Saturday, November 26, 2016

Gym Shower Politics

In the weeks since Donald Trump's election to the US Presidency, I have wondered if there once was a period of broadening tolerance before the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Adolf Hitler. In that case there may have been such a period of tolerance emerging, but the Versailles "peace," the economic burdens that came with it and the flaws in the Weimar system opened the door for Hitler far outweighed the possibility that there was a retreat from tolerance as appears to be the case under the looming Trump administration.

Still, comparisons can be drawn between the economic uncertainties of 1920s and 30s Germany and those that have dogged the US over the last decade or so.  Industrial erosion removing working class jobs and leaving the intrigues and games of the financial services industry to be become a bigger chunk of the economy. The innovators who found competitive advantages with new inventions and gadgets from the 1860s to 1960s have been replaced, with the exception of a handful of industrialists of Mount Rushmore calibre, by those who came up with the ideas of exporting jobs instead of some other value-added creation and turned their innovative eye to the mischief that was achieved in the preamble to the financial crisis of 2008.  Add to the financial difficulties of this century the burden of solo superpower status and the aftermath of September 11, 2001 and there is a cause for defensiveness, concern and an aversion to anything that changes the rigid definition of America that so many cling to for refuge.

However, during this period there has been a significant period of reflection and adaptation to take pluralism to a new level.  More tolerant attitudes toward homosexuals and transgendered individuals were emerging, the two-term Obama administration indicated and fostered social progress.  The problem with that emergence of tolerance was the belief in some quarters that it was not tolerance, but permissiveness running rampant and undercutting "American" values.  This has not been the case. Apart from the tolerance, there have been efforts to reduce bullying, ensure greater safety in sports at all levels (particularly football), enhance the experience for cyclists and pedestrians in cities large and small and make the argument that racism is still an issue in the US.  Each of these changes, and these are but a few of them, have valid rationales behind them and definitely benefit a wide number of Americans, not to mention aligns with the preamble to the US Constitution.

There has been an instinctive, irrational response against those changes to advance tolerance and extend basic human rights to all people. There has been push-back of various sorts in recent months and years, whether it is legislation about bathrooms in North Carolina, the Vice President-Elect's own legislation allowing discrimination based on religious grounds or merely the renewed threat that education will move away from what secular and pluralist components it has toward a more Christian orientation under the new nominee as Secretary of Education.  Sadly, people usually cite the guidance of their Gods when prefacing acts of prejudice or hatred, not charity or understanding.  Such blind adherence to creed and a distaste for dissent or discourse, once the most American of bull shit deflectors, has left the nation without the intellectual or moral armour to remain true to the vision it was founded upon.

Given the opportunity to increase rights to all, there has been the sense among many Americans, or at least their politicians, that the expansion of human rights is a threat or that equality is a zero-sum game.  As a result, more and more people have asserted that in the name of their God, certain people need to be punished for their beliefs, actions or in a prime fit of anti-elitism, their knowledge.  This mindset has been what energized rallies among Trump supporters and made it hard to distinguish the Republican also-rans from the presidential nominee.

The social progress that has been sought and would have been further heralded under a woman president if she had been elected on November 8, 2016, would have pushed people into circumstances that they would have been instinctively uncomfortable with.  There have been significant economic issues in the US that prompted people to vote Republican in the recent election, but a platform that promised to roll back the social progress that has occurred over the last eight or the last 75 years was a significant part of it.  It is a false assumption that a brash, ostentatious businessman could right the US economy instead of padding his wallet and worse still is the sacrifices in social progress that will occur as a consequence of this shell game.

The election of Donald Trump has energized neo-Nazis, the KKK, schoolyard bullies, the racists, the rapists, the sexists and so many other individuals or groups who embody our baser impulses and instincts.  While not so long ago, it may have been easy to assume or hope that a society would do its best to proceed toward become more just, peaceful, free or egalitarian, the recent election outcome and the early warning signs that have emerged as Trump has made his key appointments, white nationalists have voiced their hope and approval and those minorities who had gained so many rights in recent years wait with uncertainty about what their futures hold in the land of the free.  At a time when progress on social matters could be continued, it seems that discomfort with such changes may uncork a regression to the adolescent ferality of the boys in Lord of the Flies.

