The Kindness of Strangers
"I've always depended on the kindness of strangers"...
Blanche Dubois, A Streetcar Named Desire
Once, in downtown Ottawa, after sundown, I was crossing a very icy cobblestone road while carrying a bag of groceries, when I suddenly realized that I was about to fall. I could feel my feet starting to slide and I reached out to a man walking toward me from the other side of the street, and begged "Help me, please" as I grasped his upper arm.
I can't describe him to you because the streetlight was behind him, except that he wasn't a big man or tall; he was slim, and wore a dark, short winter jacket and a fedora-shaped hat. His hand quickly came up and latched onto my elbow. I said, "I just have to get my footing". He didn't speak, but continued to firmly hold my elbow until I finally said, "Okay, thank you!" At that, he wordlessly took his leave. He didn't offer to carry my bag; he didn't make me feel like a helpless fool by insisting on seeing me to the curb. He simply did as I asked, and I love him for that to this day, whoever he is.
That experience was almost enough to convince me there are such things as Guardian Angels. A surprising number of them have appeared and disappeared in my life. But, at the same time, I've been accused by strangers of being one myself. So maybe we all are angels, or at least ought to be.
Just yesterday I walked through piles of snow to go to the bank, to a coffee store, to a pharmacy, to a book store and encountered nothing but polite drivers and smiling helpful people. And I was a smiling, helpful person myself. One woman, walking with a cane, said I was a "darling" when I moved aside into the deeper snow to let her get past me so that she could take advantage of what was left of the green light to cross the road.
All of which was a distinct change from when I complained of rude treatment on the upper main drag. Was it just that I was in a different area or was the moon simply in a fortuitous place? I'll have to retrace my steps sometime to figure that out.
On the same day that I experienced all of this warmth, some very cold-hearted Canadians surfaced in the news about the death of a darling 11-year-old girl.
CTV: 11-year-old Ontario girl, subject of Amber Alert, found dead: police
If Thursday was Riya's birthday, then she came into this realm -- and left it -- on St. Valentine's Day.
Riya's father believes he loved her, so much so that it caused him great pain to be separated from her. I'm not so sure that's love, but perhaps more of an obsession, and obsession is a kind of illness. This is certainly not to excuse him if he indeed killed his daughter, but to show that there are different kinds of seriously faulty thinking.
St. Valentine himself was martyred to an illness called "love" - love of the State above all else.
There are all sorts of people who probably view themselves as loving and kind, yet don't like to be disturbed by late-night calls for help regarding strangers:
I don't know whether or not young Riya was Muslim, but somehow I doubt her family are worshippers of Christian saints -- nor am I, being a heathen -- but I can't help wondering how many among the complainers would identify themselves as Christian.
How many of them even know the history of the persecution of Christians that led to St. Valentine's death? It was the deliberate and rigorously instilled love of the State that got him killed! Not on his part, of course, but on the part of his murderers.
The Romans were brainwashed into believing that the state was pure and far above the various gods that the ordinary folk looked up to. State celebrations were frequent and glorious, no doubt with waving flags and face painting and alcohol consumption (sound familiar?), the very kinds of appeals to the viscera that moved gangs of Roman thugs to act against those citizens, such as St. Valentine, who followed the scriptural injunction to "have no other gods before Me", and therefore did not join in state-sponsored activities.
Were that the case with Christians now, I might have remained as one. As it is, I ignore both state and religious festivals because the two are clearly conjoined. Take Remembrance Day for instance. It glorifies war and the sacrifice of self to the State. Our anthem is sung, continuing the theme of sacrifice for the State, hymns are sung about God's help in ages past and "our hope for years to come", clergymen intone meaningless prayers, and hardly anyone protests when yet another war begins, though the Bible clearly states "Thou shalt not kill", and Jesus talks endlessly about loving one's brother - your brothers being all of your fellow humans no matter where you find them, or they find you.
And the more fanatical the Christian, the more political and State-minded they become:
TheConversation: From America to Ontario: The political impact of the Christian right
Canadians are religiously brainwashed in large numbers, and those who are so addicted to their cell phones and TV that they go to sleep with them still turned on, haven't a clue what insanity is being drummed into their heads beyond their awareness.
One thing is certain, these forms of brainwash must not be jarred out of sync by the intrusion of something like an amber alert. Yet, all any of those poor addled persons had to do was turn off the phones and the TV at bedtime.
But they couldn't. Not that they wouldn't; they couldn't. I'll bet many have tried to, but felt bereft without them.
They no doubt believe they are decent, loving people. They love their country's flag and anthem; they love their children (though the children might disagree); they love their spouses (though their thoughts do stray), and they wouldn't dare say they don't love God because they are afraid of death, but above all they feel anxious, cut off and lonely without their cell phones and TV's.
In fact, almost anything out of the ordinary makes them nervous. It's very easy to convince them that diversity is dangerous. Canada is a Christian country, they might say -- and Muslim men are known for killing their daughters, aren't they?
Well, they might say that, but there isn't enough information in the media so far to suggest that Roopesh Rajkumar is a practising Muslim, nor even that he indeed killed his daughter.
It's these kinds of "facts" that are the genus of the gang mentality that killed St. Valentine.
Reality doesn't enter into it:
It may well be that young Riya's father believes his personal honour was at stake in the restrictions placed on his access to his daughter. And if he killed the daughter he loved because of that, then he is in a very precarious place mentally, and one can only hope he doesn't die at the hands of "justice".
And we will never know if it was racially motivated:
CBC: Human Rights Commission releases 'unprecedented' report on racial profiling by Toronto police
Riya Rajkumar's very untimely death makes it difficult to believe in Guardian Angels, but if they are real, maybe she now is one of them.
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Photo by Brian of North Bay
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