It’s been a dark couple of days in North America. Between a suspected terror attack and the largest mass shooting (which I’m also going to call an act of terror even if police and media won’t) in US history, our society feels like it’s under attack.
The usual litany of platitudes and calls for solidarity and sending of thoughts and prayers has predictably followed. It seems though that this has just becoming a numbing agent as we normalize and rationalize these events.
I took part in a rally last night in Edmonton, in solidarity with the victims of the purported terror attacks, one Edmonton Police Service constable and four civilians, but also calling to avoid scapegoating and knee jerk reactions.
In difficult times like these, some people will look for a scapegoat.
When it’s a Muslim, a Somali immigrant, a refugee, it’s easy and expected that some will scapegoat an entire religion, country, race, or class of people. And it can get ugly. People with racist tendencies and suspicions feel emboldened to speak out and act, attacking visibly different communities who have no role and play no supporting role in the actions of one deranged individual.
I have always been taught that when you want action, you act. It’s not enough to sit back and wish. Hope has never been an effective strategy to create change.
That is part of why I got involved in politics. I believe that in order to foster a more open, welcoming, and inclusive society I need to be the change I wish to see. I need to roll up my sleeves and put my money and time where my mouth is and to walk the walk.
I grew up in a town that was largely indigenous and East Indian. Many in my class were of a different ethnicity and perhaps that is partially why my willingness to accept other’s cultures is so high. But I don’t believe that you can integrate and harmonize people of different cultures without having an understanding of one another. I believe that understanding best comes from living, working, learning, and playing with those who are different than you.
Isolation, exclusion, and ostracizing those that are different does not create security, understanding, empathy, or cohesion.
The facts are that the world is changing. Western birth rates are declining, and there is great insecurity in other parts of the world. In order to maintain our economic competitiveness, and continue to grow our society, we do and will have to be more open. That doesn’t mean that we don’t do smart assessments of risk for those we allow in.
In all of North America, the very first terrorist attack that was linked to an immigrant or a refugee was just this weekend, in my new hometown – Edmonton.
The overwhelming majority of terror and hate incidents are perpetrated by homegrown radicals. We need to look at how we ensure that those who feel marginalized and ostracized are treated and prevent this radicalization. We need to ensure that there are adequate onramps and support for mental health. We need to work within our education system to improve integration and inclusion for all so that there aren’t barriers between people of different races, religions, backgrounds, and statuses.
In the United States, people need to say enough is enough and focus on solutions that can protect pretty much anyone better than they are doing. Children, LGBTQ, concert-goers, random civilians. Everyone is a target. And on a day when nearly 600 are injured by a mass shooting terror event, government is on the brink of deregulating suppressers (silencers) for weapons. Until people say enough is enough and realize that there’s a country on their border that has great freedoms in spite of gun controls (and great security because of gun controls and reasonable restriction of access), nothing will change.
I refuse to be filled with hate. I refuse to blanket blame people for the actions of those that might share characteristics. I refuse to stand idly by and do and say nothing. I choose to invest my time and money and life towards creating the society I want to see. And I hope that all those who are feeling in a dark place choose to do the same and shine light into the darkness so that they too can look forward to brighter happier days. If you see evil, and you choose to not speak up, and not act, and not create change, you are complicit in those acts. Above all, I refuse to be complicit in evil acts.