Friday, October 24, 2014

Security. Lockdown.

If it rains enough you forget how it was before the rain.

You think it will never not rain.

It rains all day Wednesday, and then all night, the wind stacking waves, their tops curling, breaking white, throwing spray over every reef.  

Hard in this wind to hold the car door open: it slams on her cheek, leaves a cut, a blossoming bruise. The steps at school are slippery; the heel of my shoe keeps falling off. I press the nails back in place, but what I really need is glue.

What's it like out there? someone asks as I blow in on Thursday just before 11, rain in my hair.

Wet, I say, shaking my head. Windy. Not too cold.

No, I mean, she says, were the police out there? Someone said the square was full of police. 

I didn't see that. 

She tells me a story. Earlier this morning, just three blocks away, a man was spotted on the street carrying a gun wrapped in a blanket. The police have been searching for him. Then word came that they had caught him, right here, next door. But some people are claiming there were two people with guns, and the one they've caught isn't the one who was walking down the street earlier.

Here we go, we say, rolling our eyes. After the shootings on Parliament Hill yesterday, the whole country's gone crazy. Everyone turning paranoid. Turning American. One mentally ill too often homeless Libyan-Canadian kills a soldier, rushes Parliament with a long gun, and is killed, and all anyone wants to talk about is terrorism. International threats. Security. No one wants to discuss domestic problems, gun control, poverty, racism, or mental illness. These deaths are a warrant for war, not a mental health strategy.

We imagine what implement the guy sighted in Halifax might have been carrying: a pool cue, a roll of sketches, a bassoon.  Or perhaps he was a reenactor, headed for the latest costume drama on Citidel Hill, and stupid enough to carry his cardboard rifle on the street. Out of the rain, under a blanket.

I head to my office; a day full of meetings unspools.

Government offices are on lockdown. So are the banks. A nearby high school. No one may enter, even later, even long afterwards, after a young man who had run from a city bus and left behind his weapons was arrested and taken into custody.

In Halifax, no official says anything about terrorism. Nor do they mention mental illness. Instead, the doors remain locked, public offices closed to citizens, a gesture that speaks volumes. Today we are dangerous; today in our raincoats we might be a threat; today we cannot enter the archives to look at some photographs hanging there. Openness is risky.

Didn't you hear, another friend quips, today is International Long Gun Holiday? And then he apologizes: I'm sorry; that was in bad taste.

We drive home through the rain and the falling leaves. Once home, we remember to lock the doors. 

As if what is out there is sure to be more harmful than what lies within.


On the shootings in Ottawa:

On gunmen in Halifax:

Pictures were taken in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia on 23 October 2014.

1 comment:

  1. In which I comment on my own post after engaging in Facebook debates:

    As Mitchell Anderson in the Tyee says on the West Coast, Islamic sleeper cells aren't recruiting in homeless shelters....(

    Mental illness seizes the materials at hand--that's how the US Oklahoma
    bombings were executed by a white extremist, Marc Lepine shot
    "feminists" at the Ecole Polytechnique, and now, a drug addled homeless
    guy shoots a soldier and enters Parliament. These are bids for
    attention, not really "political" undertakings. They are tragedies,
    human tragedies, that originate in our failed domestic policies, our
    inability to recognize and care for each other adequately, and to pay
    attention and treat psychosis when and where it emerges.

    I figure ISIS IS recruiting the rest of us, however, if we respond with
    only with anti-terrorism measures rather than a more careful read. If we
    give up still more points of democratic discussion and access (like
    honestly, why all of these years later are we all still taking off our
    shoes before getting on flights to or in the US because one nut FAILED
    to light his shoes on fire?!), and head off to war because we get
    confused and think "terror" has come to our shores, ISIS/ISIL wins. On
    the other hand, we can make some progress--and work hard to preserve
    certain critical democratic concerns and values-- if, as we think about
    what has happened this week, we also keep the focus on talking about
    poverty, gun control, homelessness and mental illness.