleen Wynne crafted a budget that should have surely pleased the NDP enough to earn their support. But, that backfired and the failed budget proposal has now become the backbone of a re-election campaign instead. So, this should be an easy one, really: if the budget makes sense, and benefits Ontarians, then Wynne has a strong case. If it doesn’t, that foul wind just became a true stench.
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Single White Male, 2012 Edition

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while. Well, let’s be honest here, I’ve been thinking about this topic for the better part of this last decade, a fact which, in itself, I am less than proud to admit. However, as the years pass, I become more and more uncomfortably aware of my bachelorhood and my inability to break free of it. And, it seems, the longer I am a bachelor the more aware everyone else seems to be of that fact as well.

In an ever increasingly connected world, where people are meeting and communicating in ways that bring strangers together more readily than they could a decade ago, or two, it’s frustrating that I can’t seem to make that one vital connection. Looking back on the years, as we tend to this time of the year, I am surprised to find myself far from where I thought I would be when I looked to my future. And, while I’m not in the habit of taking much stock in defining the present from the past, or divining the future from what has come before it, it’s a puzzle to figure out how I got here, where I’m going, and what I need to do to be where I want to be. It’s a fitting preoccupation for a time of resolutions and review.
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