How Calgary Can Best Stand with Paris, Against Terror

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How Calgary Can Best Stand with Paris, Against Terror

There are no apologies or excuses to be made for those who carried out the recent attacks in Paris. There is no explanation that makes the purposeful killing of unarmed civilians—residents of and visitors to one of our world's most beloved cities—anything either than evil, and an act of cowardice and hate.

And yet, though it does not and should not reduce the enormity of the evil the world has been witness to, in Paris and in other recent attacks in Kenya, in Beirut, in Syria, and elsewhere, there can be and should be, an understanding of the motivations behind these attacks. There must be a recognition of the fundamental intolerance that drives terrorist groups, not only because this recognition helps us to better understand these enemies to freedom and democracy, but because this recognition helps us preserve the very freedom and democracy these enemies are trying to obliterate.

An unsurprising yet disturbing editorial appeared in the Calgary Herald this past Sunday, calling for stricter security measures here at home and providing tacit praise for Harper and Bill C-51—voted into law as the Anti-Terrorism Act—while denouncing (albeit mildly) Trudeau and his determination to scale back Canada's military efforts abroad. Such an attitude, the editorial argues in so many words, puts Canada and Calgary itself at risk of a similar attack being carried out on our own soil.

We should be afraid, the article contends, and that fear should drive us to more closely scrutinize outsiders, should cause us to seek out our enemies where they, "hide in the shadows well before they emerge onto the streets carrying guns and tossing grenades."

The problem with that attitude and that particular piece of legislation is that they allow our fear, the very feeling the terrorists are hoping to instill in us, to override our commitment to liberty and free expression, the very institutions the terrorists are hoping to eradicate. They win not by blowing up the world and dominating the entire population, but by causing us to give up our freedom in the name of security—to cede control to authoritarian powers who themselves can decide what is right, safe, and good to think, and what types of dissent and heresy can have you thrown in jail, deported, or perhaps even executed.

The people of Paris, the people of Calgary, the people of the world are not served by our fear, nor by our shackling ourselves to restrictive and repressive laws in the name of safety. Voices of dissent are best heard in the open, and ideas are best opposed when they can be seen in the broad light of a free society. It is only when they are pushed into the shadows—the very shadows the Herald warns us of—that they become dangerous.

Let's not create a world of more shadow by reacting in fear. Let's stand against terror with tolerance, against violence with the rule of democratically-derived law, and with Paris by celebrating our liberty, not ceding it to authorities because we wither in the face of a threat.