The only outcome I foresee that would ensure the justice, domestic tranquility and liberty that Americans claim to stand for is an event that would jolt them away from their irrational attachment to a past that will not be recaptured or restored.  Given the geographic, religious, economic and spiritual suburbanization or Balkanization that has occurred throughout the country, it will only be a moment of profundity and calm (not fear) that would make them recommit themselves to preserving the values and Constitution that protect and define them.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Who DOESN'T Think They're the Moderate?

At the risk of confusing people with the possibility that I am referring to climate, I am citing the possibility of an echo of the 1968 Prague Spring or the Arab Spring of 2010.

As we have lurched for historical references to give us a context for where we are at, the options are countless. There are the easy comparisons and my references to 1968 and 2010, I suspect, would be regarded as optimistic, or, more likely gravely naive.  I would rather not give into the pessimism that has coloured so much of 2016 and I refer to the Springs because I believe that is the type of collective action that would be required to stem what is occurring and what will unfold in the coming months.

Donald Trump is the embodiment of a state of mind among a significant number of people and with the regression in American politics that goes back to George W. Bush's purported compassionate conservatism, Newt Gingrich's efforts to undermine the Bill Clinton administration in the 1990s', the recount debacle in 2000, Watergate or the tacitly racist opposition to Barack Obama there seems to be an inevitability to this precipice in US history.  While Donald Trump has done an astounding or appalling job of amplifying the simplistic certitudes about America that provide comfort to those who are unable or unwilling to make the effort to define their lives and dignity in the face of an uncertain, changing time where people must rededicate themselves to a greater purpose.  We are at a time when terms like freedom, faith, truth, neighbour, comfort, greatness, man, family, success and of course, American are all subjected to the most rigid and simplistic of interpretations.  

Trump has amplified these simplicities for much of the past year and it is abundantly clear that he now embodies the interests and concerns of a group or demographic despite his own disdain for the group who has voted for him.  He was the most audacious of the Republican candidates for president in pursuing those voters and he was not far out of step with the beliefs or platforms of his opponents. With that in mind, a Trump downfall that does not dent his popularity amongst those who have pinned their hopes to him will not result in an orderly transition to a more benign presidency.  The appetite for witch trials, bullying, deportations, religious registries, kleptocracy or the hatred-guided assertion of hierarchy will not disappear with Trump's dismissal from office.

The appetite that is hardest to slake at this time, however, is that for ridicule. For the past year we have seen the comments of America's finest comedians surpass the news organs in terms of insight and prescience, but they did not influence the outcome of the November 8th election as much as their audiences may have hoped. Social media is rife with as much snark as false news and both are indications of how hard it is for people to communicate in a meaningful manner anymore.

The United States certain to enter an embarrassing phase of its history that will make the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) seem like merely a recurring blip of paranoia.  Faced with that realization I am fighting back the urge to quote Vaclav Havel or slap a passage from Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being I have been saving on my desktop into the next paragraph in impressive italics with the anticipation that a scant 100 words or so of translated Czech will make everyone nod knowingly, say he nails it, and send on the link to this.

Instead of going that route, let me simply point out our most common assumptions about our children.  Not that they are the most beautiful kids ever; that would be a bit irrational.  We do, however, operate on the assumption that our kids are the most advanced and that they are at the 90th or 95th percentile for whatever we aspire to pin our hopes on. 

Just as we are so optimistic about our children, we are equally convinced that we are the moderates.

None of us are. Well, okay, not none of us, but the world champion fence-sitter on all issues probably does not even know who he or she is.  I know it is not me as there aren't that many moderates who spend their honeymoon highlighting their Havel... not the whole honeymoon... for just the opportunity to trot it out when the livid head of tyranny is being reared all ugly and such.  None of us are the moderate, but that does not mean that we do not have the opportunity or the responsibility to be a moderating positive influence.  

