Canadian Vengeance

by Mike Reid, reprinted with permission.

This is a sad day in Canada, presaging even sadder ones to come.

Today, an as-yet-unidentified man shot a soldier near Parliament Hill, and then rushed further, armed and aggressive, into the halls of Canadian government. He was then shot and killed himself.

Two days ago, another man—a recent and very superficial convert to Islam—rammed and killed another Canadian soldier with his car.

I do not know the real political affiliations of either of the attackers, but clearly among their personal intentions we can list the intent to commit suicide. You don’t expect to survive if you kill a soldier and then, by rushing into the seat of government, practically guarantee hero status for whoever shoots you.

In other words, both of these men sought a way out of this mortal coil, and decided that the best and most dignified way to get out would be to go on a killing spree against strangers in uniform until someone else killed them in return.

Whether or not these attackers were in any way authentically associated with ISIS or Muslim terrorism, politicians, newspeople, and the common man at his dinner table will associate them with it. The steady spread of plausible, self-confirming rumour about the evil of Islam will grow and accelerate.

Like all acts of Muslim-branded terrorism hitherto committed on North American soil, although the casualties are numerically minuscule, the symbols are profound.

Because the terrorists attacked soldiers and politicians, the very embodiments of Canadians’ self-identification with the state, Canadians at large will feel that the terrorists have attacked them personally. Canadians will feel frightened and vengeful. We will find it psychologically very easy to dehumanize Muslims and Middle-Easterners. And we will feel more ready to kill them.

This is only one of the early incidents in a long and self-perpetuating cycle of vengeance, quasi-racist and quasi-religious xenophobia on both sides, and death, death, death for everyone.

Canadian politicians will shake their fists at the shadowy foe, and promise to send more brave Canadian soldiers, and especially more nice, clean bombs to go and kill the enemy.

Even if the enemy (ISIS? Militant Islam? Middle-Eastern sexist violence?) could be well-defined, when those bombs fall, they will kill and maim noncombatants, innocents, and children too.

Then the vengeful victims and their kin and those who feel some symbolic self-identification with them will cry out for more murdering.

And some new mentally unstable Canadian will adopt their cries for vengeance as a way to escape his own muddled life in a sudden act of purifying suicidal glory. And that mentally unstable fellow (almost always, it is a man) will kill some more Canadians, numerically insignificant but symbolically profound.

Killing some more of those Canadians will let you escape your life with glory, they say to their audience on Twitter and YouTube. Killing some more of those Arabs will bring peace to us and them, we whisper to our children as we tuck them into bed.

In the spiral of bloodshed into which we are now descending, the Canadian public at large may succumb to historically illiterate self-congratulatory neoliberalism (“We just have to go over there, bomb those sexists, and educate some girls; and then then they’ll all be ready for the gift of democracy.”) Or the public may succumb to implicitly genocidal self-congratulatory neoconservatism (“We just have to kill the bad guys until there aren’t any more of them, and then the Middle-East will be safe again and send us their oil in return for the gift of democracy.”)

Either way, if collectivist violence continues to be accepted as a wise and honorable pursuit, the blood will flow until the sands of time blot it over with some new catastrophe.

There is, as far as I know, only one hope for peace. And that is the humble recognition that other humans are people too — not nations we can rescue or demons we can destroy. Just people.

Both of this week’s amateur terrorists are dead. We can exact no further vengeance upon them for the fear they have struck in our hearts by attacking our symbols. If the politicians want (and they probably do), they can issue orders to have some more Canadian people kill some more Syrian or Iraqi or Turkish people. But that cannot resurrect our dead or erase our fears or refute their religions or save their nations.

It can just kill more people.

A decade ago, when I marched along with thousands in the protests against the Iraq War (2003 edition), I wept in the beauty of our songs (“Give Peace a Chance”). I laughed with the cleverness of our placards (“Who Would Jesus Bomb?”)

This year, weary and engaged more in fatherhood than in politics, I did not march to protest Canada’s involvement in the latest vaguely defined bombing of Middle-Easterners.

And this morning, I have no tears or laughter. I have only sadness and sympathy for all those people who will wave the flag of a nation or a religion and kill other people, and die themselves.

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Poem – Nam: 40 years

By Alan Gilbert, reprinted with permission from Democratic Individuality
For two other poems in this series, see here.


