11.17.2007

canada is making me sad these days

I've been feeling so sad and disappointed in Canada lately. First the murder of poor Robert Dziekanski, then Stockwell Day signing off on the execution of a Canadian citizen by a US state, then the Supreme Court rejection of the war resisters' appeal.

Allan reminded me that the taser death is not "Canada": it's people. The abuse of power by men in uniform with weapons is as old as civilization, and as universal as DNA. The national outpouring of horror at the incident, and the outcry - both public and political - for something to be done, is very different than it would be in the US. Death at the hands of police or security forces is not that uncommon there. Incidents are quickly covered up and forgotten. And of course in many countries, the incident wouldn't be news at all.

I'm not letting the system off the hook. But in this instance it's not the government's fault.

The other two examples are.

I never expected Canada to be paradise. I never harbored illusions that this country doesn't have violence, and inequality, and all the errors other countries struggle with. I'm just seeing a lot of negatives, one after the next. And it makes me sad.

If we can persuade the Opposition to pass a resolution allowing the US war resisters safe haven in Canada, I will feel a whole lot better. It will remind me that the current government in Canada is temporary, and that Canada still has a functioning democracy.

* * * *

Yesterday I found myself skimming the comments on this CBC News article about the Supreme Court decision not to hear the resisters' appeal. Among people who don't voiced approval of that decision, the most common reason seems to be that the soldiers volunteered, "and if they don't like what they volunteered for, that's their problem".

This also makes me so sad - and angry.

Did anyone volunteer to destroy civilians' homes and property? Did anyone volunteer to torture, rape and kill innocent people? And if they volunteered for a term of 3 years, did they volunteer to be involuntarily re-enlisted for another 20?

Among some Canadians, there's a fundamental lack of understanding of what the US military is doing.

And then there's the fundamental lack of humanity implicit in their statements. Why should someone go to prison for refusing to kill? Must we be so hard-hearted? Must we place the law of nations above universal moral law?

* * * *

I'm sorry this blog has turned into war resister central lately. Wmtc always reflects what's on mind, and the safety of the resisters is consuming my thoughts these days.

29 comments:

redsock said...

More good news:

"Two Canadian soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were killed when a bomb struck their armoured vehicle Saturday. Three other Canadian soldiers with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were wounded in the blast in the southern province of Kandahar ..."

"A Canadian soldier who lost part of his leg after being wounded in Afghanistan has taken his own life in his Quebec apartment. The Quebec coroner's office is investigating the death of Frederic Couture, who shot himself earlier this week at home in Roxton Pond, Que. Couture was 21 when he stepped on a landmine while on patrol in the Panjwaii district of Kandahar in December 2006."

deang said...

I do understand that people who do know what the US military is doing to Iraq may not feel sympathetic with the soldiers who helped do it, but when some soldiers decide to reject destruction of another country, they should be supported! I do quibble with the assertion that they didn't know they'd be killing people and destroying homes. Many did, from what I've read, and in the current US social climate, some likely felt excited about doing it. But again, those who've turned against it should have everyone's support.

No need to apologize for the content of your blog. Not only is it your blog, but these are important issues that everyone really should be concerned with. It is somewhat discouraging that you get a lot more comments when the posts are about dogs or shopping than when they're about crucial sociopolitical issues, but that doesn't mean that people aren't interested. I, for one, often think there isn't much more to be said. The situation speaks for itself.

L-girl said...

when some soldiers decide to reject destruction of another country, they should be supported!

That's my central point. Most of us who stand for peace have risked very little to do so. If these people came to their anti-war position later than us, they arrived there at a much greater price. It is, in my opinion, our moral imperative to support them.

I do quibble with the assertion that they didn't know they'd be killing people and destroying homes. Many did, from what I've read, and in the current US social climate, some likely felt excited about doing it.

No doubt that many did, and many wanted to. The war resisters I know did not. They believed they were protecting the US from terrorism. I know that may seem incredible, yet it is so.

