Yesterday, I watched the news in horror, as I heard about the incident in Toronto where a van mounted the sidewalk in a major retail/business section in Toronto and ploughed into crowds of people over a kilometres stretch, and killed 10 and injured 16 more. It was eerily similar to such vehicle attacks in London, and Nice that have happened during the past few years. It was a horrible scene of unprovoked violence. How could anyone do this? What made this all the more real for me was unlike London where I have visited once or twice, or unlike Nice that I have never visited, I knew this Toronto neighbourhood very well. I worked in that neighbourhood. I have many friends who live in that neighbourhood. I have friends who live in apartment buildings that overlook the streets where yesterday's carnage happen. Yesterday's devastation hit home for me because it was in my former backyard.
After yesterday's carnage, just like other such killings, people asked the question of why? How could such a thing happen? What motivated the driver to commit such harm? And here's where Toronto's tragedy differs from London's and Nice's- the driver in Toronto did not seem to be politically motivated. The theory right now is that the Toronto driver had some mental issues regarding being rejected by women. He was not a political extremist.
Some people would end the story there. He was mentally disturbed and not an extremist. He is not like the others. But is that the end of the story? I don't think so. One, I don't think people who feel included in a society will commit such acts as evil. If I feel that I am valued, that my unique view of the world is tolerated, then most likely I am not going lash out at others. We, as a society, need to look at the ways we treat those who feel that they are on the margins. How can we better love them, so that they can feel love and not hatred towards others? How do we amend our ways so no one feels so left out.
Two, we are a society that is addicted to instant fame. Andy Warhol said that everyone would be granted their 15 seconds of fame. That is increasingly difficult in a world of 7 billion people. That is increasingly difficult in a world of Facebook, Instagram, Youtube where anyone who is online can be a star. There are so many ways to be heard out there that we get drowned out in the noise. For people who have no self esteem and want to be heard, the only way possible is to commit a horrendous act.
Three, we seem as a society addicted to violence. In this age of 24/7 news coverage, one thing is clear- we love watching carnage. We watched the violence of Columbine and Sandy Hook. We don't watch stories that are uplifting, faithful, and awe inspiring. And since we are addicted to violence, more horrific deeds are done to grab our attention.
Four, we don't handle issues of mental illness well. A statistic in Canada says that in our lifetime one in five of us will suffer from mental illness of some sort- from mild depression to violent delusional schizophrenia and in between. Thankfully 99.99% of these people will not drive vans into crowds of helpless pedestrians. But yesterday's van driver shows us that there are gaps in our mental health care system. Maybe if more money were spent on the diagnosing and treatment of the mentally ill, there would be fewer incidents like the deaths on Yonge Street yesterday.
Why do such needless deaths of people happen in our world? We will never know all of the reasons. We will never be able to explain it all away. But maybe, just maybe, if our world was a more caring and loving, if we made opportunity to hear from the voices less heard from, if we include the stranger's voice as well as the familiar, if we promote the good more and tune out the violence, and if we spend more time caring for the health of all people rather then on better ways to kill people- maybe if we do these things there will be fewer people left asking why. Blessings.
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