flag-u-s-canadaI write this blog from the perspective of a Canadian American. Yes, I’m considered to be both, having immigrated to the US in 1997 and obtaining US citizenship. Throw in a brief return to Ottawa in recent years, and I can tell you that I feel equally as much one as the other. I’m truly blessed to call each of these fine nations “home.” It’s today, however, that I feel closest to my birth country.

Those of you who know me know that I spend as little time watching the news as possible. I see it as nothing more than a fear generating machine manned by variations of Barbie and Ken, spouting off their latest “RUN FOR THE HILLS!” version of propaganda. ‘If something important arises,’ I tell myself, ‘I’ll hear about it.’ And hear about it, I did.

On Wednesday of this week, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was gunned down while standing guard – unarmed – at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Ottawa. The gunman, who does not deserve to be mentioned, then proceeded to enter Parliament where gunfire erupted. For those who have never visited Canada, know that this is far beyond shocking.

I’ve become accustomed to living in the US. I’ve learned to accept the fact that we are loathed by some, which makes us the constant target of radical extremists. That became a harsh reality on September 11, 2001, while I was living in Portland, OR. Prior to that, for me anyway, it felt like we lived in a kind of Never on our soil, blissful numbness. That’s now long gone.

cirilloI have found myself in tears several times over the last few days. No, I didn’t know Cpl. Cirillo personally, or his family, but the Canadian people are my family, and I ache for the harsh reality that they now face.

I knew it was only a matter of time, given the current state of the world, but – still – I literally wouldn’t wish the end of “Never on our soil,” on my worst enemy. It has been said that the demise of a belief system is the most difficult personal challenge of all. One would have to assume that this also applies to a culture.

Canada has always been an open, generous, loving, peaceful and accepting culture – all reasons to be proud of the country from whence I came. I cried this week, because they will literally – now – have to “stand on guard” and make efforts to partially close their ever open arms. I cried, because I lived the shift after 9/11, and – sure – one guy compared to thousands may not seem comparative, but the aftermath of disillusion has potential to be. Nothing will ever be the same.

Cpl. Cirillo did stand on guard for us, and he did it unarmed and open to embracing people from all over the globe. Isn’t that the reputation of Canada, itself? Could it be that the gunman who performed this horrific act was determined to hit us at our very core?

I dreaded the day that Canada would have to face the harsh reality of extreme hatred, but I pray that all are aware that their neighbo(u)rs to the south feel their pain, and, if something good is to come of this, which I’m already seeing evidence of, it’s an undeniable sense of unity, brotherhood and determination.

“We will not be intimidated,” chimed Prime Minister Stephen Harper. No – you won’t – and I’m proud to be part of the true north. Shall we forever remain strong and FREE!