There are barbarians right here in Canada
This is a story of two girls in their mid-teens in two different countries with divergent cultures. Or perhaps, just maybe, the two cultures are more similar than what we assume.
The Tuesday following Thanksgiving Day, a Taliban gunman shot a 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai, in the head. Her crime? She was reportedly attacked for promoting the education of girls and otherwise opposing the Taliban’s militant agenda.
Malala underwent surgery that Wednesday to remove a bullet from her skull and continues to receive medical treatment. She’s not out of the woods yet, however. Her cousin grimly warned that even if Malala does regain her health, she and her family will still be in great danger.
Rightly, if unsurprisingly, Western critics have vociferously condemned the Taliban and their stone-age mentality.
“Pakistan needs to be shocked into action,” claimed former British PM Gordon Brown, “With the Taliban shamed and forced into accepting the basic freedoms of every girl.” Indeed.
Sadly, simultaneous to the tragedy unfolding on the other side of the world, another was in the making in our own backyard. On the same day Malala was in surgery, a young lady in the Vancouver area took her own life after enduring years of bullying at school and online. In early October, Amanda Todd, almost 16, had posted a nine-minute video on Youtube featuring her holding up cue cards that chronicled the cyber-bullying and cruelty she was suffering, despite having changed schools and cities.
To no avail. Her antagonists persisted and arguably succeeded.
Frankly, I’m not sure words can adequately describe the revulsion and outrage all Canadians should be feeling at news of such barbarity. And, make no mistake, I’m not referring to the troubling events in Pakistan. We’ve come to expect as much from the Taliban goons.
I’m dismayed by the damage inflicted on Amanda Todd’s psyche by terrorists born and raised in Canada, products of our affluent, educated, suburban way of life. We should all be deeply disturbed by the cultures of violence and cruelty that rear their ugly heads far too often in this country, frequently among that sector of the population that’s been spoon-fed privileged opportunity from the get-go.
What is it about our Canadian way-of-life that produces the kind of venom unleashed on Amanda Todd and thousands of other young people like her every day on our playgrounds, in our school hallways and via our social media sites?
A student in one of my classes who works as a guard at a local prison tells me about so-called “bro fights” that regularly take place at recesses and noon-hours at certain schools in Calgary. Combatants are circled by encouragers who implore them to inflict on each other the kind of physical damage they’re used to seeing in UFC matches.
I’m not as interested in suggesting that UFC be banned as I am in promoting an urgently needed conversation about a sinister evil that’s exacting far too great a toll in our purportedly civilized society - bullying.
This has been a story of two girls in their mid-teens living in two different countries with divergent cultures. Malala lives in Pakistan. Amanda lived in a barbaric nation that needs to be “shocked into action.”
Tim Callaway is pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org