From Cold, Dead Hands

Some will say that it is cold and cynical to talk about a political topic like gun control in the aftermath of a horrible event as that which transpired in Colorado recently. The raw shock and disgust that any feeling person must feel after hearing that a lone gunman killed 12 and wounded scores of others in a movie theatre is the perfectly human response. To look beyond the surface and try and understand how something like this could happen is perfectly human as well, and I don’t think doing so is any kind of disservice or insult to the memory of those so recently lost their lives to such senselessness .

That said, I didn’t originally have any notion to write about this tragedy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been watching the news and reading the stories as much as anyone, but being the cynical and misanthropic  bastard  I am, I had a pretty good sense for where this was all going; the perpetrator of the crime would somehow associate himself and his motives with the character and the themes of the movie in question, would turn out to be someone nobody would have ever suspected was capable of such brutality, the public would cry out for reasoned debate about the virtue of allowing average citizens to procure assault weapons, and gun enthusiasts would declare their inalienable right and support to bare those arms. I haven’t been disappointed.

But, once more into the breach, and all that. Not that I expect my opinion to change anything, or expect this tragedy to result in any real and meaningful action in the matter of gun control. See, lots of people have opinions, including those who will disagree with me. An opinion doesn’t change anything in itself. And a tragedy doesn’t change anything either. But, it can motivate dialogue, and dialogue can generate consensus and compromise. So, I guess I can hope for a little of that.
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The Dilemma of Omar Khadr

The debate over whether Canada should ask for the return of Omar Khadr, who some have characterized as a victimized child soldier and others have declared a ruthless terrorist, is at once a visceral conundrum as well as a crisis of philosophy. I have firmly maintained since the beginning of the “War on Terror” that the greatest risk to our culture in the West is that our emotion overwhelms our reason to such an extent that our own ideology changes and we cease being who we were; the terrorists win by making us become different from how we were, and score a massive victory if they make us become more like themselves. Some have decried the consideration of Omar Khadr for repatriation as an injustice, and would rather see him buried in some dark hole, left in Guantanamo, returned to Afghanistan or put to death. Such strong opinions are fueled by the fear that Khadr is still a radical bent on killing westerners. Fear is a strong motivator, as the terrorists are well aware.

But, our culture believes in rehabilitation and restorative justice, not punitive justice. And, for all its perceived faults, our justice system has recorded declining violent crime and homicide rates for over four decades, so we must be doing something right. If we truly believe that a crime should be fairly punished and the criminal rehabilitated to return as a productive member of society, why would we not believe that Omar Khadr can be rehabilitated as well? Does our fear for our own safety, a fear amplified by media and government portrayal of the great scourge of radicalized terrorism, justify an abandonment of our basic values? Or did we abandon those long ago, when the smoke cleared on 9/11?
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