Also, even if they did know and felt excited about it in the abstract, they recoiled from it and refuse when faced with the reality. As you suggest, that is an important distinction. Perhaps more important and noteworthy than our own belief in peace, which has been with us our whole lives.

L-girl said...

No need to apologize for the content of your blog.

Thank you, my friend.

It is somewhat discouraging that you get a lot more comments when the posts are about dogs or shopping than when they're about crucial sociopolitical issues, but that doesn't mean that people aren't interested.

I've learned (or at least I think I have) that that is not necessarily from lack of interest. For whatever reason, people feel more comfortable chatting about the mundane personal issues, and less so about the larger political ones. Perhaps they are a bit intimidated by some very knowledgeable and articulate commenters, or they feel there is little to add, or they just mentally nod in agreement.

When I first started writing personal posts, I was amazed at how those attracted comments! Now I'm used to it. I just have to hope and assume the same folks who comment on those posts also read the others. Some must, anyway.

L-girl said...

More good news:

"Two Canadian soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were killed when a bomb struck their armoured vehicle Saturday. ...."


One of my resister friends expressed amazement at the difference between how Canada gets this news and reacts and how the US does. She asked, "Why do American bodies come home in secret, hush-hush, in the middle of the night? Why does everyone in Canada know the names of the fallen, and no one in the US knows them?"

I oppose Canada's military presence in Afghanistan, but I appreciate the way every single casualty is front-page news.

Amy said...

The national outpouring of horror at the incident, and the outcry - both public and political - for something to be done, is very different than it would be in the US.

I think it is wrong to say that Americans have not been outraged by police brutality when they know about it. There certainly was quite an outcry over both the Rodney King and Amadou Diallo stories, for example. I am not commenting on whether things are better in Canada. How would I know? But I do think that Americans are not as heartless or indifferent to these things as you are suggesting.

L-girl said...

But I do think that Americans are not as heartless or indifferent to these things as you are suggesting.

I am not suggesting that Americans are heartless or indifferent.

I am saying that police violence is unbelievably commonplace in the US. The cases you mention becamse known, public outcry pushed them into the media eye, which was a very positive thing.

But the numbers of people killed by police in US cities is staggering. A tiny percentage of the cases ever elicit a response at all.

I do not think this is because Americans are heartless. I think it is because US society is so violent, gun violence is so commonplace, that Americans are mostly numb to it. In addition, the media pays it little attention, so people usually don't even know about it.

L-girl said...

I also see a substantial difference in the official reaction. In both the Diallo and Abner Louima cases, NYC dug in its heels and sided automatically with the police. Many citizens were outraged, but official reaction was the usual circle-the-wagons. Outside of the Harper government, we're not seeing that here. That is very positive to me. Although it doesn't help poor Mr. Dziekanski and his grieving mother.

L-girl said...

Amy: as an aside, or an addendum, I almost never make statements about Americans as people, as distinct from any other people. When I write about the US, I'm almost always referring to social or cultural phenomena.

Amy said...

I have no quarrel with your statements about the number of incidents or the tendency to cover up those incidents. But your reference was to the fact that the "national outcry over such incidents would have been far different in the US," and that made it seem as if you were saying American citizens would be indifferent if something like the Tasering incident were to happen here. I just don't think that is true.

Amy said...

Amy: as an aside, or an addendum, I almost never make statements about Americans as people, as distinct from any other people. When I write about the US, I'm almost always referring to social or cultural phenomena.

I will have to keep that in mind as I read your comments. I do not mean to seem defensive, but since I know a lot of Canadians read your site, I did not want them to think that Americans in general (as opposed to the American government) take any of this lightly.

Thanks for the clarification!

L-girl said...

But your reference was to the fact that the "national outcry over such incidents would have been far different in the US," and that made it seem as if you were saying American citizens would be indifferent if something like the Tasering incident were to happen here. I just don't think that is true.

I lived in the US for more than 40 years and I never once saw an outcry like we are seeing in Canada right now over this one death. Never once. The incidents you mention don't even come close to what is going on here over this.

