When Canada’s parliament in Ottawa was under attack with a shooter on the loose, the media maintained a calm and collective composure, doing its very best to provide the public with information, but were cautious with the unknown details about what was occurring in their government building. At the very same time just south of the border, the US media was already fueling the fire of paranoia and fear of a “new threat” that’s just only a country away from the homeland. Both countries reactions to the incident were mere opposite of one another, yet their response to the aftermath showed that both countries are still unable to learn from past mistakes.
It’s quite obvious that we will never really be able to prevent a lone shooter from entering a building and shooting people, or a terrorist attack from happening. We can, however, try and analyze the reason for their cause and what drives people to do such things. In doing so we can try and lessen their occurrences. While Canada is facing their own fear of “terrorism” on their soil, the US is still reeling from the fear of spreading Ebola across their own country. The thing to highlight with both countries is that they tend to ignore their actions that led up to the event. Their current plans to extract the problem will do more damage, stripping freedoms for the sake of protection.
In the same week of the shooting in Ottawa, a driver ran down two soldiers in a parking lot in Quebec. The driver is suspected of being a radical-Islamist and had his passport revoked before he could travel to Turkey. Days before the shooting and the hit-and-run, the Canadian government sent warplanes in a bombing campaign to the Middle East in an effort to help defeat ISIS. Both the hit-and-run and the shooting incidences were suspected of being a response to ISIS calling for Canada and other Western countries to be attacked for joining the US bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq. Since the Ottawa shooting, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pushed for tighter anti-terrorist measures expanding surveillance and reducing the amount of evidences needed to use against suspected terrorist.
While there is a real fear of homegrown terrorism, with more people fleeing Western countries to join ISIS, the situation with Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the shooter of Ottawa, has brought to surface that could help explain the situation more fully for both the rise in terrorism and the shooting itself. Zehaf-Bibeau had a history of living in poverty with mental disabilities and drug abuse. At the same time in Canada, as well as in the US, the government has been pulling funding from drug and mental health programs. Focusing on the conversion to radical Islam and overlooking the history of drug abuse and mental illness provides the government with the incentive to boost military and security budgets and continue to ignore the issues plaguing the public. While these two incidences may provide Canada with justification for the warplanes and troops they sent to the Middle East, it blindly puts the country in a situation to feel further blowback.
To stop the rise in radical Islam and high recruitment ISIS has been having, we should look deep into our foreign policies as well as the personal issues each of these “recruits” are living under if we really want to fix the problem. In most cases, most people seem to join in response to the Western military involvement in Iraq. Some also speculate maybe the recruits are attracted to ISIS’s use of flashy videos with western media and philosophy influence.
Or in Zehaf-Bibeau’s case, it could be out of desperation to have something to live for. As Chris Hedges remarks on his book, American Fascism (which analyzes religious fundamentalism in America),
“Though I was sympathetic to the financial dislocation, the struggles, with addictions, the pain of domestic and sexual violence, and the deep despair that drew people to the movement, I was also acutely aware of the dangerous ideology these people embraced. Fascist movements begin as champions of civic improvement, communal ideals, moral purity, strength, national greatness and family values. These movements attract, as has the radical Christian right, those who are disillusioned by the collapse of liberal democracy. And our liberal democracy has collapsed.”
The same can be said with Zehaf-Bibeau’s situation as in both Canada and US in the last decade have been more focused on funding further foreign endeavors at the expense of the many domestic issues its public struggles with back home.
Although the US has a more complicated history with the Middle East and in particular with Iraq, the US has been going down a dangerous path with its response to the Ebola crisis. Aside from the paranoia-obsessed news and the lack of information from the US media on the issue of Ebola, several governors and pundits responses to the crisis have been more harmful to fixing the issues than helpful. With the recent quarantines of returning health workers from West Africa, while scientist and the Supreme Court suggest that the quarantines are wrong and against civil liberties, can actually backfire on trying to control and stop the spread of the disease.
As with the case of Ryan Boyko, a data analyst who’s been trying to slow down the spread of the disease while working in Africa, returned to the US and tested negative by the CDC and then placed in quarantine without an end date. Without knowing when the quarantine will end, he can not continue his research. Other workers are also feeling the burden of unnecessary quarantines and the public reacts withflagrantly ignorant statements, revealing our media has not provided us with the proper information on how the disease is contracted and how it can be spread. The scientific community tries to alter the damage but only gets belittled or ignored, showing up occasionally on a panel, while pundits, with continuous airtime, continue to inform the public with their uneducated opinions of what to do.
Our lack of response to the beginning spread of Ebola was sad enough and our reaction to the fear of the disease coming only after a US citizen got the disease was even more appalling. While we hesitate to have soldiers go to West Africa to help the situation, we mistreat the workers returning. In a striking comparison, Cuba, who has always been at the forefront of educating and sending doctors to struggling countries, is sending doctors to the country without fear or protest. Aside from the many faults in that country, their response to desperate needs of human beings in other countries has had them react in a way that is helpful in preventing further spread and stopping the disease in its tracks.
While the US and Canada are facing challenges and both countries are reporting on the ground differently, their initial reactions have been identical. We must be cautious in how we attend to these issues. As Canada’s media showed us in the following hours of Ottawa, we need to be calm and collective, and approach the issues with a seriousness that will help us assist the problem rather than make it worse.