Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Are All Heroes Equal?

The tragic events of last week have given me much to think about.  Taking my mind off my new role as care giver and chief cook and bottle washer as Lorna recovers from a hip replacement I have been pondering the events in which two Canadian soldiers were murdered in cold blood.  There are many issues that arise from those events which have been extensively covered in the media including the state of security on Parliament Hill and in Canada in general.  However, in the last few days I have been taken with how the death of the two soldiers has been treated in the media and the response of the public.
Both men died in ways that were similar.  Both were in uniform and serving their country in the armed forces.  Both were murdered by men who reportedly had mental problems and had found meaning in the ideology presented on-line by terrorist groups which claim to be the true though distorted representation of Islam.  Both men were killed in Canada and not serving on foreign shores.  Both men were unarmed.  One was targeted by a deliberate hit and run driver and the other was fatally shot.  Finally, both the murderers were killed by authorities following the death of their victims. 
Despite the similarities the response to the two deaths has been amazingly but perhaps not surprisingly different.  If I was to mention Cpl. Nathan Cirillo you would probably recognize it as the name of one of the soldiers who was killed.  But if I was to ask you the name of the other soldier would you be able to name him or recognize it?  I was not able to without looking it up on the internet.  It is Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent.  There has been an outpouring of grief in the form of memorials and remembrances and comments for Cpr. Cirillo.  However, the response, as reported in the press, to the death of Warrant Officer Vincent has been shall we say subdued. 
There are of course reasons for this.  Cpr. Cirillo was an attractive person – good looking, vigorous, young, father of a young child. Pictures and descriptions of him have been plentiful in the media.  Warrant Officer Vincent, on the other hand, is middle aged, not so photogenic and details and descriptions of him have been generally lacking.  He had served in the military for 28 years compared to Cpr. Cirillo serving in the reserves for a much briefer time.  Despite the similarities the events were very in some ways very different.  Warrant Officer Vincent was killed in a hit and run which also injured another soldier in what could be described as rather less than dramatic circumstances.  Cpr. Cirillo, on the other hand, was murdered in very different circumstances.  He was gunned down at the National War Memorial.  This is in itself filled with symbolic meaning.  His attacker went on to break into the Parliament Buildings, the home of our democracy.  He was killed in a shootout by the sergeant of arms of Parliament in a way that could not have been scripted more dramatically by Hollywood. 
There is nothing intrinsic in the deaths which set the two victims apart.  Both died tragically but not in what could be called heroic circumstances.  It is in my opinion very unfortunate that their deaths are being treated so differently.  The loss of both lives is tragic and sorrowful for all who loved them.  And yet through no action of theirs the loss of Cpr. Cirillo is given much more significance and honour by the media and the public in general.  I do not know how this difference is perceived and felt by the family of Warrant Officer Vincent.  Perhaps they are glad of the lack of publicity but I can’t imagine they do not question why their loss seems much less important than the loss of Cpr. Cirillo to his loved ones and the nation.  This to my mind only adds to the tragedy of both events. 
One more note, it is commendable that in their time of sorrow, the family of Warrant Officer Vincent  reached out to the family of their son’s murderer, saying their thoughts are with them “as they go through these difficult moments.”
I will keep all those who loved Cpr. Cirillo and those who loved Warrant Officer Vincent in my prayers. 

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