A Reflection on Newtown Tragedy from Canadian Teacher and Poet, Kim Fahner

I met Kim Fahner this summer at Anam Cara in West Cork where a group of international women gathered for my ekphrastic poetry workshop. Kim's passion and humor, her intelligence and poetic sensibility are all at work in this piece. As a Canadian, Kim's perspective on the recent Newtown, CT seems important to share. Thank you, Kim. This is posted on her blog The Republic of Poetry.

“Stop all the clocks…” A Reflection on the Tragedy at Newtown, Connecticut

December 16, 2012 by kimfahner

Some wouldn’t dare to venture to write something about yesterday, potentially because it could be too soon. I fear, though, that not speaking about it would be an injustice to those lost to the violence. As a teacher, this is my worst nightmare. We practice lockdown drills often at school and it’s hard to get students to realize how real the threat could be. I often reference Columbine, but then I realize my students were likely toddlers at the time. The word “Columbine” still sends shivers down my own spine. It’s the same sort of evil shudder that I feel when I recall the Montreal Massacre each December 6th. There is no rhyme or reason to violence, especially when it has to do with guns and mental illness.

I know many people find the long gun registry issue here in Canada both volatile and controversial, but I have, for a very long time, been in favour of such a registry. What is the problem with registering a gun? If you’re only using it to hunt, as so many do here in Northern Ontario, then that’s reasonable and you have nothing to hide, really, so why protest the registry? It’s always puzzled me a great deal as to why there is such an uproar. I think having a long gun registry was something that made Canada, well, Canada. It’s a shame, I think, that’s it’s gone now.

Don’t get me wrong; we here in Canada have had issues with gun violence, but not to the same extent or frequency as our neighbours to the south in the United States. We are quite separate from the gun culture that is prevalent in America and I think we need to maintain that distinction, more and more with each tragedy that occurs south of our border. (I am not naive, though; gang violence is on the rise and the Eaton Centre shooting in Toronto this past summer is proof of that too.)

The Montreal Massacre, on December 6th, 1989, is the one tragedy that marks what was my first year of studies as an undergraduate at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. I had just turned nineteen. I still recall the way the news of that horror, of a man shooting fourteen female engineering students at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, rippled through the halls of my school as people heard of the tragedy. For many months, female students walked more cautiously, thought more carefully, and felt fear press up against them. For all that feminism could bring us, it could not stop the bullets that killed those fourteen ambitious young women in Quebec and that was frightening.

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