Fear and Paranoia Amid Tragedy

This girl I went out for about five seconds, once said “Paranoia will destroy ya!”

She probably should have taken her own advice, but that phrase as stuck with me, and has become more relevent, especially in the post-9/11 we live in. It is even more so as I write this on Oct. 23rd, 2014.

On October 22nd, 2014, in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau fatally shot Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was posted at the National War Memorial as an honour guard. Michael Zehaf-Bibeau reportedly raised his arms in triumph before heading towards, and entering, the Parliament buildings. He was eventually killed by security within. This follows a vehicular attack on two soldiers in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, killing one of the soldier, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, and wounding of another by Martin Rouleau.

The loss of any soldier is heartbreaking. These are men and women trained to put their lives on the line on a regular basis, whether it be in a war zone, trying to keep the peace in a foreign land, or serving at home during disaster relief, or protecting the homeland. To have these two men killed as they were is sad beyond words.

These two attacks were by stupid, ignorant men who saw an extremist version of Islam as an answer to whatever problems they had with life. They used cowardly means to enact their plans, ruining the lives of many, including the two families who will never enjoy the life and love of their lost members.

As I watched the events unfold in Ottawa, and afterwards, I saw something surprising and almost as disturbing. Some called the event “Our 9/11”.  Others expressed fear and questioned our involvement in Iraq and Syria against ISIL, not knowing if these two men had any connection at all to ISIL. But what summed it up best for me was this post on Twitter: “Our innocence as a nation forever gone.”

All of those things reminded me of the days, weeks, and months after 9/11, when Americans were dealing with an unsure future. Unfortunately for them, they had a leader and group of individuals who thought they could use that event to further their own goals. They utilized fear and paranoia to get the nation on their side to attack Iraq, despite the falsehoods and lack of connection to the attacks on 9/11.

It wasn’t even an hour after Cpl. Cirillo was shot when people were jumping on the fear and paranoia band-wagon, talking about how our innocence was lost, in short, spreading their own fear to others.

Do people have the right to be afraid during such events? Absolutely! It would be odd if people had no feelings about the senseless death of anyone. But to let those feelings control you, allow you to spread more fear and paranoia can be just as harmful as the deed itself. We see it so often in America. Even watching the news coverage of the attacks in Ottawa from America’s point-of-view, you could see a vast difference. It’s as if the Bush era has infected the news media, and the effects haven’t worn off, if they ever will.

In contrast, the news media here in Canada hasn’t been affected thusly. A perfect example of this was the shooting in Ottawa. I watched the CBC News, with Peter Mansbridge. It wasn’t alarmist, it didn’t sow fear or paranoia, it just stated what they knew, and made sure that whatever they did report was either confirmed or unconfirmed. No false crap like you’d see on Fox News.

But Ol’ Dubya had one thing right. After all, even a stopped watch is right twice a day. He said that if we let ourselves become afraid, the terrorists win. Whether or not the two attacks on Canadian soldiers were directly connected to ISIL, or just the ideas of lone idiots, we can NOT let fear and paranoia rule us.

Up here in Canada, we have such a different mentality than America, and even compared to other first world nations. We are laid-back, friendly, easy-going, and yes polite. We are definitely not perfect, but how we think and act in our own country is vastly different from America. A perfect example is our Parliament Hill. There is a security presence, but it isn’t oppressive. People are allowed to walk the vast front grounds of Parliament Hill, protest there, have celebrations, even do yoga there! We have violence, including gun violence, but nothing near the levels in the States. Our military may not be huge and powerful, but our men are just as strong and proud as any. I remember numerous stories from other nation’s military heads talking about the quality of our men and women in service. We may be a peaceful, maple syrup-loving nation, but you do NOT want to screw with us.

Maybe it is this difference that often drives me to comment on the negative aspects of America. To me, a perfect example of what America truly is came at night of Oct. 22nd, when, before a Penguins/ Flyer hockey game, they sang ‘O Canada’ to honour the memory of the fallen solider, and to show their thoughts were with us. And it wasn’t just the singer singing the anthem, it was the arena too! To me, that is America. Whatever difference we may have, when you push aside the politics and capitalism, there are great people there, with big hearts, ready to stand on guard for us, just as we’d stand on guard for them.

Americans also showed us how to over-come tragedy. Sadly, it was the media and the political leaders that whipped the fear and paranoia. Having seen what can happen to our brothers south of the border, we have to remember to return to our life, without letting fear and paranoia seep into our daily lives.

There may be more hardship in the future. There may be more fool like these two men, wanting to do harm and disrupt our lives. They may succeed, for an hour or two. They may succeed in forcing us to mourn loved ones, neighbours and friends. But in the end, we will be the True North, Strong and Free!

We will be who we have always been, now and forever more.

No coward will ever change us!




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