Aftermath of the President's Speech

8 December 2015

It is difficult to characterize 14 dead and 17 wounded as anything other than a shock to the United States. If Paris changed France, San Bernardino changes America.

The shock and gravity has been so great that it occasioned a speech from the President from the Oval Office on Sunday night, only his third in eight years.  There is no greater pulpit in the world.  Whether you are American or not, everyone the world over is familiar with the Oval Office and its symbolic power groomed into our consciousness by film, photo’s, television and documentaries.  None of us have been there, but we are all familiar with it.

And yet, given the power of that office and the relentless repetition of terror acts the past three weeks,  the President sadly offered no new plan, no new insight, no new mobilization of national purpose to defeat the IS.

But he tried to make a link with mass shooting violence that has plagued the US this year, 355 in this year alone, but his words were completely eclipsed by the inherent fear of Americans that they had somehow seen a pivotal moment occur; one they were seeking answers to but he did not provide.  The context of the day was lost; it wasn’t a mass shooting, it was a terrorist act and unfortunately the President’s words were completely overshadowed by that perception.

In the incendiary climate of the U.S. primaries, Donald Trump raised the bar by calling for a halt to the entrance of Muslim visitors to the U.S, on top of a previous plan for a Muslim register.  Whatever moment of national attention the President had, was completely lost as a consequence. Regardless of how much most people have ridiculed Trumps musings,  it won’t take long for databases to expand and a "Fortress America" discussion where all travel will be checked and visa free travel drastically curtailed.  With  no sense on how ISIS will be defeated, the moats will be raised.

Policing will change as well.  In the United Kingdom in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, the Metropolitan Police have been given new guidelines to stop the perpetators first, rather than attending to wounded or containing the scene. Policing will inevitably change from guardian to warrior as the next time, and in the U.S. especially, there seems to always be a next time, police will not immediately know if they are dealing with the deranged or the disciples of terror.

Exposed as Canada is to U.S. discourse and dialogue over the airwaves, it will be difficult to avoid being infected by this new American contagion of fear, yet we must if we wish to remain the peaceable kingdom we have always thought ourselves to be.

Communities in Canada, and especially the Muslim community must become as outspoken as possible against the ideologies of radicalism and in turn, each and everyone of us must reach across religious and ethnic divides to the ties that bind us rather than divide us as Canadians. We can be stronger than any fear of terrorist attack.

Otherwise, as in the United States, too many hospitals will plan for mass casualty protocols, too many schools will rehearse active shooter scenarios, and all of us will have our travels, calls, online presence catalogued in databases like never before.

That, surely, is not where we wish to go.