By now, most people have heard about the shootings last week in Montreal. As my friend mouse said, two people dead, one of whom I care about.
We made a little pilgrimage last night, we bought some pink orchids at Costco (a plant, not in a bunch), and went by the spontaneous, ersatz wall of flowers and posters expressing support and grief for the students who were injured physically and mentally by the violation. We placed our little plant at the end of a long row, and then walked slowly, reading the signs, smelling the flowers, almost overwhelming in scent. The signs varied in 'quality' in that some were done with stencils, others by hand, some with a now-ubiquitous picture of the dead girl, Anastasia DeSousa.
It reminded me of a trip I once made to the potters' field on Mount Royal. Rather than your typical headstones on granite, the poor improvise - markers made from coat hangers and old car antennas, a small sign with a grandchild's picture and 'je vous aime gran-mama' written in crayon underneath. So much more powerful than any carved monument, the expression of love is all truly there, in fleeting, less permanent media. And so it was at Dawson College. 'Rester forte le jeunes - stay strong, young ones', besides hundreds, perhaps thousands of bouquets.
I'm a little pleased with our (Mouse and my) choice of the orchids, pink, Ms. DeSousa's favourite colour, and also the most transient of flowers; they seemed apropos. I'm glad we went and paid our respects, to Ms. DeSousa and the many other students scarred by the incident. I was working at Concordia University in 1992 when a maniacal, murderous professor went on a killing spree, indeed, it was what prompted me to get my first Internet access; I wanted to read his USENET posts to grasp why he did what he did. In the end, it was in part a failure of politically correct upper management, desperate not to offend who ignored the warning signs and facilitated that tragedy (the shooter, Valery Fabrikant asked the Rector to sign his gun permit application), in this case, there were few warnings, and no premonitions of what was to come.
There is the usual - 'he was a blogger - blame the Internet', 'he was a gamer - blame video games' but Kimveer Gill was one among millions of people who play and blog and don't devolve to the point of murder. The ability and inclination of some to slide into an insane murderous rage is puzzling, scary. Enveloping oneself in a dire, xenophobic culture (he was a Goth) might be a way to grease the wheels, but there again, there are plenty of Goths who don't do crazy shit ... so why him?
The Montreal Gazette editors and publishers once again proved themselves unworthy of the public trust, or anything really, apart from contempt; I can't find it now and wouldn't provide a link if I could, but their abominable lack of taste and sensitivity left me gasping last week: they had an online photo essay up, with shots of the aftermath, a slide show. Plunked alongside each shot was an advertisement - for Royal Bank, and the other regular sponsors. Now, doubtlessly some webhack charged with putting the shots (no, better, photos) up used a template. So the fuck what? Did it not occur to him/her/ them that maybe, just maybe they should drop the ads, just for one day? Apparently not. Low-class bottom feeders. At least they didn't make the coverage part of their pay-for-play coverage.
What puzzles me more than anything about this whole mess is my reaction to it. I feel deeply saddened, but I don't know why. Yes, it is a tragedy, yes, it happened a few blocks from my home. But why then, given so many horrid bloody murders happening constantly elsewhere do I feel empathy to the degree I do here? At the end of this month, a mere 11 days from the posting of this entry, the African Union soldiers will leave Darfur. Most experts expect that the Jemjaweed gunmen will then attack and murder scores, hundreds, thousands of innocent, vulnerable people, men, women and children, as they have done these past few years, but unhindered by bothersome international oversight. Where are my tears and aching heart for those people? The feelings do of course exist, but nowhere near the degree I feel for a local student.
In the end, beyond the talk of looking hard at Goths, or video games or blogs on Vampire sites ... we need to take a look at guns. In a completely impractical stance, I'd say ban them all. I acknowledge there is no way to enforce such a ban on the existing stock, but it might help avoid future generations of Goths, or just plain vanilla suburban kids from having the tools at hand to affect their insanity upon others, so permanently.