The deep social scars will take a long time to heal

How do Canadians wash away the shame of the slaughter of six men in a mosque in Quebec City?

RED DEER, Alta. Feb. 3, 2017 /Troy Media/ – No society is perfect. Tragedy has a way of turning blemishes into scars – scars that take a long time to heal.

Canadians can now drop the smug pretence that we’re superior to the vast number of nations on this planet. We, too, have fundamental social flaws.

And now we also have deep social and psychological scars.

The slaughter of six men in a mosque in Quebec City created the scars. An attack on innocent people in a place of worship should cut us all deeply. The sadness and failure we all feel should be palpable.

The underlying social flaws were already there, although Canadians have blithely tried to ignore them. Federal Conservative leadership candidates Kellie Leitch and Kevin O’Leary, among others, are evidence of the flaws. So too are the too-frequent acts of intolerance, bullying, sexism and thoughtlessness that just keep cropping up across the country.

Of course, in any country, there will be moments you want to forget, to wash away, to make amends for.

But some events are just too cataclysmic, too devastating. It’s difficult to know where to turn, what to do.

How do you wash away such a heinous act?

How do you make amends for the senseless loss of life, the loss of potential, the loss of trust?

How do Canadians wash away the shame? How do we make the world look away?

Can we? Do we want to?

In the wake of the shootings in Quebec, Canadians of all backgrounds have gathered at vigils, spoken to neighbours and friends, and quietly and independently tried to absorb what happened.

My wife and I attended a vigil in Red Deer, along with a few hundred others. The speakers offered broad perspectives on how we need to heal, come together and persevere. They talked of conquering hate, of embracing our shared humanity, of celebrating our differences rather than using them to divide.

It all makes sense to so many of us.

But the speakers at the vigil were preaching to the converted. People don’t attend vigils to gain new perspectives. They attend to show their neighbours, and the rest of the world, that respect and tolerance still matter. That retreating from civility and equality is not an option.

They also don’t attend vigils and similar services in hope of instant healing. Something this ugly, this devastating, won’t fade soon.

Nor should it. This pain should endure, this shame should linger. It should become part of who we are so that we resolve not to let it happen again anywhere within the sphere of our influence.

What shouldn’t linger is the sense of helplessness so many of us have felt in the aftermath of the killings.

We may be shocked, horrified and ravaged by this, but we should not be petrified. We need to keep pushing ideas of tolerance and understanding forward, we need to keep acting in defiance of any small and every large instance of inequality or insensitivity.

And we need to rush to the defence of every person who is victimized in any way.

You can teach your children to love and understand – and you should. But so much more is required of all of us.

We need to express ourselves clearly and constantly: make no secret of how you embrace an inclusive community, province and country.

Make no secret that hate, intolerance and prejudice of any kind is unacceptable.

Make no secret that Canada has failed too many segments of our society, far too often and for far too long – from Muslims today to First Nations for several decades to interned Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War and beyond.

I have felt a great shame since the killings in Quebec City. Shame that this has happened in our country. Shame that far too many among us are so full of intolerance and hate.

I want to be proud again of our country. But I think for a while this shame will linger, and we should all use it as motivation to do better.

Because we must do better, or the scars will deepen and fester.

John Stewart is Editorial Vice President with Troy Media Digital Solutions Ltd. and Editor-in-Chief of Troy Media. John is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.

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