I've been thinking . . .

"A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity."    

Franz Kafka

"The craft or art of writing is the clumsy attempt to find symbols for the wordlessness. In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable. And sometimes if he is very fortunate and if the time is right, a very little of what he is trying to do trickles through--not ever much. And if he is a writer wise enough to know it can't be done, then he is not a writer at all. A good writer always works at the impossible."

John Steinbeck

On Being Sane and Safe

I attended the memorial service today honouring the ultimate sacrifices of Canadian heroes Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, as he stood guard, and unarmed, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier one year ago.

The gunman then tried to kill more innocent people on Parliament Hill, where the drug addict and drifter was himself killed by six officers who fired 31 times from their handguns.

I was by a barricade a little down the slope from today's ceremony. I could just make out the dignitaries beyond the heavily armed police watching the thousands of us who had come to pay our respects.

We were kept at a necessary distance, but still allowed to feel as if we were part of the ceremony. After it ended, members of the military, RCMP and other police marched down toward us. Soft, sustained applause from the barricaded crowds expressed the gratitude we all feel for the risks they take for us each day.

Watching dozens of Ottawa police with assault rifles, and seeing snipers on a nearby rooftop, my mind turned to how misguided, probably mentally unstable, men with no terrorist training managed to force us to lunge again down the road toward a more militarized society.

Which, of course, is precisely what the enemies that we face want.

As regular readers know, I've been around a lot of people who kill for a living. Some got close to killing me.

I learned this much: Assault rifles with high-powered scopes aren't much good against attackers lurking in a crowd of civilians on a city street. For that, handguns work very well.

So if the Ottawa police (and any federal security agencies that direct and arm them for such duties) are making a statement, what is it?

And if it's supposed to be a deterrent, does overkill really work against lone wolves, who present the main threat because they are so difficult for intelligence agencies to detect?

There are very real grievances at the root of the hatred that motivates people and groups who want to kill innocent Canadians. We need to do more to address them and put less faith in bombs and big guns.

That is not to say there aren't psychopaths among our enemies who will never listen to reason. But they are a small minority. The growing number of Westerners and others flocking to places like Syria to wage jihad believe in a cause.

We need to give them stronger reasons to believe in peace and reconciliation.

Obviously, the peace that the majority of the world seeks is not coming any time soon.

So we need security. We also need sanity.

Otherwise, one way or another, we lose.