The gun is now a part of Canadian politics. Richard Henry Bain killed one person and injured another at the PQ rally last Wednesday night. He was ill, it seems, and a recluse, like many of those who suddenly, unexpectedly, tragically erupt into violence.
It’s tempting to leave it there, at the feet of a mad man. But, like so many other, similar mad men, Mr Bain has tapped into something deeper and darker in our national psyche. Some old business we’ve left unfinished.
He’s English, and when he yelled “the English are waking up” he tainted the next four years of politics in Québec. We must be careful that the blood he spilled does not stain us in ‘the rest of Canada’.
I remember, now, my last visit to Québec. I chatted with two students from the Université de Québec about the federal election. The conversation was polite—not the sycophantic politeness that makes you cringe. It was a respectful courtesy—discourse without rancour or rhetoric. It was pure Canadian curtesie, to use the old English word, politesse to use the French … tough stands argued bravely, with honour and a smile. Their wit and their charm were disarming, and typically Canadian.
Is it still true? It’s only been a year. Have the hate-filled politics of our neighbour to the south finally infected us?
Among us there are some, both mad and bad, who pick up the threads of political discord and act in ways that unravel the social fabric and test our national character.
But whenever rage overwhelms reason we are all of us bereft and bloodied. Let us ignore all calls to arms. And heed our national impulse to disarm.
© David McLaren September 6, 2012