Listen Up! We ignore at our peril the consequences of allowing terrorists to continue to gnaw on the fabric of society

Hugh Mackenzie Huntsville Doppler

Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler


I scrapped my column for today. It was partly written when I decided to take a break and turn on the television. What I saw took a moment to sink in. After that, there was no way I could write about anything else.

Yet another horrendous tragedy, this time not that far away in Florida. At least 50 people killed and another 53 injured in a shooting spree at a gay nightclub. Call it a hate crime, call it a terrorist attack. Whatever it is, surely it must finally be a wake-up call. The attack is the largest mass shooting in the entire history of the United States and the worst of any kind since the 9/11 attack on The World Trade Center. But since then, there have been so many more unthinkable acts of terror, in Boston, in Paris, in Brussels and, yes, in Halifax and on Parliament Hill to name just a few. When are we going to say ENOUGH ?

It was sad to see U.S. President Barack Obama address his nation today about this current tragedy. He has had to do it at least a dozen times before and each time it was with visible anger, empathy and resolve. This time, although he said all the right things, it was scripted and not spontaneous as he usually is. He just sounded defeated.

Although the investigation is barely underway, it already seems clear that the killer was a disciple of ISIS and may have had direct ties to them. It is also clear he worked for a national security business and was able to access arms capable of mass destruction, with impunity.

Finding the ‘root cause’, as one politician put it a year or two ago, for these consistent terrorist attacks that have now taken on global significance is not the answer. The time for that is long past. Nor is blaming an entire ethnic entity for the actions of radicals within their midst. It is simply a waste of time and resources when all energy needs to be directed at the bad guys, wherever they are and whoever they are and taking them down as the animals they are.

Too many of us have stuck our heads in the sand and ignored what is happening to our drastically changing world, believing it can never happen here, when in fact it has. We have just closed our eyes and moved on. We may be correct in insisting that acts of violence will not change who we are and will not change how we live or act. But we ignore at our peril the consequences of allowing terrorists, domestic or external, racist or homophobic, or just plain nuts, to continue to gnaw on the fabric of our society. It is time to stop them dead in their tracks, pun intended.

So how do we do this? First we need to give intelligence and enforcement agencies every tool they need to stop terrorist attacks before they happen and apprehend those who try to make them happen. I know that there are those committed to preserving our civil rights that have great trouble with this. But withholding the ability to ultimately protect those civil rights is not the answer. I would not hesitate to throw any official who misuses these powers in jail for a very long time. Until that happens, however, they need to have the ability to do their job.

Second, the almost wholesale availability of guns, especially those that only belong in a war zone, has to be addressed. I understand the defense that guns don’t kill, people do. But people can’t kill if they don’t have weapons. I also understand that most Americans believe that the right to bear arms is guaranteed by their Constitution. But terrorism and criminal acts are not. At the very least we need to know where these guns are, what kind of weapons they are, and who has them. For the life of me, I cannot see how this violates anyone’s civil or constitutional rights.

Finally, we need to get to the heart of the cancer, whether it is ISIS, Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist cells, whether they be foreign or domestic. If boots are needed on the ground, we must put boots on the ground. If governments need to work with others they might otherwise spurn, they must do so. Whatever it takes, this radical approach to unacceptable and drastic change in our world must be stopped.

If I sound angry, I am. More than that though, I am deeply frustrated. Frustrated because none of the above will likely happen. Intelligence agencies will still be handcuffed, weapons of all types will still be readily available and governments will prevaricate on taking any substantive action. Most likely, we will simply close our eyes and move on with a stiff upper lip until the next step in this horrendous change in world order occurs, as it surely will! We will just pretend that it will never happen. And that, in my view, is a damn shame.


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  1. Solving this, if it can ever be solved, won’t be easy. How does one deal with people whose cultural and or religious beliefs are so often intolerant, sensitive, and in their more extreme forms, justifying carrying out murder as an acceptable way of dealing with an afront to those beliefs?
    The willingness to die in imagined martyrdom with promised lavish rewards for these savage deeds makes dealing with this problem very difficult for western societies who work through due process.
    Clearly gun control of some kind is probably not going to accomplish much at least in the short term. A Canadian style control system would be a good start but there are already enough guns of all kinds out there to last for a long time.
    The answer I am afraid must involve some sort of drastic change in the way society is prepared to meet and deal with the people involved and yes, most likely to be involved.
    Yes this smells distasteful. Yes it isn’t the way we prefer to operate. Yes if we continue to do things the way we are doing them the problem will become unmanageable.
    Our enemies are smart and ruthless and looking in their thousands for martyrdom.
    We can’t grasp this as we haven’t been programmed that way but our enemies have.
    This point of view may be politically incorrect and objectionable. I find it so myself.
    But the answer is not the status quo with the feel good attitudes Canadians are comfortable with.
    We need urgently to change our tactics.
    The world has changed.

  2. I must say I am disappointed that this issue hasn’t attracted more reaction from the readership of Doppler. I know here are many readers with high intelligence and usually much engaged in the important topics Hugh chooses, writing considered and thoughtful responses.

    This topic particularly, I should have thought, would challenge the readership and provoke spirited response. Instead there has been near silence. Perhaps the events are simply too dreadful to think about?
    Perhaps the issue has finally caused readers to examine their comfortable attitudes to the larger issues arising with the subject matter and found their natural responses to be inadequate? Confronting these issues isn’t comfortable for most Canadians but as some thinkers have been suggesting for quite a while we must do it.
    I recommend anyone wishing to add some thoughtful ideas to the process of forming an opinion on the subject to read Fr. Raymond de Souza’s column the National Post, Wed June 15th. Look in the Issues and Ideas section, page 10. It is an excellent and thought provoking column.

    We all need to do more than ignore what is happening around us.

  3. As Mr. Boyes avers, the response by both your readership, and the U.S. leadership, has been underwhelming. An unfortunate by-product has been that only the vitriolic Mr. Trump has benefited from this horrendous “hate crime”.

    Why does Congress not dispense with their funding ban on research into the root causes of these violent aberrations? Since Sandy Hook, there have been another 2000 fatalities in these mass shooting sprees. How many have been “hate crimes”? How many have involved drugs, specifically SSRI’s (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors)? How many involve disgruntled employees, disenfranchised members of society, mental illness? Why are automatic and semi-automatic assault weapons so readily available?

    Finally, why are Canadians so smug? In the lifetime of a country, is it really so long since our own “hate crime” at L’Ecole Polytechnique? Those female engineers would have encouraged other young women to pursue a non-traditional career: How many were discouraged instead?

    To the members of the LGBTQ2S community in Orlando, R.I.P. I hope that you have not died in vain.

  4. Pamela Smyth on

    Dear Hugh, you summed up what I have been thinking about before and since the Orlando killings. As Canadians, we have to take responsibility to limit the type of guns(their purpose) and those who want to buy them. Restricting gun ownership is a proven method to minimize the loss of human life. Give the law enforcement agencies the tools to investigate and apprehend those who are a danger to this society. Political leadership, whether the party in power or the opposition, needs to be united on this front. Please, keep the discussion going, even at the local level, we need to be aware, as you rightly say, that even if these horrific killings seem far away, they are very close to home. Thank you for your editorial.

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