Friday, October 31, 2014

Was Nathan Cirillo A Hero?

As I noted on this blog previously, it is always a tragedy when a young person loses his or her life, whether to accident, disease, or mayhem. The lost potential is incalculable. Like me, however, I suspect many found the mythologizing of Nathan Cirillo's murder, his passage on the Highway of Heroes, and what amounted to a state funeral, attended by an array of dignitaries, including the Prime Minister, a little much. And as a cynical observer of the political landscape, I cannot escape the notion that all of the ceremony will prove to be of great benefit to the Harper regime's propaganda machine and its ongoing efforts to reduce our civil liberties.

This morning, a friend of mine alerted me to a piece by the Hamilton Spectator's Andrew Dreschel. It is a frank and honest assessment of this past week's spectacle. It is also brave, as I suspect it will earn him a barrage of hate mail.

While in no way detracting from the loss of this young man, Dreschel offers an unsentimental assessment of what happened:
The 24-year-old Hamilton reservist was murdered in cold blood by a homeless crack addict with terrorist notions while he was ceremonially guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

Cirillo's death was tragic and senseless, but in no way was it heroic.
Dreschel then goes on to talk about what constitutes heroism: those who display remarkable courage,
by performing brave deeds and daring feats — risking or sacrificing your life to save others, valiantly defending a position, boldly destroying the enemy.
But Cirillo never got the chance to show the stuff of which he was made:
He died unprepared and unarmed, the unlucky victim of a seemingly deranged killer who was himself gunned down after storming Parliament.
All of the subsequent coverage gave this tragedy a life of its own, culminating in what the writer describes as secular canonization.

Dreschel ends on this note:
Through no action of his own, the accidental victim had become an accidental hero. But sadly, like all accident victims, he just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Unsentimental and accurate, the column raises some disturbing issues that we should all be honest enough and brave enough to confront. Of course, it is right to feel grief and empathy in tragic situations; obviously it is part of what makes us human. But we should also be keenly aware that those very human responses can work to our detriment if they are not leavened by the knowledge that those in positions of trust with far darker motives may try to exploit them to their own advantage.


  1. .. its an unusual case, to say the least.. and certainly I think in light of the tragedy and circumstance there is absolutely nothing wrong is using the term hero. The young man was attacked because of the uniform he wore and where he was standing on guard.

    At the same time, Kevin Vickers is seen as a hero despite obvious questions and lack of information regarding the shooting in the halls of Parliament. At this point I have seen no questions or information on how many shots the gunman fired, other than the 3 at The Cenotaph, one struggling with an unarmed security guard and apparently one in each door of the Conservative and the NDP caucus rooms while running by (so 6 shots from him at this point)

    Was his rifle empty or still loaded when he was killed? Surely a pertinent question and how could 'the authorities' not know. Did he have additional ammunition on his person when his body examined?

    Was he asked to surrender? Did he respond? Was the library door locked, thus trapping him in a dead end. Various reports suggest he may have been shot many times, even 12 to 20 times before Vickers seemingly killed him while huddled against a column.

    How many empty 30-30 brass shells were collected from the crime scenes and two vehicles? Is he seen reloading at any time? He could have replaced the 3 shots fired at The Cenotaph once back in his car, but highly unlikely while driving. It would have been almost impossible while running to thumb single cartridges into that lever action rifle.

    Based on the silence or absense of answers to those questions, one could easily infer the gunman attacked with a rifle that only had 7 cartridges and died with an empty gun. Where are the gunman's bullets from the 'gunfight' where up to 50 shots may have been fired. Seems logical that his shots would travel back up the hallway towards the Mounties, Police and Commons Security

    There won't be a trial, the gunman is dead. Tony Clement, Chuck Strahl et al bolted out an exit to another floor after hearing the gunfight, yet claim they ran right into the fusillade? A quadrapalegic MP was left to face the unknown threat with the remaining MP's, none of whom saw the PM disappear into a closet. No heroism apparent there. But certainly courage and heroism of Mounties etc chasing and shooting an armed gunman

    1. You raise many good points here, Salamander, that likely will never be addressed by the authorities.

  2. Today we've adopted the American notion of heroic death by virtue of uniform. Were we back in WWII, when deaths came daily in scores, sometimes by the hundreds, we would have no illusion that the fact of death equated to heroism. Most death happened from simple bad luck - an anti-aircraft shell detonating in your bomb bay or getting caught out in the open beneath an artillery barrage. Sad, obviously. Tragic, for sure. Heroic? Not really.

    1. As I indicated in my post, Mound, I can't escape the notion that the hype surrounding the death of this young man is being largely orchestrated by a government for its own sinister purposes. It is a short trip from patriotism and hero worship to jingoism and the willingness to give up freedoms, a profound irony at the very least.

  3. .. Its Pandoras Box .. How the tragic deaths & injuries in Quebec City and Ottawa 'compare' in terms of 'heroism' .. media response, government statements, funerals etc.. is stunning. Open at your peril

    Add in the murderous attacks on Mounties in New Brunswick & we really see the shallowness and convenient 'thinking' of 'the authorities' and media reflecting the opinions from on high.

    Its as if all real things, peoples lives, events and facts are fed into a vast & wondrous wood chipper oracle owned and operated by The Harper Government.. and they aim and spray the results (the facts of the matter) back at our faces

    Can a Prime Minister who hid or agreed to be hidden, in a closet, when a deranged gunman.. or terrorist radical who worked in the tar sands to fund his agenda, singlehandedly 'stormed' our Parliament Buildings after murdering a soldier.. be re-elected? By Canadians ? There's a question.. !

    One assumes there was also a broom closet in the NDP caucus meeting room..
    and to this day only occupied by brooms, dustpans and cleaning materials

    1. The visual contrast is sharp, isn;t it, Salamander? While none of us really knows how we would react under such duress, my money would be with the leader who did not forsake his troops. But then again, as explained in Animal Farm, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

  4. The first soldier to be killed, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was he also a hero?I guess not. No pseudo patriotic public ceremony there. Of course it's tragic that Cpl.Cirillo, was killed by a mentally unbalanced shooter, but the "state" like funeral including the PM speaking came across as somewhat contrived. By the way who decided when Cpl. Cirillio died that he would have this state like funeral? My guess is , look no further then Harper. Being the political opportunist that he is, this was to good of a photo-op to not do.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis, Pamela. As for Patrice Vincent, I guess he was too far from that great symbol of our thriving democracy, Parliament Hill, to be considered worthy of state bereavement.

    2. It was actually a standard military funeral to which the family is entitled. The attendance by all of the additional dignitaries and politicians was entirely voluntary. It was also attended by the opposition and not just the prime minister. The analysis of the event following was far more political than the conduct of it. I think that all participating parties had a very clear understanding of the solemnity of the event. As a person that was on the street that day it was painfully obvious by the looks on everyone's faces.

    3. Thank you for your first-hand perspective, Anon.