Again, in my opinion, this has nothing to do with the relative goodness of Canadians vs Americans, but about the relative violence and authoritarianism of the cultures.

L-girl said...

I do not mean to seem defensive, but since I know a lot of Canadians read your site, I did not want them to think that Americans in general (as opposed to the American government) take any of this lightly.

I doubt Canadians are getting their view of Americans through wmtc.

But IMO many Americans do take these things very lightly. Not because they are cruel or insensitive, but because they are inured to violence.

Amy said...

Again, in my opinion, this has nothing to do with the relative goodness of Canadians vs Americans, but about the relative violence and authoritarianism of the cultures.

That makes perfect sense to me. I am not in Canada, and I am certainly not making a comparative remark. I agree that Americans are desensitized to violence. I can't find a single movie to go to this weekend because almost every one is filled with violence. But I also believe that most Americans were horrified by the Rodney King and Diallo stories and are also horrified by this latest story out of Canada.

L-girl said...

But I also believe that most Americans were horrified by the Rodney King and Diallo stories and are also horrified by this latest story out of Canada.

Do you? I don't. Where I lived and where you live, yes. But most? I don't think so.

I can't find a single movie to go to this weekend because almost every one is filled with violence.

Just to clarify, I didn't mean in the movies. I meant the rampant, real-life violence in American homes and cities, and the violence the US spreads around the world.

Amy said...

Just to clarify, I didn't mean in the movies. I meant the rampant, real-life violence in American homes and cities, and the violence the US spreads around the world

I knew what you meant. But I think Hollywood's dependence on blood letting as entertainment also reflects the violent society we live in here. Even when movies are made to show the horror of that violence, they serve to desensitize viewers to violence. So it was just my way of indicating how pervasive violence is in the US.

Amy said...

Where I lived and where you live, yes. But most? I don't think so.

It is true that Massachusetts is not representative of much of the US. After all, it's the only state that legalized gay marriage, the only state that voted for McGovern, etc., etc. It does tend to give me a different view of the US than if I lived somewhere else, I am sure.

L-girl said...

But I think Hollywood's dependence on blood letting as entertainment also reflects the violent society we live in here.

It definitely reflects it, I agree.

redsock said...

Since September 1999, at least 168 North Americans have died after being shot by police or law enforcement Tasers.

In 2005, 69 people, including five Canadians, died:

