Reflections on a violent day in Ottawa (3)


By Jim Taylor – Sunday October 26, 2014

Wednesday morning, a man with a gun killed a soldier on ceremonial duty at the national cenotaph in Ottawa. Minutes later, the man ran into the parliament buildings. Where, in a flurry of gunshots, he died. A recording by a Globe and Mail reporter caught the gunfire. It was over in seconds. But the sounds echoed through parliament’s old stone hallways much longer.

Echoes do that.

A thunderclap actually lasts only as long as the lightning flash; the echoes rumble around the hills for minutes. Echoes reverberate even longer in memory. Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is, basically, an echo that refuses to fade away.

Listening to eight hours of news coverage from Ottawa, I felt that I was hearing more echoes than insight.
Apparently no one saw it coming. Not CSIS, the Canadian security Intelligence Service. Not the police. Not the government.

The government had planned to introduce new anti-terrorist legislation in parliament that same day.
CSIS told a parliamentary committee that it had some 130 “radicalized” young men under surveillance, including the driver who ran down two armed forces personnel on Monday in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. But it lacked funds to track every potential terrorist.

Echoes… after the act….

By some coincidence, the day before the Ottawa attack, I received an e-mail that seemed to anticipate events. It listed 16 violent acts, from the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in 1968, through both bombings of the World Trade Centre, to the bombing at the Boston Marathon last year. All committed by Muslim males.

I suspect that e-mail had circulated on the Internet for some time, because it didn’t include the ritual beheadings in Iraq.

The unidentified writer — like the assassins in the desert, such persons prefer to hide behind the balaclava of anonymity – thought his litany justified racial profiling. To solve the problem; go after young male Muslims.
Statistics can be so easily distorted to suit one’s own prejudices.

One could equally argue that 80 per cent of all U.S. murders, about 12,000 a year, are committed by Christians. That 100 per cent of institutional torture in the U.S. was done by federal employees. That most U.S. neonaticides – killing or abandoning babies during their first 24 hours after birth – come from mothers under the age of 25.

Would those statistics justify surveillance of all Christians? Monitoring all federal employees? Banning pregnancies in women under 25?

The writer of the anti-Muslim e-mail also chose not to mention 190 incidents of violence during the 1990s by right-wing militias like Timothy McVeigh’s. Or that lynch mobs such as the Ku Klux Klan were 100 per cent non-Muslim.

Because that wouldn’t suit his biases.

Essentially, the e-mail invited security services to treat young Muslim males the way many U.S. police forces have treated young black males. And we know how well that has worked to reduce tensions. Even President Obama has told of experiencing harassment simply because he was black and male.

I am very much afraid that anti-Muslim sentiments will flourish in the aftermath of last week’s attacks. Both men were described as recent converts to Islam, and therefore suspect. I think Crawford Killian described them more accurately, in The Tyee, as “nutcases, choosing Islam as a flag of convenience for their internal demons…alienated for whatever reason from their society, with no more political significance than the thugs who shoot each other for control of the B.C. drug trade.”

Indeed, these deaths appear to be just as targeted as gangland killings. The St-Jean-sur-Richelieu driver waited two hours for his victims to come out. The Ottawa gunman picked a reservist at a symbolic site, the War Memorial.

Perhaps there’s a reason soldiers were picked. As international journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote, “If you want to be a country that spends more than a decade proclaiming itself at war and bringing violence to others, then you should expect that violence will sometimes be directed at you as well.”

I’m afraid Stephen Harper will toughen his proposed anti-terrorist legislation to permit, even encourage, intelligence forces to set up databases and sting operations to trap “radicalized” Muslims. Police will start shooting Muslims on sight, as they have young blacks. CSIS agents will lurk in grocery stores to observe who buys Halal foods – an actual suggestion from a “radicalization” conference a few years ago.

And we, the citizens of Canada, will find ourselves giving up more and more of our rights and freedoms – of speech, of religion, of movement – as we chase the U.S. into the Homeland Security quagmire.

As Green party leader Elizabeth May wrote, while still locked-down in the parliament buildings, “We must ensure that this appalling act of violence is not used to justify a disproportionate response. … These kinds of events open the door to a loss of democracy. … Once we surrender rights it is very difficult to restore them.”
Copyright © 2014 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
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