One took his own life

one drank his way

out of this world

one became University President

mourning the women and

children he shot

in a village

one thrown out of school

at night

fighting the war

gathered himself against the storm

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War Promoters Drown Out Dissent

“A mix of politics and mainstream media fear-mongering may be leading the US into another Middle Eastern war. From pundits with financial interests to politicians trying to look tough before the midterm elections, a chorus of war hawks is making their voices heard loud and clear. RT’s Ben Swann leads a discussion on the issue with Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK, and RT producer Tyrel Ventura.”

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Accept the Fact That You’re Livestock and Move On

A Review of Snowpiercer
By Michael Troncale

“What but design of darkness to appall?—
If design govern in a thing so small.”
–Robert Frost, from his poem “Design”

“Soylent green is people! We’ve got to stop them, somehow!”
–Charlton Heston, from the film Soylent Green

The conspiracy theory of history infects every frame of Snowpiercer, the recent South Korean film that was barely released in theaters. It’s basically an extended metaphor of all human relations since we created civilization—societies that have been almost always ruled by a small group of elite individuals who control and manipulate large swaths of other people so that these elite can live in comfort and luxury.

The premise of Snowpiercer is that a catastrophic ecological disaster has taken place, leaving the Earth a frozen wasteland. The last groups of survivors are left riding a train that circumvents the globe nonstop with a perpetual motion engine; it was devised by a mysterious industrialist who created the train to ostensibly preserve some form of human life. There is a strict economic class system on the train where the elite thrive on the suffering of the leftover masses.

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VIdeo: Joe Elder Talks Blowback and ISIS in Syria, Iraq (3:14)

Joe Elder, co-host of PaleoRadio, discusses empathy, blowback, ISIS, and why arming the rebels is not the best solution in Syria.

“The enemy of our enemy is not our friend in this case.”

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BOEING: “Breaking Up Is (Is Not) Hard to Do”

By Joe Scarry, via Scarry Thoughts

When I lived in Philadelphia in the ’80s, there were two related events in the business world that made me sit up and take notice.

The first was the acquisition of a venerable Philadelphia bank — Girard Bank — by a big Pittsburgh institution — Mellon Bank.  People were pissed.  It didn’t make complete sense to me, but I eventually learned a little bit about Philadelphia philanthropist Stephen Girard, and I came to understand a little better why people had feelings about the bank. (Hey, nothing personal, Mellon . . . we just like things in Philadelphia the way they are . . . . )

The second was the recognition by Mellon that Mellon had a substantial volume of bad assets on the books — as in, enough to bring the company down.

In the event, Mellon made a brilliant decision: they split Mellon into two parts — dubbed “the bad bank” and “the good bank” — and dealt with them separately. They recognized that as long as Mellon remained a single entity, the investment community would value the entire company in light of the problems occurring in some of its assets. The solution was to quarantine the bad assets, take the hit, and focus on saving the the part of the bank that still had (substantial) value. (See “Rich Bank, Poor Bank: Mellon’s Surprise Success” in Business Week, March 8, 1992.)

Every time we talk about the substantial part of the Boeing Corporations that is used for war and violence, I can’t help thinking: “bad Boeing, good Boeing.”

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Tavis Smiley: Dr. King’s Unfcomfortable Truth

By Kevin P. Kelly, reprinted with permission.

“The reason I wrote this book is because Martin has been so sanitized and so sterilized that the truth about who he really was, at some point, is going to be irrecoverable…we have frozen him in this frame at the Lincoln monument giving his “I have a Dream” speech.  That was in 1963. He lived 5 years after 1963 and his views on America were dramatically different in ’68 than they were in ’63…”

So began my conversation with PBS broadcaster and author Tavis Smiley about his latest book Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year. Smiley’s work marks a departure from other biographical efforts about Dr. King, both in scope and content.  Focusing on the tumultuous year leading up to King’s assassination, Smiley challenges the widely-held, media-perpetuated view of Dr. King  as simply an idealistic civil rights “dreamer,”  introducing instead a sentient and discerning King focused on expanding his message.  While 1963 King dreamed of integration, 1968 King recognized that the malignancies of war, intolerance and penury were all inextricably linked, and that successful continuation of our democracy demanded attention to all three.  According to Smiley, it was the promotion of this belief- that racism, militarism and poverty were three legs of a stool upon which sat most of the ills of the world- to which King devoted the final years of his life.

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