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Montreal shooting reveals society's cowardice

I have a few questions about last week's massacre in Montreal. Why were those 14 women unable to defend themselves against a lone rifleman at close range? Why did 19 men abandon those women, leaving them at the mercy of a psychopath whose intentions were anything but ambiguous? Why are feminists treating this tragedy as a sexist issue? Why are they bestowing the status of heroine on a group of women who were not only unheroic, but passive and cowardly?

It is a sad indication of the state of society that we are unable to defend ourselves against threats of this kind. There have always been psychopaths, and there always will be, just as there will always be a need for the sort of hero who will lay down his or her life for the life of another.

I do not know if I have this ability, and I do not blame those individuals who do not. But I do blame a society in which people in mortal danger are abandoned by their colleagues. Their gender is irrelevant. Of the people in that room, the men, by virtue of number and strength, were most capable of stopping the gunman. For that reason alone, they had a responsibility to try.

There was no ambiguity in the gunman's intentions. He made it perfectly clear that he was going to shoot these women. I understand the men's decision not to charge the gunman, not to disarm and subdue him. Several of them would almost certainly have been shot; several of them might have died. But not 14 of them. A rifle is an extremely ineffective weapon in hand-to-hand combat, or even against a fast-moving target at close range. They would have defeated the gunman.

I understand the men's decision to leave the room. What I do not understand is why the women, who have been taught that they are equal to men, who have been taught that they must defend themselves, who should be strong and independent and defiant -- why they were unable to raise a finger against a man they knew would kill them. They knew that if they did nothing, they would die. There was little uncertainty. Yet not one of them was able to lay down her already-forfeited life in the defense of the others. They clung passively to the slim hope of rescue and they died for their inability to take control of their own lives.

Why are we honoring them? Why are we blaming sexism for this travesty when we should be blaming our own selfish weakness? And most importantly, where are the heros when we need them?

And we do need them. Idealists would tell us that there is no place in the world for heroics and that it is foolish to stick your neck out. But the fact is that society needs heros to defend it from just the sort of danger that appeared in Montreal. The fact is that there are causes which are worth dying for. And the fact is that until we recognize this need and rise to its challenge, we are nothing but fools waiting to be victimized.

Allen Downey G->