The people of Toronto – and others who follow the news – learned a new word last week in a horrible way. A young man who apparently self-identified as an “incel” used a van as a weapon to mow down 10 innocent people walking down a main street, while injuring 16 others. He also inflicted psychological damage on dozens of horrified bystanders and caused irreparable grief to a number of families worldwide, given the multicultural nature of our city.
Incel, we discovered, refers to a loosely affiliated group of misogynistic men who are involuntarily celibate, and, rather than looking inward for the reasons they have difficulties finding dates – or hookups – blame women for rejecting them.
There is so much wrong with this term that I don’t even know where to begin, but let’s start here: no one is entitled to intimate relations. It’s not written in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, legislated by Parliament, nor written in the Ten Commandments. Sex, whether casual or meaningful, is a consensual act. If it’s absent in your life, look in the mirror before you blame others for a failure to make human connections. Ask a counsellor for help in relating better to others. Don’t resort to violence; the world has enough of that already.
While the vicious attack in Toronto didn’t spawn any new words, it did give rise to a new hashtag: #TorontotheGood. Instinct, it seemed, drove Canadians to respond to hatred and violence with caring.
Dozens of area employees and residents offered first aid to the injured before first responders arrived. A local pizzeria owner brought pizzas to first responders working at the scene. A makeshift memorial on Yonge Street blossomed and bloomed. A florist on the affected stretch of sidewalk offered free flowers to all passersby. The #TorontoStrong campaign raised more than $1.5 million (and growing) to help victims. People throughout the city paid it forward by purchasing coffee for strangers. Vigils at the site drew everyone from locals to the Prime Minister.
So, thank heavens that in addition to learning a new word because of a vile attack, we also became reacquainted with old words: kindness and community. #TorontoStrong, indeed.