We need to be committed to being a moderating influence when an instance of hate is occurring around us.  At the same time it is more important than ever, not to mention more difficult than ever, to have the conversations required to test the opinions that we are so inclined to grasp with body and soul at a time of such uncertainty.  We have to set the ridicule aside and hear someone out and assert everyone's right to be heard and at the same time we have to hold people to account for the opinions they hold and respectfully test the beliefs that they hold and hope carry the day.

The simple desire of treating one another with respect that we owe one another regardless of our gender, station, income, creed or race has been grossly undermined not only in the discourse that our politicians have exchanged over the past year but in our own interactions and in the assumptions we make about people we do not know.

It is time to determine where we are and close the distance between ourselves and the people we disagree with.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

9 Seconds

A day later and I have to acknowledge that the second thoughts about the finish will linger a lot longer the the lactic acid that left its searing grin in my muscles. In my mind, a replay about climbing the last hill in the 26th mile and grappling with a moment's reluctance as I waited for the race marshalls to stop traffic and wave me ahead or ultimately into the final right turn for the downhill dash to the finish. I had somewhere around 500 or 600 meters left, and I will now and then ponder the possibility that I could have run it a little harder than I did. As I closed in on the finish, there was the realization that came with seeing the clock at the finish line and my 49 year old eyes seeing two consecutive threes instead of the three-two-something I hoped for. My watched had stopped when I covered the calculated 42.2 kilometres and for a moment I was without that guidance and thought I had enough time to finish in 3:29:59 or faster - the time required to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  (Over the course of the race, the passes and the unfamiliarity with the shortest line added a few hundred metres onto what one runs.)

It was a brilliant race. I felt strong throughout. There was one hill around the 22K mark where I breathed hard and gave myself a furrowed brow at what lay ahead but got back in gear as I reached the bottom and turned south toward a wooded path way that was away from the cars and was a comforting reminder of the path I take for my Sunday long runs.  Out there, I found reassurance in finishing my first 24K in just under two hours and keeping the pace under 5 minutes a kilometre or 8 minutes a mile. The only moment of dealing with the wall was around 36-37K and it was the most fleeting moment of weariness of mind, passing after a matter of seconds. From there on it was the challenge in running near solitude for the next 4.5K with only slower runners who were still working through the first half of their races to motivate me into a chase pace. On the last hill, I passed two more runners and came to that turn and last stretch.

Running a 3:30:09 marathon should not be a regret. Not when it is 8 minutes faster than my previous personal best. Not when it is 28 minutes than the first marathon I had this year when I salvaged my sense of failure by asking my preschool son if he was proud of me. He was and I assured him I would be proud of him should he ever feel he failed at something he tried hard at.

Even the briefest regret about those nine seconds is a perverse luxury.  After two and a half years of marathoning and some wonderful travels for the races I've done, Boston remains a Maxwell Smart "missed by that much" away, but that math and question are of little significance when compared with other goals, dreams and needs that people are a greater or merely unknown distance from attaining. I am, more than anything else, grateful for the opportunities I have had in my life to pursue this. I have had damn good health and more importantly so have those around me. I have had the time in my days and weeks to put the time into this. I have had the incalculable good fortune of living in a time of ease when I have had the energy to squeeze training into my week in my runs to and from work and the predawn long runs that mark my Sunday mornings. Blessings upon more blessings.

All of that makes me that more conscious of those people who want something so much more than that particular number or those specific nine seconds. I have had the opportunity to pursue goal that is within my control. The variables between me and those last nine seconds are almost entirely mine to assert my effort and will upon. I cannot help but acknowledge people in situations where what they want, dream of or need is beyond their command and all they are able to do be patient until fate offers them what they dream of. It is that undaunted patience that I will be inspired by the next time and when I decide how to proceed with my running and other goals. It is a remarkable blessing to have the means, the energy and the time to pursue running to the extent I have. Throughout my last few races, I have had the opportunity to settle into step with someone for a few K and talk about the race and our lives and just encourage each other along as we mark time and determine what we are able to on this given day. The support among runners as we give advice and encouragement or just take our mind off the race are abundant. Today though my consciousness takes me beyond those runners I race with or greet on my long runs to people I can't bond with over fuelling, intervals, or my beloved shoes to those who have goals far more substantial than my pursuit of those last 9 seconds.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Agora and Pizza

