Just think about me as a child who died and get along with your life…..
– Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr, to his lawyer and surrogate father, Dennis Edney, from Guantanamo, in a moment of despair, May 2010
13 years back, yours truly migrated to Canada. Initially, it didn’t turn out to be what I thought it was – a welcoming haven. Millions of trials and tribulations later (including cleaning toilets in an all-night downtown restaurant for six months), I am where I had seen myself to be, when I left India – settled, in a quiet tree-lined lane where if you whisper, someone might say ‘ssshhh!’
In the beginning I cursed Canada for making a highly qualified engineer wash toilets. I did not understand what Canada really was. Fortunately, being essentially a happy guy, I actually succeeded in making myself enjoy my time at the restaurant. I treat the experiences (especially the ones I had after the neighborhood bars closed and pissed customers tottered in for a bite) as important life lessons.
In spite of the grueling first few years, I am proud to be a Canadian. And I’ll tell you why.
Around the same time that I was winding up my affairs and getting ready to catch the flight to Montreal in 2002, a 15-year old Muslim boy of Egyptian descent, lobbed a grenade in the heat of battle, over a hedge without looking and killed an American marine in Khost, Afghanistan. He was captured alive.
Even when all international statutes would designate him as a child soldier without hesitation, considering the fact that the American died in the midst of a firefight, this boy was damned as a terrorist and incarcerated since the age of 15 in one of the world’s most demeaning and dehumanizing prisons – Guantanamo.
Yesterday that boy, now grown, was set free on bail for the first time in his adult life by a judge in Canada. The judge essentially told the right wing Canadian government to go f–k itself and he told the American government pretty much the same thing. Now, if these two entities have penises long enough, they just might be able to accomplish that task.
What is important is that a boy, brainwashed into jihad by parents who were close confidantes of Osama Bin Laden and thrown into a battlefield situation, who was captured and grew up in prison, is now free.
There are two angels, both white and Christian, in this story – his Canadian lawyer, Dennis Edney and his wife Patricia, who have virtually adopted Omar and given him a room in their Edmonton home, to help him settle down to life as a normal human being.
Neighbors and friends have poured into the Edney home with messages of support, all white, all Christian. I am stressing the race and the religion repeatedly so that I can pause in my occasional criticism of both and press control, alter, delete inside my heart whenever I paint all of them by the same brush.
Am I being a bleeding heart liberal mushy mensch? Yes, I am. Has Khadr been cleverly ‘packaged’ to look harmless, when actually he may be still harboring murderous desires? I don’t know and I don’t care.
Anybody deserves a second chance.