How Not to Advance Your Cause—and a Better Alternative:
(c) 2014, Davd
The 70th Anniversary of D-Day was pushed out of first place in the Atlantic CBC news by a multiple murder—all of whose victims were police. For a whole day, June 5th, Moncton, New Brunswick was shut down: No bus service, schools and stores closed, residents of one section of town ordered to lock their houses and hide in their basements. In the first minutes of June 6th, the man “everyone” said had done it, was captured.
Justin Bourque, the radio news told me June 5th, had recently become a survivalist, moved out of his parents’ home [at age 23 or 24], and was reputed to have taken up drugs more worrisome than ‘recreational pot’. He expressed hatred for police and government control. A gun dealer whose shop had survivalist clients and staff, stated publicly that Bourque had not bought weapons nor ammunition from it, though he was socially linked to staff. (When Calgary’s Earl Silverman, frustrated for many years in his efforts to gather support for a safe house for men violently abused by women, committed suicide, his friends remembered him kindly1. People who were linked to Bourque that i heard of, were “distancing themselves”.)
Then, once Bourque had been captured by the RCMP, the news mentioned a court appearance and charges of murder, but no more about his background and character, only that his father had expressed concern to the authorities and been told nothing could be done if Justin had not yet committed a crime..
Several years ago now, in Mayerthorpe, Alberta, another lone gunman killed four Mounties. I did hear his name mentioned once on the radio this past week, in connection with the problem of identifying potential multiple murderers before they kill. (Will Bourque’s name be shoved in our ears every June? I doubt it. The name of the Mayerthorpe killer hasn’t been. Marc Lepine’s name is shoved in our ears by ideological Feminist “vested interests.” The normal reaction to a despicable deed by a probable madman is to let its memory fade with time, which is what happened after the Mayerthorpe murders.)
Bourque’s was not a “men’s rights” nor even misogynist action. One of the two wounded police was a woman. The other wounded constable, and the three who were killed, were men. Given that women make up a minority of police, it seems evident that Bourque’s hatred was directed at police, not women.
As an act in support of anarchy or even increased liberty, it was a dismal failure: The evening of June 6th, after Bourque’s capture, people gathered at the Moncton police station in a vigil of sympathy and support. Before and after, flowers and candles were left at the station in memory of the officers who had been killed and sympathy for the wounded. For six days sympathy and public support for the RCMP dominated the CBC News—the shooting dominated the news for longer than the attacks of September 11, 2001, in which over 3,000 people were killed, dominated the US news2.
Far from bringing the police or the law into disrepute or even doubt, the attacks increased public support dramatically. Those who agree, somewhat or greatly, with survivalism, or oppose the increased regimentation of these times (as compared, for instance, to the times when i was a young man and a boy) are going to be less rather than more likely to express their anti-authoritarianism—for fear of being associated with Bourque, and because of the increased sympathy for “authority”.
If he thought he was some kind of Robin-Hood, he was very much mistaken. Robin-Hood was one of a band of two dozen or more “outlaws”, men who the Ruling Class of the time had denied the normal protections of the law. Robin-Hood, Little John, Alan A’Dale, Friar Tuck, and the rest, robbed rich people who passed through Sherwood Forest—and gave much of what they took, to the poor. They occasionally committed, and much more often threatened, violence—but what they did about wealth was much more like the teachings of Jesus, Moses and Muhammad than like self-serving bandits or pirates… and they were a community, living an alternative to the legal and social-class arrangements of the time, and linked socially to the common people around them.
As for Western Canada’s Louis Riél, he had more men—and women, and children—with him, by far, than Robin-Hood. The Prairie Métis had a working society in much more harmony than conflict with the “First Nations” around them—and even a Provisional Government—they weren’t rebels; they were defending themselves. Like the First Nations, they were defeated by a colonial army with more weapons and troops than they had.
Justin Bourque did himself and his cause, much more harm than if he had gone to the police station or the courthouse, doused himself with gasoline, and lit it on fire; or hanged himself in some out-of-the-way place, in either case, without hurting anyone else. Tom Ball “set himself on fire in front of the Cheshire County Court House,” (in the State of New Hampshire, USA, as reported in a local newspaper); and his Last Words are respected by many men’s interest advocates3. Earl Silverman hanged himself in his garage shortly before the sale of his house closed; he had struggled for two decades to gain some recognition and social support for men who had been violently abused by women, being himself such a man. His story is respected, and if we can get his Last Statement, we intend to provide it also.
In other words, by killing three police and wounding two others, Bourque made himself more of a loser, not less. Or as my Christian faith teaches, seek fellowship, seek refuge, but don’t seek vengeance.
I believe we do live in an overly authoritarian society. How valid Bourque’s grievance against police and government was, what it was even, i can’t say; and unlike Earl Silverman’s last words, i’m not looking for Bourque’s. He tainted them too badly with his last acts. I can mourn Earl Silverman, and wish he had accepted my invitation for a retreat. I can mourn Tom Ball likewise, though i learned of his life only from his death, too late to think about inviting him. Like most sane men whose work is not “doing psychiatry”, i don’t want to meet, much less invite, the sort who might go on a murderous rampage.
Notice that i did not recommend suicide. I respect it as a better alternative to futile violence; i also regard it as an inferior alternative to getting together.
If anyone reading this has strong negative attitudes or feelings—antipathies, is the Latin word—toward some social wrong, and has come to the end of his [or her] patience, my advice is, to repeat: Seek fellowship, seek refuge, but don’t seek vengeance. Even better, don’t wait until you’re bitter—seek fellowship, and if you don’t have a good home, seek refuge with other like-minded men.
If there’s a man like Earl Silverman out there who doesn’t have the fellowship or the refuge he should have (maybe simply because where he lives, shelter is so expensive, as it was in Earl’s Calgary) there’s an e-mail address at everyman dot ca called replies—human readers should be able to put that together, spam robots, i hope, can’t—and i check it every week or so. Maybe this week i’ll try to check it oftener. I have two spare bedrooms4, over 90 acres of mostly forest, and a good prayer garden; and i’m interested in corresponding with men who are getting together in other places.
I expect to give a little priority here, to those who like ecoforestry and horticulture, who write well, and to fellow Christians; but Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, and men of smaller well-disciplined faiths like Sikhs and Native American spiritualities, need not be shy.
1. Silverman’s faults were mentioned; they were faults many men and women have. He was honoured not by pretending the faults weren’t there, but for who he was even with them.
2. This is not to imply that the Moncton shootings will claim as much public attention in future, as the destruction of the World Trade Center has repeatedly claimed since 2001. (The damage to the Pentagon building has had far less subsequent attention.) I happen to live a few hours’ journey from Moncton. What this is meant to assert, not merely imply, is that public support for the RCMP and for “authority” was strikingly increased by the shootings.
Since the state funeral for the constables who were killed, there have been many local stories about memorials to them and for other police killed on duty, about grief counselling for their families and colleagues, and about charitable fund raising for the families they left behind.
3. Not all of us who respect the statement overall, advocate the use of Molotov cocktails. It is worth remembering that the USA began with a Revolutionary War in which, Tom Ball wrote, his ancestor Elijah served—also as a sergeant.
4. The house is plain and awkwardly designed—but i could afford to pay for it and the land “in full” and have some savings left. A handful of good men could build a much better house to live in, and this one could become the guest house.