I’ve tried to commit suicide and it’s not a solution

First published at Huffington Post on January 3, 2014.

When former Ontario cabinet minister George Smitherman released his brief statement announcing his husband’s presumed suicide, my heart went out to him. I’ve never lost anyone in my life so suddenly, certainly not to mental illness. But the words of his statement touched me even more deeply as the survivor of a suicide attempt.

Smitherman wrote:

Toronto Police just confirmed that my darling Christopher Peloso has been found dead.

We will celebrate his life and we will find comfort somehow in knowing that he has found peace from the depression that has wreaked havoc on his mind.

A son and brother, a husband and father of 3 he will always be remembered for his dedication to others.

We have been greatly aided by the compassion of the Toronto Police service and we will find strength going forward from the legions of people in our extended family who loved him so.

I can only imagine what Mr. Smitherman himself is going through; but I don’t have to imagine the thoughts passing through Mr. Peloso’s mind in his final days and hours. And it is precisely that reason that I think it is so dangerous to suggest, even if unintentionally, that suicide brings peace.

By expressing a desire to “find comfort somehow in knowing that he has found peace from the depression that has wreaked havoc on his mind,” Smitherman reinforced the flawed logic that those who are suicidal endure while contemplating the fatal act.

Suicide is not a choice in the true sense of the word as it is not a choice made by weighing rational options from a healthy state of mind. It is, however, still a decision that one makes. And for those on the fence about suicide, the slightest nuance can have starting repercussions.

Despite a solid career, a happy family life and what objectively would amount to a bright future, I found myself three years ago without hope. Depressed. My worldview gradually evolved to the point where I was no longer weighing between pain and death rather than life and death. Eventually, the dichotomy evolved –or devolved — to deciding between pain or peace.

Many will say that it is mean-spirited or cold-hearted to parse the words of a grieving man, but they are words which, regardless of intent, risk doing more harm than good.

Some say that suicide is a coward’s way out; others that suicide is a malicious act towards loved ones. In reality, it’s a symptom of illness — illness that is so often ignored both by those afflicted and by those who should be supporting them.

Suicide is many things, but a solution is not one of them.

In the three years since narrowly surviving my attempt, my life has presented opportunities that my suicidal self could never have recognized were possible. Anyone who believes that suicide brings peace may be robbing themselves of the same growth and redemption.

How should I react when a caller on my radio show makes terrorist threats?

First published at Huffington Post on September 24, 2013.

As a talk radio host — and a talker, in general — I can rarely say that I’m at a loss for words. Yesterday, there was nearly an exception to that rule when a caller into my talk show on the London, Ont., station AM980 uttered a veiled terror threat before expressing his support for the terrorist group Hamas.

Near the end of my show today, I was taking calls on the subject of convicted terrorist and murderer Omar Khadr’s petition to be transferred out of the maximum-security prison in Edmonton in which he is presently serving out his sentence. After a series of callers who agreed with my position that Khadr’s comfort should not be a priority for the justice system, a man who identified himself to my producer as Abdul called in.

Abdul started off on a low note.

“The American dog was an invader. He (Khadr) was a freedom fighter,” Abdul said. “There’s a difference. If Russian or Chinese dogs invaded Canada, and you killed one of them, are you a murderer or are you defending your country?”

“Anybody who kills an invader is a freedom fighter. American dogs invaded a sovereign nation,” he added.

I then asked him whether he supported the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

After a menacing cackle, he said, “You wait, my friend. You wait. You will see things in this country–“

“Yes or no, Abdul. Do you support Hamas?”, I pressed.

“Yes, I do,” he replied, prompting me to end the call.

The fact is, I know nothing about this man. Is he a jihadi-in-training waiting to attack the West? Is he merely a Muslim Canadian with contempt for Canadian values?

All I know is that he was prepared to state support for an organization responsible for the merciless deaths of countless innocents, and call a convicted terrorist a “freedom fighter.”

I also know that this attitude exists within the fabric of Canadian society, which is why I was startled, yet also unsurprised by Abdul’s call.

To me, it wasn’t the sentiments expressed by Abdul that I found so shocking, it was his brazenness in stating them so openly on live radio, knowing full well that technology exists to determine the identity and location of phone callers.

The call, and the caller, have been reported to the terrorism and national security division of the RCMP, but a question far bigger than whether or not Abdul supports any potential terrorist attack against Canada: how did he get that way in the first place?

Did he come to Canada with these views about our country, in which case our immigration system is partially at fault, or did he develop them here after choosing to make Canada his home? If the latter is true, then an even bigger problem presents, which is the ongoing threat of homegrown radicalization.

Either way, this isn’t welcome in my Canada.

Thornhill rabbi responds to cowardice with cowardice

First published at Huffington Post on May 22, 2013.

When officers from York Regional Police’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Bureau paid a visit to the Chabad @ Flamingo Synagogue in Thornhill, Ontario to discourage the synagogue’s rabbi from hosting an event with Jewish author and activist Pamela Geller, all they had to do was threaten his job before he pulled the plug on the event.

After learning that his position as a volunteer chaplain for York Regional Police would be “reassessed” if the Geller event went forward, Kaplan rescinded his offer for the Jewish Defense League to use the Chabad @ Flamingo for the May 13 event.

It has been moved to the pro-Israel Toronto Zionist Centre.

As egregious as it is that a police force, in the name of “diversity, equity and inclusion,” would threaten a respected rabbi with a long history of community service, it’s even more offensive to be that Rabbi Kaplan gave in.

York Regional Police’s initial involvement in this event is not because a crime took place, nor because there was any reason to suspect one would. Rather, it was the result of a complaint by one member of the region’s Muslim community.

