Pondering on the Purpose of Remembering

It’s December 14th and the memorials for the Montreal Massacre are done for another year.  This year December 6th fell on the date my column is printed – Tuesday.  The only positive aspect of the day was that I could write about it on the day of and not before or after.

This column was just waiting to pop out, although it took some time thinking about what to say, whether there’s anything new to say, something that will gain attention, something that will make people think differently about violence against women.  Something that could trigger an aha moment in someone.  I doubt I was successful.

The readers comments are always interesting to read.  I have to steel myself to them; very few comments in the online edition are favourable.  It was a quick discovery when my first column was published, the propensity for some people to be rude.  But everyone who deals with online comments knows that.  The favourable comments I receive come to me in my personal inbox.  They are a bright spot in my day and quick to respond to.  I try to respond to everyone who takes the time to write.  But I digress.

So it was with some trepidation that I came to read the comments after my column was published on the importance of remembering.  I know that although the comments were mostly negative, it was a good column and my point did come home to several people who went out of their way to communicate the significance of the subject matter to them.  And some of these individuals happened to be men.  I appreciate their “getting it”.

Before I write a column I read around the issue to see what others have written, don’t want to be redundant, and if there’s a better idea then I’ll trumpet that one.  The spark for this year’s column came from one written by Margaret Wente of the Globe and Mail.  The idea that we need to “get over” our “death cult” obsession was a sentiment that at least she had the presence of mind to hold off expressing in print until after the day had come and gone.

In light of the tragedy in Kingston it’s a sentiment just a bit premature.

I posted a link to my column on my Facebook site and received some likes and a few comments.  But one friend in particular wanted to equalize the day, and advocate for an eliminate of all violence, which, of course I support.  It’s one of those “motherhood” statements – who doesn’t want world peace?  But that’s not what this is about.

Then, this friend argues, I diminish the tragedy that befell the 14 young engineering students who are subsumed by a movement larger than them: violence against women.  Like targeting women and shooting them in cold blood because they’re women isn’t somehow a manifestation of violence against women.  But that was just a one-off, is the response.  Ummm.  No it’s not.

I don’t have to scratch the surface of my memory too hard to painfully pull from it the facts of several particularly public cases that made the front pages of newspapers all around the Golden Horseshoe.  In one case, the woman ran from her house naked and screaming.  He ran out and clawed her back in before he shot her.

Then there’s the case of the guy with the crossbow who shot his estranged wife in the chest in the middle of the day in a busy downtown Canadian city.  Killed her cold.

No.  The Montreal Massacre may have been a one-off in its size and effect, but it wasn’t a one-off in its intent: to lash out at women for the woes of the world.  It can be the only justification for such an drastic action.  Burning the toast just doesn’t seem important enough.

Not every man is abusive toward the women in his life.  To think so would be to ignore the humanity that we all share, men and women.  The stats say that those who perpetuate domestic violence are typically repeat offenders.  One man can do a lot of damage to a lot of women.  That could be behind the reluctance of many men to believe violence against women statistics:  they just refuse to believe they, or their buddies, act in any way that is violent toward women.  It hasn’t been their experience.

And of course, what guy boasts about beating his woman to another man?

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