The Man Behind the Mask

annonymous gives homeless man money
Photo courtesy of Youtube user tiggersmith 1992

While I stand behind the words and the conclusions in my last posting (Some of us were Amazed), I must repudiate its impetus.

I’d been churning over our government’s decision to go to war in Iraq, on the heels of its enthusiastic participation in Lybia, and its entrenchment of corrupt warlords in Afghanistan.

The events of a few days ago were the catalyst. But I did not consider the reality of the masked man in Ottawa.

I’d already made up my mind about him. Knew him by dint of his actions, his rifle, his kerchief, and assumptions about his faith.

What more did I need to know?

I didn’t support or applaud or condone or uphold his actions. I felt sorrow for the man he killed, for the family left behind. When I read of the soldier’s relationship with his son, I felt my relationship with my son quicken my heart.

“What the hell was he thinking, that masked dealer of death and destruction?”

I decided he hadn’t been thinking, had given up his self-control to some irate agency of fanatical zeal and become an automaton for a cause that mirrored, in its violence, the violence that had been meted out against it.

Another violent man, in an increasingly violent world.

I had him pegged, and in my pegging, wrote him into a scenario that had been waiting for an excuse to be laid down.

Now, however, that I actually know something about the man who fired the shots in Ottawa, I regret, deeply, incorporating his actions in my post.

His actions seem to have stemmed from an unhappy life. A struggle with mental health and addiction. Striving to find a way out. Asking for his own imprisonment to keep himself and others safe. Turning to a faith system that might nourish a worn and waning spirit and finding himself homeless, once again.

But not giving up. Writing his mother of his new found light and his determination to keep it. Going to Mecca to find the light of God.

Denied a passport to spiritual freedom he apparently travelled to Ottawa to get an answer, to seek permission, to find himself in God.

I don’t know what happened there. I expect it had far more to do with his mental state and his desperation to overcome it than any adherence to any violent cause.

Unless it was the violence that racked his being, drove him with addiction. Out of home, onto the streets, into the shelters, out of community.

I don’t know what happened there.

But I should have listened to my heart, when I saw those frightened eyes looking over the kerchief, and those inexperienced hands holding a rifle in a way no trained and expert warrior ever would.

I should have listened to my heart, paused to find the love I so wish was at the centre of everything I do. Listened to the voice of my creator, calling me into love.

Instead, I wrote him off. Made of him a crazed, fanatical warrior. A violent perpetrator of violent acts. Afraid I couldn’t find room for him and his soldier victim in my heart, I cast him in a role of sorts, and penned my post.

I lost, for a while, my ability to find the love of God within my being. Love always there for any of us. Love calling out in the lived existence of every human being.

Even, or especially, those cast out to the streets. Left to figure it out for themselves. With little support, little care, and little evidence that any of us think that any of us deserve the love that made us.

I am heartily sorry for this, the lived reality of my being. I may resolve in my heart and know in the depths of my soul, that each of us must first be seen in the light of love. Each of us. Soldiers, warriors, children, Prime Ministers, marketeers, ministers and men hiding behind kerchiefs, waiting, perhaps, for death.

This I may know in mind, but somehow, when the moment opens me up, I lack the strength to rein in fear driven assumption and hold step with love.

Hiding behind a masque all my own.


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About Keith Simmonds

Born and raised in the middle north (Kitimat BC and Flin Flon MB), I've worked 30 years in Mining/Smelting and the Pulp industry, while engaging in political action, community organizing, and union activism on the side. In and Out of Spiritual Being, my faith journey is through a Christian context, although I honour, uphold and am fascinated by other paths to the mountain. I began my training in diaconal ministry with the United Church of Canada in 2004, and began serving as a minister in Rossland, Trail, Beaver Valley and Salmo BC in 2009. My family and I moved to Duncan BC in August of 2013, where I serve as part of the ministry team. My partner, Laurel Walton, and I have five children between us. Liam attends Cow High, Jonah lives and works in Duncan, Brenna resides in Courtenay, Amy and her partner, Craig are in Vancouver, and Wade is in Calgary. My parents and siblings live in Kamloops, BC.

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