Echoes

It seemed like a sort of flashback; explosions, billowing clouds of smoke and debris, and a chaotic scramble as terrified civilians ran every which way in an effort to escape a threat that they couldn’t see, but seemed to be everywhere around them. The images captured from the bombing of the Boston Marathon show us bloodied innocents being tended by first responders or complete strangers, tears and destruction. Any one of those photos would fit with others from another day, one September, seemingly at once a long time ago and yesterday.

The bombings in Boston and our reactions in the aftermath show us just how much has changed since September 11th, 2001, and how little. And, without minimizing the tragedy of the 3 lives lost thus far, and the countless others scarred and changed forever by this attack, I can’t help but look to find the deeper meaning within these last few days, maybe just as many others are doing themselves.


Is the world really changed by events such as these? Are we any different, any better? Have we learned anything? Or are we destined to keep repeating our history, to endure these tragedies again and again?

How do you stop hate?

September 11th brought the average American the realisation that others in the world hated them, and felt that hatred so strongly that they would kill thousands of innocents in order to destabilize their way of living and the trust in one another. To me, that’s what terrorism is about; terrorism is about destroying faith, freedoms and trust. As delusional as a terrorist might be, I doubt that they envision their actions ever having the effect of truly eradicating every single soul from the country and culture they hate. Instead, they seek a torture greater than depriving someone of their life. Terrorists seek a living un-life, where each day is permanently altered and made less than the first because of what they have wrought.

And, this is why I have argued that the terrorists have already won.

In the name of security we have restricted freedom, bred and raised suspicion for one another, and fostered a vengeful culture where misdeed are repaid in kind. We’ve studiously ignored the reasons, focusing on the “who” and “how” instead of the “why”. We’ve planted the seeds of a new and sickly patriotism that strangles dissenters as it grows and overshadows any who might question our own part in world events. We’ve stifled questions themselves.

Don’t believe me? Look at the world around you now.

The Senate in the US has just voted down measures to better control the sale of firearms by requiring background checks for people attempting to purchase guns at gun shows and on the internet. The system operates on the premise that background checks will keep guns out of the hands of criminals and people with mental health issues. While not solving gun crime in its entirety, this control measure would be the single greatest step forward in curtailing gun crime in the US within the last 20 years. And, it has died on the vine because of a minority within the senate that appear more beholden to the gun lobby than they are to the majority of American citizens who want better measures put in place.

Of course, the notion that you need a gun in the US is premised upon the theory that the bad guys will have them, so you should too. “Bad guys” is a little bit of strategic trickery, here, as the gun lobby generally portrays the gun toting offender as a criminal or crazy bent on raping you or murdering you for sport. What isn’t talked about as much is the very real and very large component of the gun lobby that supports the 2nd ammendment right to bear arms because of a fear of “tyrannical government,” and the need to arm yourselves against those who are voted into office. It’s paranoia on a scale that is truly disturbing, when you really think about it.

People trust each other so little, and trust those entrusted with their well being even less, that they feel the need to own and carry the tools of violence in order to feel a little safer.

The news has carried reports these last few months of young women and men who have taken their lives after being subjected to incredible abuse and bullying. Rehtaeh Parsons, Amanda Todd and recently US teen Audrie Pott killed themselves after suffering incredible bullying from their peers. In Rehtaeh and Audrie’s cases, the bullying compounded the abuse they suffered as they had both been sexually assaulted to begin with, an indignity that is terrible enough on its own. But, these are only the most visible cases of bullying and abuse. I’ve written many times about the terrible way we treat each other, and how people find entertainment in the tearing down of another person. No matter how much we proclaim outrage and insist something will be done, nothing truly is, and we will hear yet more names of more young people who simply couldn’t take the pain any longer. Because of our inaction.

Because something sick within us enjoys bullying.

Justin Trudeau was announced as leader of the federal Liberals this weekend, and within a few short hours the Conservative party began its own bullying campaign, seeking to tear down Trudeau’s image on a personal level with televised attack ads. It’s a tactic that has served the Conservatives well, and that mirrors the tactics used in American politics. And, it has nothing to do with issues or agendas. It is simply bullying. And, if you don’t participate in bullying in your own defense, you invariably lose to the bully. Just ask Stephane Dion, who chose the high ground against Harper and lost an election because of it.

Our own leaders are bullies, so how else do you expect the people they lead to act?

But, it’s not just about bullying and guns. It’s about our willingness, or unwillingness, to look within ourselves and find fault when fault is present. Whether it’s a bully, a guy with a gun or a miscreant with a bomb in a pressure cooker in a duffle bag, there is something beneath their hatred that motivates them to violence. You can deny them their weapons or punish them for their crimes to serve as an example to others, but none of that will address what caused them to hate so intensely in the first place, or why they felt that violence was an appropriate way to express their anger.

Of course, that’s all Trudeau meant recently when he stated that as leader of the country, he would want to stop and consider this motivation, to uncover the “root causes.” The only way to truly combat violence is to discover the reason for violence in the first place and address those reasons. Countering violence with violence is antithetical.

So, he’s being bullied for that too.

Prime Minister Harper is slamming Trudeau, deriding him for trying to “rationalize” and “make excuses” for the perpetrators. And therein lies the fault of our culture right now. Since September 11th, and maybe even before that, we’ve had very little interest in the western world in using our reason and intellectual faculties to uncover the reasons for our behaviour towards one another, and to improve our deficiencies towards one another so that our collective conduct would improve and hatred, violence and intolerance would be less ready tools for our expression. We prefer emotional responses and acting on our feelings. That makes us feel better. Just ask anyone what they would do with the person who set the bombs in Boston. I’m sure they’ll tell you they’d tear him apart.

And, none of that will ever stop another bombing from happening.

So, we have an atrocity in Boston perpatrated by an unknown malcontent for unknown reasons. Eventually we’ll learn their identity and their purported motive, just as we did in New York in 2001, and in Atlanta before that, and Britain, and on and on. Terror wins when we change our way of life, and our way of living together, in a negative way. It wins when we curtail freedom, grow suspicious, and abuse one another. It starts with the simple silence of not asking why.

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