National Post The last white ribbon(National Post December 05, 2007)


National Post - Wednesday December 5th, 2007


Barbara Kay, National Post 

Published: Wednesday, December 05, 2007

MONTREAL -'I may sound callous," said a mental health professional in a national newspaper, "but doesn't grieving have a shelf life? …Let's wind it down."

This quote was contained in a September article in The New York Times suggesting the need for a tapering-off of 9/11 anniversary rituals. "Many people feel that the collective commemorations, publicly staged, are excessive and vacant, even annoying," the author noted.

The article cited other individuals who likened 9/11 to the recent Minneapolis bridge collapse or a tornado. None of those quoted perceived the attack as an act of war, or the 3,000 victims as representative of the millions of Americans al-Qaeda hoped eventually to kill.

By contrast, the Canadian public never seems to weary of the annual Dec. 6 tribute to the 1989 Montreal Polytechnique shooting massacre of 14 women. Indeed, 12/6's branding power burgeons with every anniversary: The theme of violence against women dominates the media; new physical memorials are constructed; additional programs decrying domestic violence against women are entrenched in school curricula; masses of white ribbons are distributed; more stringent gun control is more strenuously urged. Their cumulative effect is to link all Canadian men to a global conspiracy against women of jihadist proportions.

The dumbing down of 9/11 from global to random significance, and the elevation of 12/6 from random to global significance are disturbing signs of a confused, self-defeating cultural zeitgeist.

Public tributes to the fallen can bring out the best or the worst in our national character. We see the best in our beautiful Remembrance Day ceremonies, formulated in an era of national pride and cultural confidence, when male heroism was considered a quality deserving of public recognition. But now, a "grandfathered" Nov. 11 is the only day of the year when feminist ideologues refrain from overt misandry.

We see the worst on Dec. 6, a day when truly one may reasonably ask, "doesn't grieving … have a shelf life?" We should indeed wind it down, for it is as unethical to denounce an entire gender for an individual's behaviour as we all acknowledge it would be in the case of a race or religion.

And illogical. Logic would demand that the buried name of Laurie Dann be as recognizable and as reviled as that of 12/6 killer Marc Lepine's. Dann's hatred for boys exceeded Lepine's for women. A year before the Montreal massacre, this equally psychotic Chicago woman shot five elementary-school boys, poisoned two fraternity kitchens, torched the Young Men's Jewish council, burned two boys in their homes, shot her own son, and murdered an eight-year old boy, claiming he had raped her.

Lepine-generated male-bashing is often justified by the fact that more men kill women than women kill men. But who would justify a woman-bashing tribute to Dann's victims on the grounds that statistically more women than men abuse children (which they do)? What is lost in the emotional shuffle is that only a statistical sliver of either sex is violent to anyone, so all gender-demonizing impulses are sexist and immoral.

Commemorative ceremonies serve an edifying purpose when they facilitate a unifying rite of formal mourning for national tragedies, ceremonies that strengthen collective resolve to combat real, not perceived threats. Unifying is the key word: If public ceremonies divide instead of uniting the citizenry, they demoralize rather than edify the nation.

We should not fund grief rituals that nurture conspiracy theories and phobias. The 12/6 tribute has become a propaganda mill for both. It is high time we turned our attention and public funds to worthier commemorative projects. How is it that we have yet to inaugurate a yearly ceremony for the 25 Canadians who died in the Trade Towers?

More shamefully: Where, after 23 years, is our annual commemorative ceremony for the 329 lost souls of Air India flight 182? Are real terrorists of colour less indictable than "men"? Reject the sexist white ribbon of shame.

bkay@videotron.ca