“Violence is what happens when we don’t
know what to do with our suffering.”
- Parker Palmer, On The Brink of Everything:
Grace, Gravity & Getting Old,
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2018, page 160
At 10 o’clock on the warm Sunday evening of July 22, Toronto was traumatized by another brazen act of mass violence. And – yet again – the perpetrator was a troubled young man.
Why is it always a troubled young man?
29-year-old Faisal Hussain, who had a history of mental challenges, walked calmly among the late evening crowds of Toronto’s popular Greektown neighbourhood, pulled out a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol, and began shooting into restaurants. Within minutes, two young women had died, thirteen people had been injured, and the killer had committed suicide.
Two innocent young people – 18-year-old Resse Fallon and 10-year-old Julianna Kozis – died.
So many questions...so few answers. It has not been a good summer for Toronto.
Toronto’s Greektown neighbourhood stretches along Danforth Avenue – aka, “The Danforth” – between Jones Avenue in the east and Broadview Avenue in the west. I know the area well and love it. My late husband and I lived nearby for twenty years. Its many restaurants, bars, coffee shops, bookstores, and boutiques are a kaleidoscope of humanity, civility, and inclusiveness. As I write this blog post (Thursday, August 9), the area is preparing to host 1.5 million guests to the annual ‘Taste of the Danforth’ celebration. In the manner of strong neighbourhoods everywhere, the people of Toronto are determined to take back their city from the tragedy of three weeks ago and reclaim Greektown’s over-the-top exuberance. I wish them well.
Last week, I felt compelled to reclaim the neighbourhood for myself. I spent last Wednesday in Toronto, wandering along The Danforth, reassuring myself that Greektown was recovering. And indeed, it was. I spent most of my time at the Alexander the Great Parkette on the northeast corner of Danforth and Logan Avenues. It had become an unofficial gathering place for people to come and share their grief. A rain-soaked collection of flowers, stuffed animals, candles, and heart-rending messages surrounded the fountain. Despite the noise of heavy traffic and rumbling subway trains, it was strangely calm and serene. The photographs that follow give you a sense of what the area felt like. The informal shrine has been relocated to the grounds of nearby St. Barnabas on the Danforth Anglican Church.
Finally, I am always perplexed about the young men on our planet who feel the only way to express their anger is through violence. Surely we can do better than simply giving them weapons. Parker Palmer, that wise old Quaker philosopher, offers the alternative: love and a recognition of mutual humanity. Sounds like a good place to start.
I plan to return to Parker Palmer next week. Meanwhile, I hope you will find these photos to be restorative and engaging.