Editors, the Gauntlet
Re: More than a Ribbon, Nov. 26, 1998,
Marc Lepine is "one idiot with a gun" contrary to Ms. McNaughton's assertion. Is Lepine a product of our society as McNaughton says?
Absolutely. Is he the desired product? Absolutely not. Nobody is proud of what happened in Montreal on Dec. 6, man or woman. It is not dismissive to label Lepine as a madman; there is clearly a line that is crossed when a person enters a public building armed to the teeth hunting human beings. Marc Lepine chose to hunt down women in his deluded rage, in the same way that disgruntled postal workers tend to open fire in post offices; because in their chemically-imbalanced brains they are setting right a perceived slight. Marc Lepine was no more right or wrong to do this than a postal worker; the touchy part of what Lepine did was to kill based on gender rather than profession.
In our society it is socially acceptable to joke about someone who loses their temper as going "postal." This same disregard for the human costs of mass murder is not applied to what happened at Ecole Polytechnique-never in my life have I heard someone being chided as going "Lepine."
Not to say that what happened in Montreal wasn't an incredible tragedy. Fourteen human lives snuffed out prematurely before they can reach their full potential carries an enormous societal cost. However, the fact that these people were killed because they were female should not make them martyrs. Placing a higher value on someone's life because of the way they died is a dangerous practice. Do we tell the mother whose son dies in a shooting that his death isn't as tragic because society hasn't traditionally oppressed him? Or do we tell the family of an abortion doctor killed in his home that his existence wasn't as precious as that of a fetus? When insane people do rash things we all get very confused and angry. And it is in this confusion and anger that we deal with the lingering effects incorrectly. When an innocent man like Matthew Sheppard is savagely beaten and killed in the u.s. solely because he is gay, people want to see "Hate Crime" laws passed. Some people have called, in the aftermath of December 6, to see "Hate Crime" laws include gender and sexuality, in addition to the attributes of race, religion, and physical disability that they already encompass.
The problem with "Hate Crime" laws is the same as the problem with elevating the tragic death of 14 women on one day in Montreal to martyr-like status: the statement implied is that some murders are more illegal than others.
This need not be. If our courts simply prosecuted our laws the way they were written, there would be no need to make new ones. If everyone who premeditated the killing of another person went to jail for the rest of their lives, would there be a need to distinguish between the type of premeditation involved? Should I spend less time in jail for murder because I kill out of greed instead of hate? Or if you want the parallel, should the senseless deaths of 14 people because of their gender be more recognized than the deaths that occur because of greed, negligence or hatred of other attributes? In the final analysis, the women who died are done a great disservice because the day of remembrance created in their honor exists only because of their gender. Is the only value in remembering their lives found in the way they died?
I will wear a white ribbon on Dec. 6, not because violence against women is wrong and needs to be recognized, but because violence against anyone is wrong and needs to be recognized.