As I noted on this blog previously, it is always a tragedy when a young person loses his or her life, whether to accident, disease, or mayhem. The lost potential is incalculable. Like me, however, I suspect many found the mythologizing of Nathan Cirillo's murder, his passage on the Highway of Heroes, and what amounted to a state funeral, attended by an array of dignitaries, including the Prime Minister, a little much. And as a cynical observer of the political landscape, I cannot escape the notion that all of the ceremony will prove to be of great benefit to the Harper regime's propaganda machine and its ongoing efforts to reduce our civil liberties.
This morning, a friend of mine alerted me to a piece by the Hamilton Spectator's Andrew Dreschel. It is a frank and honest assessment of this past week's spectacle. It is also brave, as I suspect it will earn him a barrage of hate mail.
While in no way detracting from the loss of this young man, Dreschel offers an unsentimental assessment of what happened:
The 24-year-old Hamilton reservist was murdered in cold blood by a homeless crack addict with terrorist notions while he was ceremonially guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa.Dreschel then goes on to talk about what constitutes heroism: those who display remarkable courage,
Cirillo's death was tragic and senseless, but in no way was it heroic.
by performing brave deeds and daring feats — risking or sacrificing your life to save others, valiantly defending a position, boldly destroying the enemy.But Cirillo never got the chance to show the stuff of which he was made:
He died unprepared and unarmed, the unlucky victim of a seemingly deranged killer who was himself gunned down after storming Parliament.All of the subsequent coverage gave this tragedy a life of its own, culminating in what the writer describes as secular canonization.
Dreschel ends on this note:
Through no action of his own, the accidental victim had become an accidental hero. But sadly, like all accident victims, he just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.Unsentimental and accurate, the column raises some disturbing issues that we should all be honest enough and brave enough to confront. Of course, it is right to feel grief and empathy in tragic situations; obviously it is part of what makes us human. But we should also be keenly aware that those very human responses can work to our detriment if they are not leavened by the knowledge that those in positions of trust with far darker motives may try to exploit them to their own advantage.