Sympathy and its limits

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Jan 232014
 

As a parent, you have to feel sympathy for the Calgary mother who found out that her son was killed in Syria. Perhaps the sympathy wanes just a little bit when you find out that the son had converted to Islam and had gone to Syria to fight the jihad and ended up dead at the working end of another faction’s machine gun.  The mother was apparently ignorant of all of this, though his reason to her for heading to the Middle East was to learn Arabic in Egypt.  All this according to news reports and nothing else.

Put yourself in her shoes: her child is dead and somebody or something is at fault. We all need reasons; and in the case of ourselves and especially our children, it tends to be reasons external to ourselves. “My child was a victim.” It allows for a modestly less troubled sleep. But when this mother blames the government, saying, “‘In my eyes, the government is just as guilty as if they had pulled the trigger themselves,’ the mother told the National Post in her first public comments since the death was announced,” we head into dangerous territory. It’s likely that this is an emotional lashing out in the moment that will pass as Kubler-Ross predicts. But, recently, it’s as likely that this is the position that will harden into  accepted truth.

At which point, I begin to be unsympathetic. Not for the loss but for the denial and blame. The boy became a jihadist in a war zone. Is that normal for a Calgarian? Should the government be blamed for that too? Couldn’t they have warned her and forced the boy into a Catholic school? Is it the parents’ (the mother’s) fault? How could they watch this develop and allow the boy to go to the Middle East?

Blame is an interesting parlour game, but it hardly matters in most instances. It’s not nice to say, but sometimes… shit happens. And there’s nothing anybody could do about it. A nanny state that issues or denies a passport on the basis of what it thinks is in your best interest is not something that anybody wants. Except a grieving mother who can’t believe that her little boy from the Prairie died in a far away land fighting for something that didn’t affect him for a reason that nobody can comprehend.

 Posted by on 23 Jan 2014