For the last decade I have been spending my Saturday lunches with a group of men who have dubbed themselves The Senate. I am one of the youngest trio of the group's regular attendees and I am an easy 30 years younger than the group. During the time that I have joined there have been marriages among the group, (including my own) health battles won and lost, three Prime Ministers, two Popes, the rise or fall of favorite teams and elections at the municipal, provincial and national levels. In other words, there has been no shortage of discussion and by the time we break camp after a few hours, we can confidently plant our tongue in cheek and declare that we have solved all the world's problems.

It is not that there is a like-mindedness that prevails at the table. There are Catholics (women-priest-liberal and scowl-at-Francis-conservative) , atheists and at least one aspiring Buddhist amongst the group. The range of political opinions is just as provocative and time and again, the debates raise an eyebrow of concern or amusement at the neighbouring tables. 

The range of opinions can result in testy exchanges and the only expulsion from the Senate was (wisely) a Alex Jones addled conspiracy head, who did not have the listen skills need for us to broaden the range of possibility beyond nefarious concoction of the government and the media. Despite the differences of opinion, there is still an ability to get through lunch without the battles getting personal, despite the impulse to resort to a bit of name-calling or indulging in a bash of the lefties.

Ultimately though, we do not take ourselves or our opinions too seriously. For the core of the Senate, who are somewhere in their mid-70s to mid-80s, the time together is precious, even if they have only gotten to know each other in the twilight. For all that is discussed within the realm of these three taboo topics, there are times when two of the guys lean across the table to one another to confer over some of the realities that are too common and too stark at this stage of their lives. These questions of ailing wives and dying old friends hit home more deeply and the conversation about political matters and the question of whether the Blue Jays merit the frustration that has been invested in them take a back seat as required.

These men are prepared to ponder other views, to wait their turn and make their contribution to the dialogue because it is only a venue to the bonding that we need for the more important conversations that are calling for an outlet for the personal issues and concerns that press in on them harder and harder each day.  At the end of lunch, we all come away more uncertain, but with the comfort that there is a salvation in the week to vent, get informed and know that we are not alone. We even come away with a sense of how we can make ourselves more adequate in some way, whether as friends, husbands, fathers or in some other capacity.

The dialogue is what draws together each week and has kept the exchange going as long as it has. If the opinions we hold have any relevance and we are bold enough to voice them and expose them to the polish and sanding that comes with the exchange and brings the refinement of opinion or thought process, we come away more capable to bond and to understand the opposing views.

The opinions get tested rather than merely aired in the echo chambers of our respective choirs or within the comfortable confines of an postal code or gated community that aligns with our untested tastes or beliefs. None of these men is voicing their opinion to a compliant, safely agreeable subculture to have them merely agree or nod. They have the wisdom to weigh disagreement, ponder it and even respect it.  Within the confines of the dialogue, however, there is ultimately the expectation to engage in a manner that is rational and respectful as well. That face-to-face exchange with people who can be contrary to us is missing because the temptation is to isolate ourselves in a more comfortable setting without the ennui that comes with uncertainty.

The reality is growing apparent, however, that the impulse in insulate or isolate ourselves makes a large number of us entirely unwilling to engage in the face-to-face conversation that would enlighten us.  The most foolish of believes and opinions goes untested and embeds itself ever more deeply into the broader noise that is broadcast on traditional and social media and with myriad channels and sources available to us we can hear only what we want to hear about any topic, person or political platform that we want to align our interests and opinions with. Instead of that, I encourage you to sit down with a disparate group of people on a regular basis and hear not only their opinions, but the stories of their lives.  You'd be enlightened by an uncertainty that would make you listen a little more carefully before you spoke.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Busyness and the Dead Heart

It is quite easy to let ourselves get caught up in a whirlwind of activity, especially in the workplace, and feed off the adrenalin that accompanies a looming deadline or unexpected change that -- individually or as a team -- must be dealt with.  Priorities, and perhaps even passions, get put onto back burners while tensions mount. Eventually, all this eases with a sense of accomplishment and there may even be a certain buzz that comes from a task completed.  Despite the valiant efforts that might earn a quiet pride upon reflection, there is still the very real sense of feeling absolutely spent at the end of the day.  

