I used to visit some people in the notoriously rough neighbourhood of South West Philly. On one of the earlier visits I was hungry and I asked what everyone wanted for lunch because I was going to walk down the street to the fruit market I had seen. They acted as though I had lost my mind. We sat there looking at each other confused for awhile. I didn’t understand why I wouldn’t walk somewhere alone during the lunch hour and they didn’t understand why I would. Then the guy we used to call Midnight, figured it out, "She doesn’t know any better. She’s from Canada – they just walk around up there wherever they want and they’re not afraid."
This afternoon I walked toward the spot on Yonge Street where a 15 year old girl died on Boxing Day, the victim of a fatal gun shot. I hadn’t had the occasion to walk that route since before the incident. I observed the rush hour foot traffic in the quickly fading daylight and felt a little sad and reverent. The girl was utmost in my mind. It seems quite impossible to ever pass that spot again without thinking of her.
I didn’t feel afraid as I passed the spot. Maybe I should have as more and more gun violence eats away at my city. We’ve strayed so far from the Canada that Michael Moore once romanticized in Bowling for Columbine. We weren’t, even then, the Canada he thought we were, but we were closer. I grieve for the Canada, and specifically, for the Toronto that we once were but living in fear will not bring those places back. Being afraid will not stop the violence.
I might have to tolerate the rules established by fear when I visit other cities but I will not walk THIS city in fear. I refuse to be afraid.
* German proverb