In a split second our world changed

Tuesday’s horror is so big that it’s hard to embrace what happened.

As we sat, numbed, in front of our television sets, it was like was watching a scene from a shoot-em-up movie. Independence Day. Except the tables turned.

And on Tuesday, September 11, our lives were changed irrevocably. They will never be the same.

That may sound melodramatic, but it’s true. The sabotage and murder that occurred in New York City and Washington was not directed at individuals. It was not directed at a religious group. It was directed at democracy. And I suspect as the days unfold that we’ll find out that Canada offered unwittingly a doorway into America for the perpetrations of these crimes.

I think all of us were numbed as we considered not only the horror of what happened to thousands of innocent, working people on Tuesday. It’s so big. It’s big to watch, to listen to, to comprehend. And as we think about the sheer organization, planning and skill that went into these crimes, it gets even bigger. As we consider who is the “enemy” those of us old enough to remember look back to World War Two where the enemy was clear. It’s also clear that our “enemy” has no value on human life.

Our loss of innocence occurred on Tuesday. Our complacency has been kneejerked and as a nation we can’t ignore our contact with these horrendous crimes.

Canada has long been differentiated as a nation with cultural attitudes that are unique. Perhaps because we’re a country founded on diversity, our tolerance level, our acceptance level and our attitudes are more borderless than those of the economic power to our south.

Few Canadians would argue the fact that our immigration policy is critical to maintenance of our infrastructure as a nation. We need sheer numbers of people in this country to fuel our economy, to support our pension plans, to assume work places in our economy. We don’t have those numbers on our own soil. And few Canadians would turn away immigrants and refugees with legitimate claims and sincere desire to embrace the Canadian way of life.

With Tuesday’s murders and economic and military attacks, Canadians are going to be asked to examine our attitudes about our open door policies.

I think it’s going to be an enormous task for our politicians to look at legislation which remains true to Canadian roots but is reflective of today’s new reality. Our immigration policy, our security policies, our customs and clearance policies will all come under scrutiny. And rather than rules which safeguard a country built on positive attitude, we’re going to have to work together to support a political process which enhances what we have and protects why we have it.

Not knowing who and why and where is as frightening as the reality of the horror that happened on Tuesday. Like everyone, I have images burned on my brain of people dying, people desperate to reverse their terror. And in these days that follow, the grief, the fear, the anger, the lust for revenge will overtake hundreds of thousands of people. It’s an awesome image. It won’t go away. It hurts.

There are many little things we can do, like give blood and donate to rescue efforts. We can call our politicians, or write them with our views about what elements should be retained in the welcome gates at our borders. We can work together as a nation to protect what’s important to us.

We can soften our anger at the little things in our lives. We can massage our environments with kindness to other people. We can let our families and friends know that we love them.

But it won’t take away what happened on Tuesday. And it won’t soften the agony of the families who are suffering enormous human loss. Nothing will do that.

The American people treasure four freedoms, cornerstones of democracy that are remembered so well in Norman Rockwell’s eloquent paintings: freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of speech, freedom of worship. These are American cornerstones? Are they Canadian cornerstones? Do we want to protect them?

Perhaps as thinking, feeling people we must turn our attitudes to next Tuesday. It’s International Day of Peace on September 18. What can I, as an individual, do to commemorate that?