The problem during such distracting or even addictive stretches of busyness, especially if it is one introduced out of (perceived) panic, is that they are highly unlikely to align with one's priorities or passions.  The adrenalin rush takes over and the calm, focus and intent of peak performance morph into something that neither stokes the appropriate brain chemistry of flow nor aligns with your goals and values.  While being busy might sate the curiosity about whether or not one or one's work is valued or important, in other instances there might be a reason to exercise caution or concern about being busy. In Japanese, for instance, the character for busy is comprised of the radicals representing "heart" and "death." While this combination does not hinder the use of the term, it does embed a caution light in the dialogue about busyness that gets overlooked in English.

The interpretation of busyness as meaning or implying a "death of the heart" is not a challenging logical progression. Busyness, whether it is imposed or -- more dangerously -- sought, essentially reduces, pummels and/or imprisons the solitary time that we require to acknowledge and give shape to our goals and passions.  Busyness also evicts the possibility of peak performance in favour of the less mindful frenzy of multitasking and arbitrary deadlines because during those busy times we are likely not as mindful of what inspires us most deeply. 

It is worth adding that in Japanese, when the radicals for "heart" and "death" are written one above the other, instead of side-by-side, the character means forget - again, not a huge leap of logic or concept. We indeed forget when we are busy, we excuse forgetfulness when busy, and whether it is a short term sacrifice to achieve an objective or a motivated numbing busyness to isolate ourselves from challenges and difficulties that we would rather not face.

The possibility of busyness being allowed to overwhelm us at work is just one, and in some ways it may be the safer scenario.  Excessive demands in the workplace are more likely to prompt a detached or even resistant posture - just the attitude to make one keep score and keep promises to even the ledger when there is time to relax and reflect on the work.  In that setting you can be detached enough to recognize that the demands are unwelcome and make a promise to reward oneself with the downtime or the revitalization that would counter the negative effects of excessive busyness.

The bigger danger is when busyness is pursued for the comfort of staying occupied with something, anything, for the sake of muting the uncertainties that speak loudest in stillness and silence.  In that pursuit busyness is a toxin that keeps us from embracing the chaos that comes with our unique potential and evading the core of who we are and what we are most capable of being.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Incremental Descent: Can The Right Build On Trump?

The pessimist in me still ponders whether or not the right-wing mindset Donald Trump has embodied over the last year could see a revival in the future.

That remote possibility is hard to separate from the gravity of Trump's ego and his limitations as a leader or campaigner, but despite himself he still managed to secure the Republican Presidential nomination and galvanize a core of about 40% of the US electorate. While these are not exactly the most comforting parting gifts for the bridesmaid in this year's most popular reality program, Trump has still come frighteningly close to the car, plane, house and nuclear football that comprise the grand prize.

It remains hard to fathom that a candidate for US President could garner the support for the dangerous set of values - the sexism, the racism, the self-aggrandizement and the exclusion - that Trump has openly professed and voiced throughout his campaign.  Apart from the shell game that would amount to his version of trickle-down economics on steroids -- that is, if he actually has an economic plan, Trump has been completely unvarnished and crassly open about his positions and his values. Given the limitations Trump imposes on himself with his lack of restraint or a deep-seated desire to merely make the 2016 presidential campaign a complete farce, a campaigner with similar values might have an easy time whitewashing his or her positions on social policy and instead of being so offensive, campaign with enough veiled suggestions and hints about policy and values to stir the blood of the 40% core that Trump seems to have and cobble together enough interest to gain the Presidency and introduce a mandate similar to what Trump has to embodied and incited throughout his campaign.

