The day we lost our innocence

Parliament in 1945, Victory Day Parade (Wikimedia Commons)

There are moments in every nation’s history that are immense in events. Often these are wars, battles won or lost. Or glorious celebrations of momentous achievements. Then there are moments of silence, somber and sadness at a grave side of national heroes, beloved leaders, maybe great artists. Those, who epitomized what we call a ‘nation’s character or soul’. And then, there are shocking moments, moments that are neither great nor tragic on a national scale. When nothing great or heroic is being achieved, when no one of a national fame or stature is being mourned. Senseless in a way. Or so we thought. For who would want to commit such a devastating act?
We would mourn, too, if it was a case of some insane poor soul, or someone with an individual vengeance for some perceived injustice suffered. But we would not be shaken to the core, we would still feel safe at home, we would not question our values. We would not feel injured and wounded ourselves, as a nation and as individual citizens.
But what happened yesterday in Ottawa, only a day after similar albeit less symbolic murder of innocent soldier in Quebec wounded us all. Canada was injured. Our soul was devastated.
That wasn’t just a random act of convenient aim. It was carefully prepared and thought through act of violence. It didn’t strike at material things, didn’t even look at causing mass casualties. It aimed at the very heart of Canada. At our soul. The Parliament, which represents power and our political system, the lonely guard at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier. These symbols were chosen deliberately and for a reason. And as response to our actions. There were done by Canadians. Yes, Muslims. Yes, supporters of terrorist group. But Canadians. People who felt so alienated in their country, so powerless and marginalized and that despite their knowledge that they will die themselves or spent most of their lives in prison – they choose to commit ultimate crime. Terrorist acts in itself is an act of self-sacrifice. It is not just an empty violence. It vengeance fueled by passion. It is desperation.
These are not thought aimed at futile search for answers, for some kind of understanding, explanation. There is none. Only a fanatic follower of this type of beliefs could understand it. But these are attempts on my part of seeing what led us to the point we are right now. In Canada. At home.
Would it be the same if we followed the old tradition of peacekeepers, of McKenzie King, Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien? Would it be the same if we did not created two types of citizens – the unconditional and the new conditional Canadians? I am not here, in this text passing a judgement which tradition or way is better. Maybe a majority of Canadians do prefer us being involved in wars as an active combatant, combatant very much of certain ideological shade, maybe majority of Canadians do think, as our government does, that it is OK to have two-tiered citizenship of Canadians and almost-Canadians. But if we truly do (I personally don’t) than we have to accept that it does come with certain risks. That if we are committing our soldiers to military conflict than that conflict might come to our shores. That if we are not showing a full respect and equality to all Canadians, then some of them will not show that respect to Canada. Things do not happen in void. Unfortunately and tragically both: good things and bad things.

I was shaken to the core today watching at what was happening on Parliament Hill. Listening to the barrage of gunfire right outside the chambers of our MP, our Prime Minister. I was shaken in horror watching Kevin Vickers, the Sergeant-at-Arms of House of Commons, reloading his gun after he emptied the first round aiming at the young terrorist. It was surreal. And horrifying to the core. I can’t even describe the utmost sadness I felt, when I listened to the news of the death of the young reservist, who was the Honorary Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

That was the most symbolic in a diabolical way. Yesterday, maybe even more than during the campaign in Afghanistan, where almost 160 soldiers have fallen, Canada lost its innocence. Tomorrow will not be just another day. Tomorrow will be truly different day.

About Bogumil P-G

publisher, essayist, poet lived (and born) in Poland, later England, Italy, presently in Canada
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