Without positive, life-affirming values to coherently serve, our decaying “civilization” requires both spectacle and tragedy to perpetuate itself. While the nihilism of money-value rules, people are kept both entertained and terrified– neither are states conducive to thinking, understanding, or solving problems. In the past two days there have been two attacks on uniformed Canadian soldiers, the first in St. Jean-sur-Richilieu, Quebec and yesterday’s more spectacular attack on the National War Memorial and then Parliament itself. In response, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a televised speech to the nation last night. I use the complete transcript as the basis for an imagined dialogue between him and myself.
My fellow Canadians, for the second time this week there has been a brutal and violent attack on our soil. Today our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo of the Argyll and Sunderland Highlanders.
There are violent and brutal attacks on individuals every day in this country that pass without any comment from you. Why? Is there a fundamental moral difference between everyday brutality and politicized brutality? If so, please explain what that difference is. If you are concerned with violence and brutality as such then you should hold a news conference every time there is a murder. Perhaps more to the point, if your concern is with violence and brutality, then you should, as Prime Minister, ensure that measures are taken, every time there is a violent and brutal attack, to understand why it happened, to grasp its specific and general causes, and then work out policies that address those causes so that violence and brutality end. Yet, consistently throughout your mandate, you have refused to address causes; in fact, you have denied that violence and brutality have structural causes. So beyond decrying violence and brutality and, worse, using it for political advantage, what are you doing to solve them as social problems?
Cpl. Cirillo was killed today, murdered in cold blood, as he provided a ceremonial honour guard at Canada’s National War Memorial, that sacred place that pays tribute to those who gave their lives so that we can live in a free, democratic and safe society. Likewise our thoughts and prayers remain also with the family and friends of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent who was killed earlier this week by an ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and Levant] inspired terrorist.
What do you mean when you say “ISIL-inspired terrorist?” What evidence do you have to support this claim? Is there a manifesto somewhere? A note? More deeply, what sort of causal claim do you take yourself to be making? Was the inspiration direct, i.e., explicitly encouraged by someone known to be in ISIL? Or was this an act of someone who was going to act out violently for other (psycho-social) reasons and simply latched on to allegiance to ISIL as a convenient self-explanation? And then, does ramming a car into two soldiers really constitute “terrorism?” It constitutes murder, yes, but why is it “terrorism?” The word has become meaningless from overuse, so please explain what you mean by it.
Tonight we also pray for the speedy recovery of the others injured in these despicable attacks.
Fellow Canadians, we have also been reminded today of the compassionate and courageous nature of so many Canadians like those private citizens and first responders who came to provide aid to Corporal Cirillo as he fought for his life and, of course, the members of our security forces in the RCMP, the City of Ottawa Police and in Parliament who came quickly and at great risk to themselves to assist those of us who were close to the attack.
Fine, give thanks, and it is true that “first responders” can sometimes be compassionate and courageous. They can also be violent and racist, like the first responders in Saskatoon, whose preferred method of compassion for drunk First Nation’s men was to drop them at the edge of town, in minus thirty degree weather. My point is not to undermine the good work of some by the bad work of others, but rather to suggest that there is no innate goodness that drives people to become police, but rather that the nature of first responders is too often determined, in this country, by the colour of the person’s skin whom they have been called to deal with. Is the history of the RCMP a history of compassion towards people of the First Nations? Is every Ottawa police officer compassionate to the homeless, or to the impoverished street criminal? How often do they exercise the courage needed to not respond with violent force to the provocations of the enraged poor?
Fellow Canadians, in the days to come we will learn more about the terrorist and any accomplices he many have had. But this week’s events are a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere around the world.
First, you have still not explained what you mean by “terrorist” or why this is being called a “terrorist attack” Was the explicit goal to achieve political aims by causing mass panic (one plausible definition of terrorism) or to kill Canadian soldiers in a more targeted way (which one might call political violence, but not terrorism). Beyond the question of definitions, and without intending any disrespect to the two soldiers killed, I must point out that quantity matters in politics. You cannot compare the deaths of two people in fairly random and not terribly sophisticated attacks using an automobile and a legal hunting weapon with the deaths of thousands on 9/11 or hundreds in the bombing of Madrid’s train station. Moreover, an unsympathetic listener might think that you are happy, in a sense, to now be able to include Canada under the umbrella of victim countries, the better to further your reactionary and authoritarian agenda. Even if you disagree with me, there is still the even bigger point: the real comparison we need to make is between singular deaths at home and millions of deaths in the 20th and 2ist century in imperialist wars in which Canada has either been directly engaged or supported. I am not asserting, necessarily, that there is a precise causal relationship between imperialism and these two attacks, or, that even if there were, they would be legitimate. Progress comes by breaking out of revenge cycles, not giving in to them. But, to exploit these killings to create even more of a police state by calculated cultivation of fear that the attacks do not warrant is morally abominable- it treats these two dead citizens as tools to gain partisan advantage.
We are also reminded that attacks on our security personnel and on our institutions of governance are by their very nature attacks on our country, on our values, on our society, on us Canadians as a free and democratic people who embrace human dignity for all.
Some Canadians do in fact embrace the dignity of all, and our constitution asserts it, but our country’s history has actively denied it, for people here and abroad (and those from abroad who seek refuge here and are denied. The most stunning denial of human dignity, of course, is our colonial domination of the people of the First Nations. Have you forgotten Attawapiskat already?
But let there be no misunderstanding: we will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated. In fact, this will lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts, and those of our national security agencies, to take all necessary steps to identify and counter threats and keep Canada safe here at home. Just as it will lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts to work with our allies around the world and fight against the terrorist organizations who brutalize those in other countries with the hope of bringing their savagery to our shores.
Why would anyone be any more intimidated by two isolated acts of violence than they are intimidated by any other random street crime? The brutality of terrorists is of course real, but we need, again, to understand social and historical context. ISIS(L) did not come from nowhere, they arose in the power vaccuum of post-Saddam Iraq and the Syrian civil war. Again, the great unmentionable goes unmentioned- the unparalleled brutality of US wars of aggression throughout the Cold War and into the twenty-first century. Savagery is causing a tenfold spike in the cancer rates in Iraq by the use of depleted-uranium munitions.
They will have no safe haven.
Who will have no safe haven and how far do you intend to go to deny it (once you have explained who, exactly, you are talking about)? How many civilians will you be willing to kill in order to make good your challenge? Leadership is not macho tough talk. It requires the cultivation of understanding, not adolescent male posturing.
Well, today has been, without question, a difficult day. I have every confidence that Canadians will pull together with the kind of firm solidarity that has seen our country through many challenges. Together, we will remain vigilante against those at home or abroad who wish to harm us.
Let us hope that rather than herd solidarity people start to think about the reality of the global posture you have used your control over foreign policy to assume. If you maraud around the world talking tough and killing others alongside the leaders of global violence, you put your own citizens at risk of revenge attacks.
For now, Laureen, Ben and Rachel and I join all Canadians in praying for those touched by today’s attack. May God bless them and keep our land glorious and free.
May God bless them after their loved one’s have been killed? Did you really think about that concluding statement?