December 6 depoliticized

I will own the cliché nature of this post: yes, for many people my age, Dec. 6 is our Kennedy assassination moment. Most people I know remember where they were and what they were doing when first they heard that a man had separated the men from the women in a Montréal University engineering class, screamed "you're all feminists" then opened fire, killing 14.

I will own the cliché nature of this post: yes, for many people my age, Dec. 6 is our Kennedy assassination moment. Most people I know remember where they were and what they were doing when first they heard that a man had separated the men from the women in a Montréal University engineering class, screamed “you’re all feminists” then opened fire, killing 14.

I will also own that this is a “guy talking about violence against women” post. If that bothers you, fair enough. Hit back button now. I don’t want to waste any more of your time.

But I feel like I should write this down. Audra Williams circulated a link to a Megan Leslie speech on Dec 6th, from 2008 and it twigged some memories for me.

See I was in Ottawa, in the CUP national office, desperately trying to figure out what was going on. I’d asked the organization’s Montréal staff person to get a story, but he was still trying to get close to the scene to actually talk to someone who was there.

And the phone was ringing constantly. New York, Japan, London, Los Angeles. They all figured the student media could shed some light on the situation.

But all I had was the radio.

I remember sitting there attentively, remarking on one mid afternoon report from CBC that described the killer’s vitriolic pre-barrage accusation. I wrote it down. I tried not to cry. A few hours later, Andy Riga filed his story, including the quote. But I was suddenly unsure about whether to leave it in.

Safe and comfortable or ‘out on a limb’?

See over the course of just a few hours, the media were already expunging that detail of the killer’s motivation, and consigning the incident to the “lone gunman” who had a “psychotic break” and began the “isolated incident”. Presumably they wanted to feel safe and comfortable too.

I didn’t want to go out on a limb and report what could well have been conjecture. But in the end I decided it was actually my obligation to keep this fact alive and in front of as many eyeballs as possible.

I’m glad to see people are still doing so. And I’m glad to see people drawing connections between what the Harper government is doing (delete the long gun registry, slash funding for women’s advocacy organizations, remove ‘equality’ from the status of women’s mandate etc etc) and December 6th.

Because I for one will never see the Montréal Massacre as a senseless unexplainable tragedy. I hope you don’t either.

2 Comments

  1. For what it's worth (not much, I'm sure), this is nowhere near a Kennedy moment for me. It didn't strike me at the time, or since, as being anything other than another one of those horrible killings. The Montreal killings were and remain a very sad blip on the radar of global atrocities. It's just one more killing spree, along with Columbine and Virginia Tech (and San Ysidro and Dunblane) that is no more nor less meaningful for the inferred significance people have wrung out of it. The guy was insane, temporarily or otherwise, and the fact that he chose to direct that insanity at people he thought of as feminists is as irrelevant as any other insane rambling or motivation.

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