Regardless of the assessment of the man or his campaign, Trump has captured the interest and the passion of a segment of the American population that feels threatened and fearful for the uncertainties of the times. Economic and social change have stirred fear in significant segments of the population and Trump's campaign has provided the first draft of the playbook to retain that core constituency in future elections and given a budding right-wing start a solid checklist of "don't's" to guide the pursuit of the votes required to capture the required portion of the Electoral College.  Just mop up a few of Trump's biggest mistakes or indulgences and polling numbers will turn upward and give the next far-right candidate the mandate required to set the United States back.

The economic anxieties will ebb and flow, but the progress toward a more open and tolerant society will not, unfortunately, proceed unopposed. There will always be people who will feel threatened by diversity and equality. There will always be people who will want the certitude of clear rules and exclusivity and there will be politicians time and again that will capture that. The next Trump wannabes are only waiting for the spotlight to beckon them.  It may only be a matter of time.

However, one thing that has held Trump in check throughout the campaign has been the absence images that would compel the electorate to recognize and rally to his cause. The post-mortem on the Trump campaign is to be seen, but one significant gap has been the absence of compelling language or imagery to rally people to Trump's side.  He went through the campaign cycle without a rallying cry any stronger than his instantly meme-able "Make America Great Again" and that tacky Made in China trucker hat, both of which pale and whither in comparison to the positive language and imagery that were such a compelling and appealing part of Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign.

The lasting image of Trump will be of him at a podium, distant, mugging and mocking. Such images -- whether on a dais with his opponents or with a backdrop of supporters -- merely project the flaws the man believes are his strengths and he seems to be campaigning against rather than for. He has, like a man of his generation, relied on words, which he has demonstrated only the most limited command of. At a time, when so little is read or even attended to when spoken, the sight of him railing from his distant podium all but ensures his failure.

Could a more literate, more telegenic, less narcissistic figure get further than Trump? Definitely.  The one variable that would put such a figure over the top and into a position may ultimately be the power of a catch phrase or an image that would stick in the public's imagination contagiously enough to gain power. The conditions would have to be ripe for this; fear would have to overpower hope and confidence in neighbours and best intentions or the common humanity that we share. The challenge, even in a fearful environment, would be to communicate the values that Trump and his followers profess with images that inspire more than they offend. (That might be one reason why time and again right-wing politicians and parties tend to grasp at stock images that are proven false or inaccurate.) Apart from Trump's time at his distant podium, away from the cries of children, the other images that dominate coverage of his rallies and speeches display hatreds that the majority of us would be prompted to halt before we would ever regard them as acceptable collateral damage or consequence of improving our own wellbeing.

Could we be protected from this threat merely by our preoccupation with image? No, but it'll help.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Of Assassins, Headline Crime and Faith

And yet we reel once again, from a crime and the symbolism that gets attributed to it. We reel while still reeling and trying to absorb at a time when the inability to absorb may suggest a rock-like hardness or impermeability. Attributing hardness and sticking to that suggests a bleak coldness of heart has come over us collectively. While it is easy to find pockets where sympathy has been ossified out of the heart, it is the hardness of head and certitude of thought, the over-reliance on first conclusion that contributes far too much hue and cry. Each crime that we hear of, regardless of the scale, seems to come with the travesty of the act but also an assault on the possibility of reflection. Assumptions are shared impulsively without the recognition of pattern that brings clarity to the crimes or to the myriad sides of the discussion.

There was a time when assassins were assumed to have had a political motive for their actions and in the last century that pantheon of criminals, from Gavrilo Princip to Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan were attributed the motives that we assumed included some degree of hunger for fame or significance. Little thought was given to the psychology among those individuals that set them on the path that lead them to the murders they committed. Frankly, the consequences were too significant for entire nations or continents for anyone to do a forensic psychological investigation, if this science was professionally practiced. 

Mark David Chapman's murder of John Lennon raised the question of whether or not it was actually an assassination or "merely" a murder. Indeed the victim was a famous man, but the consequences did not clearly alter the course of history the way other assassins did. The other significant thing that accompanied the Lennon murder was Chapman's possession of The Catcher in the Rye. That, the book was to blame for the murder according to some grossly uninformed, meaning-seeking sources and nearly four months later John Hinckley's obsession with Taxi Driver and Jodie Foster was cited as contributing to the attempt on President Ronald Reagan. Taxi Driver seemed to survive its moment of infamy better than Catcher, which may has been cited several times for possible links to crimes among its readers.