1. Jan. 2: Gregory Saulsbury, 30, Pacifica, California
2. Jan. 5: Dennis Hyde, 30, Akron, Ohio
3. Jan. 8: Carl Trotter, 33, Pensacola, Florida
4. Jan. 28: Unknown man, Chickasha, Oklahoma
5. Jan. 31: Jeffrey Turner, 41, Lucas County, Ohio
6. Feb. 10: Ronald Alan Hasse, 54, Chicago, Illinois
7. Feb. 12: Robert Camba, 45, San Diego, California
8. Feb. 18: Joel Dawn Casey, 52, Houston, Texas
9. Feb. 20: Robert Heston, 40, Salinas, California
10. March 3: Shirley Andrews, 38, Cincinnati, Ohio
11. March 6: Willie Towns, 30, Derland, Florida
12. Mar. 12: Milton Woolwolk, 39, Lake City, Florida
13. Mar. 17: Mark Young, 25, Indianapolis, Indiana
14. April 3: James Wathan, Jr., 32, Delhi, California
15. April 3: Eric Hammock, 43, Fort Worth, Texas
16. April 8: Ricky Barber, 46, Carter County, Oklahoma
17. April 22: John Cox, 39, Bellport, New York
18. May 3: Keith Graf, 24, Phoenix, Arizona
19. May 5: Kevin Geldart, 34, Moncton, New Brunswick
20. May 6: Stanley Wilson, 44, Miami, Florida
21. May 6: Lawrence Berry, 33, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
22. May 13: Vernon Young, 31, Union Township, Ohio
23. May 17: Lieroy Pierson, 55, Rancho Cucamonga, California
24. May 20: Randy Martinez, 40, Albequerque, New Mexico
25. May 23: Lee Marvin Kimmel, 38, Reading, Pennsylvania
26. May 23: Richard Alverado, 38, Tustin, California
27. May 28: Richard T. Holcomb, 18, Akron, Ohio
28. May 28: Nazario J. Solorio, 38, Escondido, California
29. June 4: Unidentified male, 33, Sacramento, California
30. June 7: Russell Walker, 47, Las Vegas, Nevada
31. June 11: Horace Owens, 48, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
32. June 13: Michael Anthony Edwards, 32, Palatka, Florida
33. June 13: Shawn Pirozzi, 30, Canton, Ohio
34. June 14: Robert Earl Williams, 62, Waco, Texas
35. June 24: Carolyn Daniels, 25, Fort Worth, Texas
36. June 29: Unidentified male, Miami, Florida
37. June 30: Gurmeet Sandhu, 41, Surrey, B.C.
38. July 1: James Foldi, 39, Beamsville, Ont.
39. July 7; Rocky Brison, 41, Birmingham, Alabama
40. July 12: Kevin Omas, 17, Euless, Texas
41. July 15: Otis G. Thrasher, 42, Butte, Montana
42. July 15: Ernesto Valdez, Phoenix, Arizona
43. July 15: Paul Sheldon Saulnier, 42, Digby, Nova Scotia
44. July 16: Carlos Casillas Fernandez, 31, Santa Rosa, CA
45. July 17: Michael Critchfield, 40, West Palm Beach, FL
46. July 23: Maury Cunningham, 29, Lancaster, SC
47. July 27: Terrence L. Thomas, 35, Rockville Centre, NY
48. August 1: Brian Patrick O’Neal, San Jose, California
49. August 3: Eric Mahoney, 33, Fremont, California
50. August 4: Dwayne Zachary, 44, Sacramento, California
51. August 5: Olsen Ogoddide, 38, Glendale, Arizona
52. August 26: Shawn Norman, 40, Laurelville, Ohio
53. August 27: Brian Lichtenstein, 31, Stuart, Florida
54. Sept. 18: David Anthony Cross, 44, Santa Cruz,CA
55. Sept. 22: Timothy Michael Torres, 24, Sacramento, CA
56. Sept. 24: Patrick Aaron Lee, 21, Nashville, Tenn.
57. Sept. 26: Michael Clark, 33, Austin, Texas
58. October 13: Steven Cunningham, 45, Fort Myers, Fla.
59. October 20: Jos Perez, 33, San Leandro, Cal.
60. Nov. 1: Miguel Serrano, 35, New Britain, Conn.
61. Nov. 13: Josh Brown, 23, Lafayette, La.
62. Nov. 17: Jose Angel Rios, 38, San Jose, Cal.
63. Nov. 20: Hansel Cunningham, 30, Des Plaines, Ill.
64. Nov. 26: Tracy Rene Shippy, 35, Fort Meyers, Fla.
65. Nov. 30: Kevin Dewayne Wright, 39, Kelso, Wash.
66. Dec. 1: Jeffrey Earnhardt, 47, Orlando, Florida
67. Dec. 7: Michael Tolosko, 31, Sonoma, California
68. Dec. 17: Howard Starr, 32, Florence, SC
69. Dec. 24: Alesandro Fiacco, Edmonton, Alberta

There was likely some outrage in the local area where each story was reported, but I doubt most of the 64 US deaths on that list received much sustained attention on CNN, MSNBC or USAToday.

mister anchovy said...

The death of Mr.Dziekanski is tremendously sad. Although I didn't like the idea of this man's death being broadcast across the world via youtube, the fact that the video exists should force some serious investigation. Given other fairly recent RCMP problems, I think we need to see some kind of top-to-bottom probe to make sure these guys are not out-of-control.

L-girl said...

Thank you, Mister Anchovy. I agree.

Although I did not watch the video or post it here, I think it's good it's out there.

M@ said...

