If You Truly Want to Honour Terrorist Victims, Rise Above the Hate that threatens to Seduce You

While everyone watched in muted horror, Paris was added to the growing list of Western cities attacked by Islāmic terrorists. You could even argue that Paris is a two-time member of this bloody club after the Charlie Hebdo murders last January. Paris joins Madrid, London, New York and probably a dozen others that have slipped popular memory.

Canada is not immune. Heads were bowed coast to coast to coast and flags flew at half mast October 22nd to observe the year that had passed since Corporal Nathan Cirillo had been murdered while standing guard over Canada’s national War Memorial in downtown Ottawa. But there was a not-so-subtle streak of hate insidiously buried among the elegant words and moving tributes. The toxic whispers and hushed hate were aimed at Muslims everywhere, particularly Syrian refugees.

Shameless hatred was being shouted at the top of too many lungs before the ashes had even stopped burning in Paris, racism smeared across social media and fingers of blame pointed at the entirety of the Syrian exodus fleeing the endless violence in the Middle East (France, it should be noted, had one of the lowest levels of refugee resettlement while Germany, who hasn’t had any attacks, had the highest). Politicians from Europe to America were already exploiting the massacre for talking points (there were no shortage of Canadians jumping on the Internet blaming new PM Justin Trudeau for an inevitable terrorist attack in Canada since it plans on offering asylum to 25,000 refugees). Poland was the first (of likely many) to close its borders to Syrian refugees and these attacks have jeopardized global plans to address the world’s current migrant crisis. The hate will become deafening over the coming days.

Hate is the easy way. It takes no effort and demands no understanding or sacrifice. Every Canadian was filled to the brim with good old fashioned, biblical contempt when Ottawa was locked down last year just the same as the entire world seethed following the shock of Paris. The idea that it’s our capacity to love that makes us human is a fairy tale we tell ourselves to sleep better at night. It’s our capacity to hate, and our eagerness to give in to that hatred, that makes us human. But it’s our ability to rise above that emotional venom that makes us civilized, that has carried us from the Stone Age to the day when we can wonder what we’ll find on neighbouring planets when we inevitably arrive there. Yes, hate is the first thing we feel, but it should also be the first thing we abandon in the sober moments that follow.

If we allow hate to win out, if we allow it to poison our decisions and rob us of our compassion, then the murderers and the terrorists have accomplished their mission. Violence is not the true language of the terrorist; regardless of whatever fanatical agenda they claim to fight for. No, the true currency of the terrorist, whether it’s ISIS or a lone gunman or a white supremacist hoping to trigger a race war, is hatred and fear. And at the end of the day, no matter what rhetoric or hyperbole you dress it up in, hatred is the coward’s way.

We’ve seen too much of that kind of coin lately. For a few weeks Canada’s national conversation was dominated by faux outrage over the niqhab, a conversation that lifted one party substantially in the polls while spelling another’s electoral doom. Shortly afterwards, election signs belonging to some ethnic candidates were vandalized with racial slurs, vandalism that was met with some support on social media. And if you stop by the comments section of many media sites today, you won’t have to look far to find the kind of hatred and intolerance that terrorists hope to inspire by their acts. Terror preys most often and most successfully on the weak and the foolish, and unfortunately it’s the fools who have the loudest voices.

But if we truly want to honour the victims of these attacks, from Cpl. Cirillo to the more then 120 Friday in Paris to the countless lives lost in daily attacks in the Middle East (who the West ignores because they’re Muslims), if we truly want to pay adequate tribute to their loss, we will need to do more than name parks after them while starting unwinnable wars in their name. We need to rise above the worst instincts the murderers awaken in the ugly part of our hearts. After all, heroes rise above, and rising above is perhaps the best way we have to honour the fallen.



If You Were Angry About Christmas Decorations Going Up Before Remembrance Day, You Should Aim Your Rage At the Right Place

Once again we have finished that annual Canadian tradition, where the first 11 days of November are filled with complaints, protests and moral outrage about Christmas decorations making an appearance before Remembrance Day. The Internet buckles beneath the sheer number of online moralists calling out businesses for putting up Christmas trees and playing Christmas carols before November 11th and threatening to boycott the ones who don’t listen. It’s a healthy dose of passionate fury that completely misses the point. Contrary to the opinion of the outraged, businesses do not decorate their stores to offend anyone or insult our veterans; they do it because customers, the outraged among them, want it.

You need to approach this argument with one simple fact front and center in mind: businesses of any size, from mom and pop stores to big box retail giants, don’t do anything without the bottom line in mind. Nothing happens without a full and comprehensive analysis of how it affects the almighty profit margin and everything a business does is motivated to increase revenues. Businesses exist to make money.

