I’m thinking of Canadians today as they respond and reflect on the attack on their Parliament building yesterday with the wounding and deaths that occured and an attack through a hit and run incident in Quebec earlier in the week. These were acts of terror, designed to terrorize. The people who did it do not have many arms or soldiers. They really have one weapon in their arsenal–fear.
In the US when we have faced something similar, we reacted in fear and revenge. The communal panic that gripped the USA collectively shut down our reasoning abilities so that we believed that terrorists, envious of our freedoms, wanted to destroy us. We also believed that somehow Iraq was behind it all and we wondered aloud, “How on earth could they do this to us, to US?? We’re the nice people in the world, right?”
We relinquished freedoms, granted the president more powers, swallowed a bunch of lies, saw attacks on Muslims and any brown-skinned foreigner, foreign-born citizen, and US-born “others” increase in the USA.
Today in the USA it is easier to come out gay than to come out Muslim. We have done nothing to deescalate the violence. We have not promoted or pursue peace, but with our relentless, extended show of force and our unwillingness to address our role in promoting hostilities in the Middle East, we are no more safe and no more free today than we were pre-911. In fact, I believe we are less free, with all sorts of fears and restrictions hampering us. We may have also inspired a whole new generation of people who have every reason to fear and hate us.
I appreciate the many times I have been able to visit various parts of Canada–Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia, and perhaps my favorite province, Saskatchewan. Over and over I have encountered people who are thoughtful, informed, and passionate about justice. I heard people admitting past atrocities and attempting to confront and make amends for the crimes against First Nation people. I saw the many ways that universities try to make Muslim students welcome and respect their faith and practices. I have experienced Canada not as the perfect place of liberty, inclusion, and equality, but a place that sincerely wants to become a society of respect, equity, and fairness.
My hope is that over the next few days and month Canadians will respond thoughtfully, wisely, and carefully to the attack that has shocked and surprised them. My hope is that they will keep calm and rational and keep their ideals in the forefront of their decisions.