Recently, Justin Trudeau was criticized by Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his comments regarding the Boston Marathon bombings. Mr. Trudeau stated that, as horrific as such actions are, we must find the foresight to ask why these dreadful crimes happen. Mr. Harper disagrees, and stated that we must simply punish such perpetrators, and punish them hard.
I recently ran across a sage little insight from Resident Evil, by Kathleen Norris, that pertains directly to this controversy. I found it quoted in Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell, and it goes like this: “Any creative encounter with evil requires that we not distance ourselves from it by simply demonizing those who commit evil acts. In order to write about evil, a writer has to try to comprehend it, from the inside out, to understand the perpetrators and not necessarily sympathize with them. But Americans seem to have a very difficult time recognizing that there is a distinction between understanding and sympathizing. Somehow we believe that an attempt to inform ourselves about what leads to evil is an attempt to explain it away. I believe that just the opposite is true, and that, when it comes to coping with evil, ignorance is our worst enemy.”
Obviously, Harper’s criticism makes it clear that at least some Canadians also cannot distinguish between understanding and sympathizing, and choose to operate from ignorance. If we can objectively view the uprisings of people throughout history, it is easy to see there is always a root cause – an injustice of varying degree, from intolerance or racism, to human rights abuses and ethnic cleansing.
Terrorists are not born. They are made. Yes, suicide bombers (or bombers of any kind) are obviously taking the wrong course, and are simply perpetuating injustice. And yes, Mr. Harper, they must be punished. They would do better to take a lesson from the true heroes of change, like Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Mandela. But to just build more jails to put the perpetrators of such crimes in will do nothing to get to the root of the problem. Unless we can lift the veil of “ignorance” and begin to “understand,” to borrow the words of Ms. Norris, they will continue to come.
Although I am not a Liberal, I find Justin Trudeau’s words a breath of fresh air amidst the stale rancour that too often emanates from Ottawa these days. Perhaps there is hope for a more fair and equitable world in the future.
As for the federal NDP, I am very disappointed that they have chosen to play party politics and side with the Conservatives on this matter. I would have thought that a party with a moral foundation based on fair play and social justice would rise above such shallow gamesmanship on an important issue like this. Such action only adds to my growing weariness with party politics. The only road to a future of peace for our descendants is to rise above our petty political differences and work together to come to an understanding. And it starts with not being afraid to ask “why.”