Toronto based musicologist Alan Cross stated in a recent column that the average North American adult contemporary radio station sees an 81% increase in ratings when they begin playing Christmas music. Yes, you read that right-81%. The increase is so dramatic that a number of popular stations in moderate sized American markets converted their playlists to Christmas exclusive music as early as October. And just to throw an extra log on that fire, the most popular Christmas carols on YouTube are expected to be streamed over a million times (each) during the last two months of the year.

Christmas isn’t just big business, it’s the business. No other holiday or time of year comes close to generating that kind of cash flow and retail outlets generally collect half of their annual revenue in the last third of the year. Some do a quarter or more of their annual business during November and December alone and Christmas revenue keeps many businesses afloat during the lean times the rest of the year. A public transit strike in Ottawa that lasted from December 10th 2008 to the following January was estimated to cost the National Capital region nearly 300 million dollars during the Yuletide season. The damage was bad enough that it forced some big box retailers to curb their seasonal hiring and a number of businesses blamed the lost Christmas revenue when they were forced to shutter their doors later that year.

Christmas is essentially a retailer’s make or break season. When Target Canada was considering their options last year, they made the decision to see how their Christmas fortunes panned out before deciding on their future. When all the numbers were crunched and they realized how poorly they had performed last holiday season, they decided to throw in the towel and waved the white flag. Nearly 18,000 jobs hinged on the Christmas season.

That’s the power of Christmas dollars.

So it would stand to reason that businesses of all sizes would want to capitalize on that spending orgy as early as possible, if not for their own survival. And if putting up Christmas decorations as soon as the Halloween ones came down didn’t result in an immediate and positive response they wouldn’t do it. Dusting those decorations off and getting them up is the best (and cheapest) form of advertising a business has at their disposal this time of year. And it works.

Costco wouldn’t put Christmas cards on sale in August if there weren’t people who bought them in August. A lot of people. It’s simple supply and demand.

It’s excellent that so many people feel passionate about respecting such an important day as November 11th (as long as complaining isn’t the only thing you’re doing). But you need to stop throwing your anger shade at retailers and businesses who rush to exploit the almighty Christmas dollar (to keep people employed) and maybe take a look at the consumers who are convinced to spend those important dollars by the appearance of candy canes and mistletoe.

Its time to accept that consumers are more responsible for the behaviour you hate then the businesses you’re yelling at.

Canadians Are at Their Finest on Remembrance Day

During the recent election campaign, we heard leaders and candidates from every party give speech after speech about what made Canada and the people who call it home great. The steamy July and August days paled in comparison to the hot air that came from every campaign stop. But despite all the hyperbole and rhetoric and pandering, none of the leaders actually hit on what makes Canada great or on the time of year when Canada’s true strength can be seen.

Because during the tributes to its fallen soldiers and the somber moment of silence observed on Remembrance Day, you can see Canadians at their absolute finest.

Tens of thousands of people, men and women, young and old spread across different generations, students shepherded by their teachers and members of every creed and faith clog the streets in the chilly November air with little complaint. Polite applause is offered for the politicians and visiting dignitaries, but thunderous applause is reserved for the veterans as they parade past in quiet dignity. Voices join in singular praise and gratitude for the warriors who fought and fell and all eyes look to the heavens as jets race across the golden autumn sky in salute before thousands of voices proudly sing Canada’s anthem. And if you look close enough, you can see an entire nation’s heart beating as it stops to say thank-you to so many who paid so much so that we may live in one of the greatest nations on the planet. As you watch thousands of heads bowed in mournful reflection, you may begin to understand the secret beneath the precious marriage between November 11th and the Great White North, whose strength and freedom were purchased by those honoured on this sacred day.

Because its Remembrance Day that makes Canada great. On that one morning, during that one fleeting moment of silence, all our pettiness and trivial bickering is forgotten. On that day, at that exact moment, it doesn’t matter what colour your skin is or what deity you pray to, it doesn’t matter what language you speak or who you voted for or what hockey team you cheer for. On Remembrance Day, all the foolish barriers we erect between each other fade away and we are only Canadians. Proud, thankful Canadians.

And for that brief moment in time, on the 11th day of the 11th month, we are at our very best.

Shayne Kempton

Why I Couldn’t Vote Conservative

I’ve been asked a lot in the past two weeks how I’ve felt about the outcome of last month’s election. I have been asked who I voted for and have taken some flak for my neutrality during the campaign. Every time I’ve injected myself into a debate (argument) as the potential voice of reason, I take hits from both sides of the political spectrum. But now that the dust has settled and Justin Trudeau has been sworn in as Canada’s 23rd Prime Minister and all the temper tantrums about both his victory and his choice of cabinet are over, I think I can safely explain why I couldn’t vote Conservative.

Read More . . .