What can a Canadian say about Friday?

After a CNN binge, cuddles with kids who have no idea why they’re suddenly being held extra-tight, and a gamut of complicated feelings following the Connecticut shooting, I thought the best thing I could do for my readers yesterday was shut the fuck up and not post anything.

Most of my readership is American. I live 67 blocks from the Canada-US border. I watch American TV, consume American products, and inhale American politics perhaps more voraciously than Canadian politics…

People often ask why Canadians follow American news so closely and are so openly invested in what goes on south of the border. Plenty of writers have addressed this question much more eloquently and with much more intellectual rigor than this blog ever could. Suffice to say that, culturally, we marinate in the same juices. And while plenty of Canadians (and other western nations) are asking “what the fuck?” about American gun laws, American mental health provisions, and the general economic desperation in which America finds itself, it would be sheer hypocrisy for me as a Canadian to say our nation doesn’t incubate its own complement of psychos who, if as easily weaponized as their US counterparts, would easily achieve the same percentage of horror.

So what the fuck, then?

Leaving aside desensitization and disenfranchisement and alienation for discussion by all the douchebag talking-head psychologists rising to their 15 minutes of fame being interviewed by famous lisping reporters who should retire instead of prodding nine-year-old children for interviews about escaping death, what the fuck is there to say to my friends in the country to the south to which I feel so culturally connected?

I’m sorry.

My first impulse was to say “what the fuck?” about your gun laws and your mental-health legislation and the dominance of the NRA, but what I really need to say to you is I’M SORRY. I’m sorry this awful thing happened. I’m sorry these things continue to happen. I’m sorry so many of your population do not feel protected without weaponry. I’m sorry that weaponry falls into the wrong hands. I’m sorry the NRA is responding to Friday’s tragedy by proposing handgun laws be relaxed so teachers can pack a weapon in class. I’m sorry you will never be able to feel safe dropping your children off at school again.

I finally turned off the news yesterday when I heard the quote from a little boy who had just learned his sister had been killed. “Who will I play with? I don’t have anybody to play with.”

I felt…I couldn’t function in a world where that was a reality. It can’t be like this. Really, it can’t fucking be like this. There must be something we can do to make it not be like this.

What can people from other nations do?

Treasure our friendships with Americans.

Some of the coolest people I know are from the US. We have family in the US. It’s a pleasure to correspond with smart, funny, interesting Americans knowing that we share values of kindness, fairness, honesty, and humor. We’re all fighting the good fight—raising kids to be decent and striving for a good society, trying to be kind to each other and feel safe. We need to show support for that good fight—because it’s hard to feel strong when your most vulnerable citizens are targeted.

Try to understand the problem.

Watching Obama’s speech following the shooting, I had the overwhelming sense that he, too, was thinking What the fuck? How can this keep happening? It’s not a simple problem to shut down, and powerful interests are involved. Obama gets blocked on just about everything he tries to accomplish. The Second Amendment is sacrosanct despite its archaic origins. Not only that—the Second Amendment aligns with all sorts of other polarizing issues. The whole thing is a fucking hornet’s nest.

Express our wishes, no matter how naïve.

I would like to see Obama, having just won a four-year term, say out loud: “The right to bear arms is untenable.” Maybe he can’t, and probably he won’t, but that’s what people from other nations are saying. Paradigm shifts do happen, but sometimes we have to make them happen.

Pressure the US about gun control.

If the world is a village, it’s our job to make our voices heard, even if they are small. Gun violence represents a national emergency in the US. Just this week two potential mass shootings were averted (Indiana and Colorado). How many more bad ideas are smoldering in the minds of heavily armed, mentally disturbed individuals? What does it take to ignite a bad idea such as shooting up an elementary school? One bad day?

Following the 1996 massacre at Dunblane Primary School in Scotland, handgun ownership was banned in the UK. But the discussion can’t even get onto the US table without people screeching about Second Amendment rights. Sorry, my American friends, the Second Amendment is killing you.

For most of the civilized world, curtailing handgun ownership is a no-brainer. How many more children have to die for it to become a no-brainer in the US?

So I’ll sign petitions, I’ll write letters—I will do whatever it takes to poison the idea that carrying or even owning a handgun is normal.

As a Canadian the number one thing I want to express to the US is compassion. We wept watching the news this week.

The number two thing is outrage. The aphorism that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is bullshit. People kill people when they have weapons.

I know this space isn’t the place for a long rant about gun control. This blog is intended to be a humorous space, or at least it tries. But I couldn’t think of anything else except: holy shit, America, I want you to be safe.

Connecticut shooting victim names

12 thoughts on “What can a Canadian say about Friday?

    • Thank you. I was terrified to post this, actually. It’s so hard to understand, and yet at the core of it there’s this simple screaming thought: PLEASE keep everyone safe. Once safety goes, everything goes. When people feel frightened and desperate, their values get changed. Seeing news like this (and knowing two more could have occurred in the very same week) is…I don’t even have words. So thank you for reading it and seeing what I was getting at. I didn’t want to be offensive, but I still wanted to convey what it looks like from the outside.

  1. This Canadian is devastated. This Canadian feels sick with grief. This Canadian wanted to be doing ANYTHING BUT explaining to her kids why everyone was talking about Conneticut on Friday. This Canadian will NEVER understand why handguns are more important than the lives of children.

    • Thankfully we haven’t had to explain it to the kids yet. They are 5 and 6–they automatically tune out news and anything adult/boring. Plus we’ve avoided talking about it around them. But if they ask about it–if they get frightened or have nightmares–I will say it happened in another country where there are a lot of guns. I will tell them that they’re safe here in Canada, even if I don’t necessarily believe that to be as true as I would like.

      • Mine are 9 and 12 and have no trouble reading the headlines on the morning newspaper…and there are too many days when I wish they couldn’t. I couldn’t even answer the question, “Mama, but why would someone want to kill little children?”

  2. I tend not to post political anything because that is not the focus of my blog and I truly do not want to alienate people who hold different views…and yet I am glad that you posted this. I’ve wept all weekend, scanned headlines, and hugged my children tight, especially my first-grader.

    Because our Constitution has provided a blueprint for what we still consider an overwhelmingly successful democracy, there is a tendency to believe that our founding fathers got it right the first time, and that every word must be protected and upheld at all costs. Those who support this logic point to singular historical events in which gun rights were suspended (i.e., Nazi Germany) and presume that gun control means that, and only that.

    Or they point to China, which has banned gun ownership, as if to say that gun control equals gun ban which is a step closer to becoming one of the most controlling Communist regimes in the world.

    Now personally, I don’t like guns, they scare me, but I have no problem with someone keeping a handgun in their home for their own protection (unless children live there, then you are inviting tragedy.) What I don’t understand is why in the hell a private citizen would have any need whatsoever for a weapon of war which is capable of producing a spray of bullets. People don’t need that for protection, they sure the hell don’t keep an automatic weapon in their nightstand drawer (an idiotic place to keep it, I know)…nor do private citizens need to have the ability to fire off rounds and rounds of ammo at a time without ever stopping to reload.

    I say bring on the gun control. If a law-abiding citizen loses his playthings because of it, I could give a FUCK less. This weekend has broken my heart.

    • Thanks very much for reading. I was worried about coming on too strong about a country where I don’t live, but I feel very connected to the US and hope there will be some change as a result of the tragedy.

  3. I appreciate the post. And you shouldn’t worry at all about having posted it. The Haybag and I tend toward to the conservative side, and I don’t think you have overstepped your bounds in any way. It was a thoughtful and sensitive post.

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