By Michael Nickerson
He shoots, he scores! No, I’m not trying to conjure images of Sidney Crosby and the Golden Goal from the 2010 Olympics. Nor, with all due respect to the memory of Foster Hewitt, am I referring to hockey at all. I’m referring to the recent world record-breaking shot by an unnamed member of Canada’s JTF2. Put the biscuit in the basket as the saying goes, though from a lot farther away than your NHL-mandated blue line.
How far, might you ask? Around 3,540 metres give or take, which as many are saying, is quite a shot … eat your heart out Bobby Hull. Of course, the biscuit in this case is not a six-ounce puck of vulcanized rubber but a .50 caliber BMG round. And the basket was not a four-by-six hockey net but a purported member of ISIL of indeterminate size, though it’s safe to assume taller than four feet, and a lot skinnier than six. It’s also safe to say Foster Hewitt would have been a little tongue-tied calling the “play” given the messy aftermath.
Now to be clear, from a military and professional soldier’s point of view, this was indeed an accomplishment of the highest order. To hit a target from that distance given the variables involved is a testament to not just the skill, but the physical and mental training put in by the sniper who achieved it. That the target was a living, breathing human being makes it, again from a soldier’s perceptive, all the more impressive. This wasn’t a great shot on some shooting range, but a life-taking shot under combat conditions, taken under the direction of the Canadian government; by definition Canadian citizens. That’s one hell of a thing to ask someone to do, and our soldiers do it very well and without fanfare. It deserves our deepest respect.
That we had a sniper in that place at that time, taking that shot and that life, should make every citizen of this country feel very ashamed. The target should never have been there, ISIL should never have existed in the first place. These situations have resulted from one stupid decision after another, by our government and others; an ongoing string of incompetence for which year after year, decade after decade, and century after century our soldiers have had to pay the price. It is not something to be celebrated like a Stanley Cup parade or an extra big haul of medals from the last Olympics. Our soldiers deal with the messes we cause. There’s nothing for Canadian civilians to feel remotely proud about.
Not that you would know it. Media outlets were falling over themselves talking about the achievement, lauding it, deconstructing it, listing the top five long-distance kills in the world and squealing with glee that Canada has three of them! Firearm enthusiasts in chat rooms and ranges across the land parsed the whole thing like an exceptional Tiger Woods golf shot while pondering the merits of various rifles and rounds like they were new offerings from Nike™ and Titleist™. Even the prime minister chimed in with kudos and pompoms, covering his political bases and ass if not necessarily his elected duties or responsibilities.
Yet why should he if the general electorate treats the whole thing as one big, jingoistic game? I don’t know how many times I’ve heard coaches and athletes in hockey and other sports use military and war metaphors to refer to a play, a game, a series, or a season. Similarly, there are far too many people in this country who live vicariously and salve their insecurities not just through the distraction of organized sport, but through the bloody conflicts around the world, and the true bravery of soldiers forced to deal with them.
And deal with them they will until people understand that it is no game. These aren’t just scores and records from some benign, entertaining competition. It’s not the Olympics; it’s not the Stanley Cup. It’s somebody’s child killing someone else’s child, for real, never to be taken back on appeal. Game over.