I am struck this morning by two New York Times headlines in the daily news feed which I read every day. Scrolling down, I read “2 Die, Including Gunman in Shootout in Washington State High School” and “Two California Officers are Killed in Rampage“. Five needless deaths. Much higher up in the list of news items is speculation about the motivation of the Canadian terrorist who invaded our House of Parliament this week. One needless death, three injured – and one probably necessary death there. But what makes it different is to label it as TERRORISM.
I’ve lived in the US and love the country – but we Canadians really are somewhat different. My day of the Canadian shooting started as usual. I had the radio on and was driving in the car when it happened this past Wednesday. It was too early for breaking news. I went to a morning meeting, went out to lunch with a friend, and had a short meeting with a team I am involved with. I drove back home without the radio on, and then decided to hop on the subway to the Apple Store in one of Toronto’s biggest shopping malls to see if they had Iphone6 in stock. I’d acquired a hearing enhancement device and the controller can be an Iphone – how cool is that! The Apple Store already had a long line-up for the limited number of the phones arriving daily – but the helpful guy at the door suggested the store on the ground floor might have one if I went with a payment plan. Since I was going that route, and they had one phone left, I was all set.
The process took about an hour while they tried to up-sell me on several things I didn’t want or need. I finally left to catch the subway just before evening rush hour. I came home, checked a few emails and answered some, did a little bit of monkeying with my phone to set up voicemail and checked out a couple of the new features. By then it was nearly 6:00 pm, so I poured a glass of wine and sat down to watch BBC America on PBS. This was when I learned of the events in my capital city.
I have to confess that I switched immediately to a Canadian network and got caught up. The story is tragic. It is still not clear whether the perpetrator was a terrorist sent by others or someone whose mind was deeply muddled by a mixture of dreadful ideology, isolation and misdirected anger. Like all countries we have such individuals but so far we are not all perpetually frightened. It’s comforting to have political leaders who hug each other the next day before getting back to partisan positions – but they get back to work. The headlines of the daily paper and the articles show degrees of media obsession as always we but tolerate it and get one with our lives.The news was out but no one felt they need to comment – I doubt that all the people I met were as unconnected with the news as I was. We accept both that the world has changed – and that it hasn’t. One of my sons and I were locked in Tower of London for a few hours in the ’70s days of Irish terrorism- but everyone remained calm. We once lived across from a high school when a crazed teen came and killed another student. We’ve lived through the FLQ crisis. We’ve lived through Sars. People got killed – people got sick – people died – but not everybody did.
We live in a beautful and free world that can turn perilous. Millions don’t and live in real peril all the time. The challenge for us is to live in both worlds without giving way to perpetual fear and hysteria.