Yesterday, a young gunman entered a downtown college here in Montreal and opened fire, killing one person and injuring 19 others. Montreal police were on-site immediately and thanks to their courageous and timely intervention, the 25-year-old killer was neutralised in relatively short fashion (he died in a confrontation with the police).
I am hesitant to even write anything on the topic because I have been so inundated with non-stop talk and news about this shooting in the past 24 hours that part of me cringes every time the gruesome details are replayed or more updates and theories and personal anecdotes are presented. It is not that I am squeamish, though I do think of myself as a fairly compassionate person, but through all the attention this event is getting, the focus seems somewhat off-kilter and unhealthy in some way.
This morning during a break in my French class, I was wandering the halls of the Adult Learning Centre I attend (all students are 16 and older) and happened to pass through a group of teenage guys grouped together by some lockers who were obviously talking about yesterday’s tragedy. One of the guys said, “Man, I wish I had been there. Not that I got hurt or anything, but I got to see it.” Ah, yes. There it was again.
We as human beings are fascinated by aberrations, be it some sick evil deed, or a malformed person, or destruction and death by bizarre means (as the Darwin Awards popularise), or hideous diseases and accidents, or dangerous and psychotic behaviour, or serial killers, or genius criminal minds, or the unfortunate kid with a limp in ones class. Normalcy is boring to most of us, and good has little power to intrigue us. Any movie or television show depends on captivating drama, usually portrayed as a conflict between some form of good and evil, its flawed characters in tension, and most times engaged in some violence or extreme behaviour. This is what people will come to see. This is what we are drawn to.
In discussions around me today, the theories were abundant about the role that violent video games and heavy metal music played in this alleged young murderer’s demise. Personally, though I acknowledge that these are not always the best use of one’s time, I don’t believe that in themselves they carry any inherent power to corrupt a mind or soul. Playing violent video games will not make you an assassin any more than listening to the Bible all day will make you godly. We do have control over our thought patterns and our actions, though how often we exercise it wisely is another matter altogether.
However, the things that we are fascinated by, those are the things that we will begin to become like, and I fear in this day and age, very few are fascinated by the concept of goodness. I suppose it is a lack of seeing truth and love and justice and mercy and honour portrayed in their full glory that makes us see most good characters as rather one-dimensional. Is God (the definition of good) one-dimensional, boring, predictable, or even safe? Hardly. When I was involved in theatre, it was commonly accepted that an evil character was more interesting to portray than a good one, and I can attest to the truth of that from experience, but I don’t think the lack is in the concept of goodness itself; I believe the lack is in our understanding of it and thereby, our ability to adequately portray it. Evil has a flashy stage show, so we turn aside to watch, but it has no core, no real depth to it and it always ends in self-destruction. Truth may seem simple at a first glance, but its multi-faceted beauty must be explored and pursued to be truly known; it does not need to titillate or entice – it just is.
And so I grow tired of listening to the account of yet another angle of the rampage, for it does not fascinate me. I do not visit the troubled man’s blog to find out all about his deranged mind. Instead, the story (at least for me) is about the police officers who confronted the gunman without hesitation and risked their own lives to cut his deadly plan short. The story is about one student who, with a trembling voice, urged all his fellow classmates to be brave and go back to school and not give in to fear because going on with life and pursuing their education was the right thing to do. He was determined that the actions of one man who wanted to instil fear and disrupt society would not have him as a victim by taking his freedom and peace of mind.
Notoriety and infamy are over-rated and I mean to undermine them. I fondly remember August 31 not as the day Princess Diana was killed, but as the anniversary of the day I was married to a wonderful man. You cannot take that date away from me nor change its meaning. September 11 will always be the day I was overwhelmed by the love of God in a powerful way on the train on my way to work – not the day some terrorists had their way. September 13 will always be the date Eden was born, a bit of a miracle child for two good friends, not the day a crazy man walked into Dawson College with a gun.
These good and precious things are what truly fascinate me and will be what ruminate in my mind and soul today and over time. As my young student hero said…it is the right thing to do.
"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” - Martin Luther King Jr.