I know it's been a tough week for Canada. We'll get through it and get better. I hope I don't seem dismissive when I say there are weeks at the other end of the scale too -- like when the Ontario Supreme Court ruled on gay marriage, which led directly and quickly to the legalization of gay marriage in provinces across the country, and eventually in the Supreme Court of Canada and Parliament too. The pride I felt as those barriers fell does keep me going when decisions come down that I wholeheartedly disagree with.

You'll hang in there, I know. And I'm glad, because we Canadians who care so much are what continues to drive our country forward.

M@ said...

Oh, by the way, I've been thinking a lot about the question of US "volunteers" who have become resisters in Canada.

I do not think it right, and I can't even think of how it could be legal, to imprison someone for refusing foreign service. In a liberal democracy, it simply cannot be right to give a soldier a choice of fighting in a foreign war or being imprisoned.

One exception I might be willing to make -- I don't know if I can or not, and it's certainly not applicable in the US right now, so it's sort of irrelevant at the moment -- is in a case where a country has declared war on another country. There is a much higher barrier to declaring war than to invading a country (which is why Bush did an end-run around it, of course); maybe in that situation I could see forcing soldiers to fight. However, that leaves us with conscripts dying in Flanders in 1917-18 and I certainly don't think that was right, so I'm not sure whether I'm totally behind this idea.

I do think a country could make a moral case for the fight-or-prison choice where an enemy has actually invaded the soldier's country. In that situation, soldiers' decisions not to fight directly affects the one thing that the military is charged to do: protect, in a literal sense, their country. In that case, a country might have a moral case for demanding its soldiers' services.

However, the second case is inapplicable to the current US wars, and the third case is obviously inapplicable except to brain-dead authoritarians who believe that "islamofascism" is actually present and working in North America (Mark Steyn, I'm talking to you).

So I believe the American resisters should stay, and should only be sent back if the regime can guarantee that they will not be imprisoned (and I don't think such a guarantee is possible under the current administration). If they were sent back, it would be reasonable to make those soldiers fulfill their remaining military service contract -- as long as it's within the borders of the USA.

When the USA is actually invaded, or when they actually declare war on a country (which hasn't happened, I believe, since 1941?), then we can revisit the issue. I'm pretty confident that that won't be necessary any time soon.

L-girl said...

You'll hang in there, I know. And I'm glad, because we Canadians who care so much are what continues to drive our country forward.

Thank you, and of course I will. But we've all got to recognize the bad bits if we're going to keep working for progress.

As I know you know.

L-girl said...

M@, thank you for your comment re resisters and war.

I went to a big strategy meeting today (took an extended lunch break from work), and one of the resisters had an excellent reply to the "but they volunteered" argument. I think I will post it as a separate post.

Meanwhile, would you mind very much re-posting your comment in the thread with my reader survey? I'd like to have all the opinions in one place if I can. Thanks. :)

M@ said...

Whoops -- sorry. I've posted it there. Should I delete the post here?

I was originally going to say something about the taser incidents here and post the resister stuff in the other thread... then I got confused. I've been away for the weekend and the old computering-skills are weak...

L-girl said...

Whoops -- sorry. I've posted it there. Should I delete the post here?

Thank you, and absolutely not. And no need to apologize. I'm happy to have these statements and ideas anywhere on this blog - but I'd also like to get them on that thread when possible.

I've been away for the weekend and the old computering-skills are weak...

That sounds nice. Time away from this thing is so important.

redsock said...

Another US taser death this (Sunday) morning.

"A 20-year-old man died this morning after a sheriff's deputy used a taser on him to break up a fight, the Frederick County Sheriff's Office reports. ...

The first deputy on the scene found four people fighting outside and deployed a taser, striking Gray, Bailey said. He fell on the ground unconscious and was given first aid on the scene, then taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital where he was later pronounced dead."

************

How much attention is this getting from the US national media?

Amy said...

How much attention is this getting from the US national media?


None that I have seen. I was not disagreeing with either the fact that there is a lot of police abuse in the US or that it is not covered by the national media. I have no idea how it compares to Canada or elsewhere.