I am Canadian. By that I do not mean that I carry a Canadian passport, or have a Canadian licence (although this is true). What I really mean is that, well…I am Canadian! Or, if this would serve better-I AM CANADIAN! I love my country enough to call it “mine” when talking about it. I am proud of it and what it has accomplished-and most of all, I am proud of what it has been able to resist being. Canada is not a country of guns-it is not reactionary, and does not try to gaze into the innermost thoughts of its citizens. Pierre Trudeau, likely the most loved and reviled Prime Minister this country has had, said that the government “has no place in the bedrooms of citizens”. I believe that this statement, in an odd sort of way, says a great deal about this nation-far beyond our national stance on moral issues. I disagree with many of the things that Trudeau did during his time in office, but I think he was entirely correct when he asserted the limitations of government. Canada is not a nation that seeks to track every movement of its citizens. It has maintained a high level of trust in its people (although the current government has departed from this in some ways, as is demonstrated by some recent reports on spying). This is something that we, as a nation, must treasure. That is why the tragedy that occurred yesterday in our Parliament is frightening to me. I am not worried about continued attacks. This world is a dangerous place, and there will always be cause to fear one thing or another. But, in line with that terribly over-quoted statement of Franklin D. Roosevelt, “there is nothing to fear but fear itself”.
When discussing this in my morning devotions with my volunteers, one of my elderly ladies took issue with my criticism toward overreaction. Her stance was that many of the tragedies that we have witnessed in the past have been as a result of not reacting soon enough. She commented on how there was such resistance to entering World War II, so Hitler was able to spread and consolidate his power. I will not get into the gross simplification of history that this represents, and simply address the idea that was presented within the comment. There is the idea among some that we need to react swiftly and surely in order to break any potential for future continuation of attacks. This, I believe, is misguided. We are never going to end attacks. The phrase “I learned everything I need to known in Kindergarten” seems particularly pertinent here-hitting back simply escalates the situation, and causes more anger. I am not arguing for a complete lack of response. Of course, we need to confront bullies in order to make them back down. But here is where the school yard metaphor breaks down-these people are not bullies, they are severely deranged and passionate individuals who are far beyond measures of deterrent. Consequently, the most effective way to avoid additional situations is to encourage a society and culture that does not breed these types of people. What type of society is that? A free one. A society that does not cause people to lash out from frustration at being suppressed.
There will always be zealots-this is something we must live with. But, to change our society-to submit to paranoia and fear, and to become a security state is to let them win. This is more than simply a rallying speech that should be given while continuing to lash back with security. This is something that should infuse our decision-making process. Some might say (possibly accurately so), that this lack of security is a luxury that Canada has held in the past-a luxury that may be quickly disappearing. This is the defense of the American security state’ they had no choice. I think there may be some truth in this-but only insofar as America has allowed itself to get to the point where security has become an almost essential necessity. The nation has become reliant on it. It is the age-old debate about gun control-take away gun rights, and you have criminals with guns and innocents without. That may be true in America, but in Canada we are not there, and I think we can avoid getting there if we do not allow ourselves to slide in that direction. This means, sometimes, not responding or changing anything at all after an attack. This is probably the hardest-and the most brave thing that can be done. To refuse to change is a demonstration of strength more than to change everything out of fear of a reoccurrence. In fact, it would not be difficult to argue that a reactionary response is a demonstration of fear.
In conclusion-I will only say that I hope and pray our leaders have the wisdom to resist reactionary action, and will continue to reach into our own history and understand what the spirit of Canada truly is. Let us continue to be us. My thoughts and prayers are with those of you who are in Ottawa and dealing with this tragedy first-hand. God bless us all.