By York Region standards, one person’s complaint is cause enough for the police to say that Geller “runs contrary to the values of York Regional Police and the work we do in engaging our communities,” according to comments made by diversity officer Ricky Veerappan.

A statement released by York Regional Police on Thursday revealed that Kaplan “was provided with additional information regarding the proposed guest speaker by Inspector Ricky Veerappan,” before cancelling the event.

There is no way Kaplan could have accepted the initial invitation for Geller to appear without a solid grasp on what sort of controversy was likely to take form.

A speech by Ann Coulter at the University of Ottawa in 2010 was cancelled when student protests threatened Coulter’s safety.

Later that year, Mark Steyn was denied a room at the London Convention Centre in London, Ontario when the facility’s managers claimed pressure from local Islamic groups.

For Kaplan, however, one Muslim’s spastic call to the police and the potential loss of a non-paying job was reason enough to silently tiptoe away from the fallout of embracing free speech.

In doing so, not only did Kaplan give the police license to bully and strong-arm future community leaders over similar circumstances, but he did it to preserve a relationship with the officers that knocked on his door to threaten him in the first place.

I’m so proud to live in a country with such a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Being chivalrous does not make me sexist

First published at Huffington Post on March 24, 2013.

When I woke up this morning, I had no idea I’d be setting the women’s rights movement back 100 years. But alas, that’s what happened. Best of all, it took me less than 10 seconds to do.

As I was departing a Starbucks, I noted a woman a few paces behind me. The cafe layout didn’t allow a traditional open-the-door-and-wait-for-her-to-pass manoeuvre, so I opted to walk through the door then twirl around as I waited for her to go through. After all, chivalry requires improvisation sometimes.

Had it been a man behind me, I probably would have done the polite-but-effortless Herculean reverse stretch of the arm while still walking forward until my fingers release the final inch of the door. Women get full service.

“I don’t need a man to hold doors open for me,” she said, before stopping in her tracks and refusing to pass through the door.

She didn’t have her hands full, nor was she pushing a stroller or doing anything else that would render her physically incapable of opening the door. I just thought it was how one treats a lady.

Yes, I targeted my victim because she was a woman. My act of chivalry was but a hate crime in disguise.

“You’re welcome,” I replied, not wavering from my post.

After a few moments of stalemated stagnation, my counterpart relented and passed through the gateway to gender oppression. Albeit not without a pronounced huff and roll of the eyes.

My offer to hold the door open wasn’t an act of malice, and it certainly wasn’t because she I felt she was an inferior human being. It was because I was raised not to be one.

Manners and courtesy were grilled into me from a young age. I hold doors open; I walk women to do the door; I help ladies with their coats.

Men under 30 — myself included — have been raised in an emasculating society. From males wearing “This is what a feminist looks like” t-shirts to the 20-something Tucker Max fanboys whose mid-20s are dominated by a decade long cycle of drinking and hookups, oftentimes men are nowhere to be found.

Today’s “men” are stuck in a post-adolescent, pre-adulthood limbo while enlightened women fight for independence by the supposedly brave and principled act of not walking through an open door.

Chivalry is an exercise in basic human decency, not an effort to subjugate women. To believe that ladies should be treated as such should not be a controversial — let alone offensive –notion.

For that reason, should I ever run into a cranky, 30-something, misguided feminist again, I will do as I was raised and hold open the door.

From Aurora to Newtown, there is no antidote for evil

First published at Huffington Post on December 17, 2012.

It was a matter of hours on Friday before mainstream media outlets used their coverage of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut to steer the issue into a debate on gun control. This phenomenon isn’t new. It was only a few short weeks ago that football commentator Bob Costas used airtime during a game to make a statement about the need to increase legislation on firearms in America. We’ve seen the same debates take place after the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, Virginia Tech, and every time, pundits miss the point.

Simply put, there is no antidote for evil.

My intent is not to sound overtly poetic, but it’s a fundamental truth of the universe that evil exists. Virtually all mainstream religions have a version of the Devil-ranging from internal conflicts to a personified antagonist-but it doesn’t take theology to realize that evil takes form in many ways.

There is no other explanation for the events in Newtown, Connecticut last week. Guns were the tool, not the cause. Even to blame “mental illness” — as many have in the past three days — would be too simplistic.

By its inherent definition, a criminal is one with disregard for laws, or one for whom the consequences of breaking a law outweigh the gain that individual plans to achieve from breaking a law. That means that no matter how many gun laws or “Gun-Free Zone” signs America has, criminals will still attain firearms, and they will still use them to commit heinous acts.

The reality of gun control is that it only disarms law-abiding citizens — the very people who could use a firearm to protect themselves, their families, or, dare I say it, their students.There are countless examples of people using guns to thwart the efforts of criminals — particularly in robberies and home invasions. But these stories are not nearly as widely reported as stories of shootings are.

A sane man does not look at a gun and become a murder. But a murderer looks at a gun and sees a weapon, just as he would were he to see a knife, an automobile or a lead pipe.

If individuals want to engage in a discussion about accessibility to firearms and regulations for firearm owners, that’s reasonable. But why does every one of those discussions need to take place in the days following a shooting? Such tragedies force people to beg for answers. For events like the shooting at Sandy Hook, where nothing can ever come close to answering the question of “Why?” people will look for absolutely anything they can cling to. That is what we are programmed to do.

The notion that simply changing the laws will take away the pain and suffering of this tragedy or even prevent future ones from occurring is simply not true. And it’s a dangerous myth being purported by the mainstream media.

There are laws that exist that imprison individuals motivated by evil, but it is impossible to rid the world of that motivator itself. The true source of it is a philosophical question that, to me, is not nearly as important as recognizing its presence. The fact is, evil cannot be fixed, and even if it could, the government is not the body to do that.