In the years that have passed there have been other members of society who have dissociated themselves from society or family and in turn committed crimes that have appalled, shocked and dismayed us. In the aftermath of the school shootings at Columbine in 1998 people tried to pin the connection to video games and The Matrix.  In 1990, Judas Priest was sued for the influence their music had on teens who had committed suicide. Time and time again people trying to find cause for such crimes stop at the most superficial answer and settle for it rather than pursuing the question more deeply and looking at a pattern that is consistent throughout a larger series of crimes or patterns of behaviour among those commit them.

Such a suggestion would never prompt those who attribute crimes directly to one's faith to pause and look more deeply for the dissociation that prompted them to commit their acts. The possibility is that, among those criminals who only have a superficial interest in a particular faith and clearly follow a pattern of behaviour that is in clear conflict with the tenets of a faith. Before criminals chose to associate themselves with a particular genre, novel, movie, line of employment or religion, they dissociated from the family or circle of support that ensured they remained conscious of and connected to the entire society. Before they sought to kill or main soldiers, diners, commuters, shoppers, jocks, school kids, the disabled, members of a race, faith or tax bracket that they considered a threat, there was an incident or a pattern that detached them from the rest of society. That happened first. The murders or terrorist acts committed in Ottawa and Quebec in 2014 were by people who only had a tenuous connection with ISIS or ISIL and acted in a way that directly conflicted with the faith they wanted to cloak their actions in. They remained dissociative despite the opportunities to practice a faith that allowed and encouraged them to become part of a welcoming community.

Amidst all of the crimes that have marked 2016 and provoked arguments about, religion, race, weapons and whatever else people choose to argue over in the absence of clear, well-regulated debate occurred a crime that must be taken into account and included in the discussion as we try to determine what it is that causes these individuals to wreak the pain and misery that they do. Earlier today, a 26-year-old man in the suburbs of the massive Tokyo-Yokohama megalopolis returned to his former place of employment and killed 19 of the residents (or patients) in a facility for the disabled and injured another 20. He had aspirations of becoming a teacher, being one of those individuals that we as a society rely on to be the glue that helps hold society together but, as the Associated Press put it, "somewhere along the way, things went terribly awry." What attributed to this young man's slide toward the state of mind that prompted these murders is yet to be investigated. In the absence of a faith or explicit otherness that can be attributed to him by the Japanese media, they will have to grapple with the dissociation that gradually occurred in this young man rather than attribute it to one of the superficial causes that the Western media and the uninformed social media peanut gallery will attribute it to.
The investment of these criminals' energy in The Matrix, Catcher, Ozzy Osbourne, Taxi Driver, the Communist Party is ultimately incidental and the same can and must be said of religious faiths as well. All faiths have flaws and I am not going to defend the flaws of one over any other in this post. Catholics and Protestants in Ireland have had their roles in crimes beyond their borders but these are overlooked as other faiths are smeared. There are, however, devout Muslims who are nothing short of petrified by the pattern of crimes which are superficially associated with their religion. The first reason for this fear is, of course, the assumption among Westerners that they and their religion are a threat to peace and order throughout the world. The greater concern that many of them have, is the threat this pattern of crime may have on their children, their confidence in the faith they are raised in and its standing in the community. Parents, all of us, want to ensure that our children are raised to be empathetic and feel a sense of community and connectedness that will make us love, serve and support one another. That is the aspiration of most, if not all parents. The faith that we practice and pass on to our children is part of that sense of connection that we want to form among our children to ensure that they do not dissociate and cause such harm to themselves or to others. As the practice of faith becomes a more dangerous enterprise, as the commitment to this particular pillar of community gets called into doubt, these parents must raise their children exceptionally cautious and self-conscious about the purpose of their faith being questioned and denigrated with such exceptional and unbridled malice.