A few hours before I hopped a bus home for the long weekend, a friend warned me (over IM) to be careful of psychopaths. Bemused, I flippantly replied, “Always do?”

She then asked: “What, you didn’t hear about Winnipeg?” Me: “Winnipeg?” At which point, she linked me this.

My trip home was uneventful, other than the unexpected delight of a friend from high school showing up to chat with me for the four-hour-tour of the more rural areas of our province. When I got home, however, I rushed to the internet to see if there were more updates on the story, and I don’t know what I expected when I clicked on the link “Bus beheading grabs world headlines” (besides horror and sympathy), but I certainly didn’t expect these choice comments:


Some of the U.S. reaction seemed to imply the incident is a sign of weakness in Canadian character.

“Canadians are wussies,” one opined.

“Way to exit the vehicle you panzies (sic). Yesterday when someone opened up shop with a 12 guauge (sic) shotgun in the Pennsylvania he got rushed by multiple people as he was still firing shots.”

Other readers were also disturbed by what they saw as a lack of action on the part of the passengers on the bus to stop the killing.

One wrote: “37 people didn’t have anything to throw at him? 37 people couldn’t have over powered one guy with a knife?”

“Isn’t this the same mentality that allowed 2 or 3 idiots with box cutters to take out the Twin Towers?”

A comment on Blogger News Network compared the incidents to the notorious Kitty Genovese case.

“They all `watched’ and the bus driver had to ask a trucker to help him keep the guy in the bus.”

“No handguns allowed in Canada, we know. But no woman had a purse to bonk him on the head?”

“No one bothered to throw a can of diet Coke at the guy’s head? Who was on the bus? The Old Ladies’ Home and Gardening Society?”

The Mo’Kelly Report website carried the story and a comment from a reader who insisted the incident was a terrorist act.

“Winnipeg is only a few miles from the U.S. border.”

“The idea was to get as close to the U.S. as he could, if not get into the U.S., then engage in the attack in front of a busload of people. This was another act of radical Islamic terrorism on North American soil.”

“Beheading is the trademark of al-Qaeda.”

In short: Canadians are cowardly and callous, old ladies even, and then a quick turn to “OMG TERRISTS.”

There is so much “WTF” in there, but first, I would like to point out that there is an assumption that everyone on the bus was of able mind and body to subdue a madman, which, in my experience? Not the case.  I take the bus frequently, and can tell you – leaving completely aside the issue of the inherent awkwardness of how a bus is designed impeding on any attempt to intervene, with the seats and the narrow aisle – that these are the types of people typically found on busses:

1. Teenagers who do not have cars/licenses.

2. Older middle-aged (if not elderly) people who do not feel comfortable driving long distances on highways.

3. Young mothers with children, and other young adults who can’t afford cars – mostly women, like myself.

And I’ve never had a bus driver who looked younger than 45/50 years old.

With these typical demographics, the victim – a 22-year-old young man – was probably the most likely person to be able to subdue a madman with a knife.

And he was a madman. Yes, we have handgun laws, but the other reason we don’t carry weapons? We’re not a particularly violent country. Sure, there are patches of gun violence, particularly in Toronto and Vancouver, but they’re usually highly localized and related to gangs/drug use: poor neighbourhoods and the club districts.  Aside from the hand-to-hand drunken fisticuffs likely to break out over a hockey game? One isn’t likely to come across actual violence in our quiet home and native land. You can talk about Kitty Genovese all you want, but (as the article notes) the shock, the likelihood that it was too late to save Tim McLean, and the fact that Vince Weigquang Li was totally out of his fucking mind? and threatening anyone who tried to get closer? I’d be off that bus lickety-split myself.

In conclusion: when I first read the story, and the description of Li’s demeanor, my immediate diagnosis was “full-on psychotic break.” It takes a special kind of paranoid, US-centric worldview to come up with “the idea was to get as close to the U.S. as he could, if not get into the U.S., then engage in the attack in front of a busload of people. This was another act of radical Islamic terrorism on North American soil.” Like, seriously, Paranoid American Dude, get the fuck over yourself. Not everything is About You.

R.I.P., Tim.

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