After the attack in Toronto, our greatest goal should be to fight the isolation that leads to violence

If there’s any lesson to be learned from the attack in Toronto, and the many other mass killings we’ve witnessed this year, it’s that violence often arises out of desperation, loneliness and isolation.

We can fight it with policing and security, with barricades and checkpoints, with intelligence gathering and stamping out hateful speech on the Internet. But each of those is only part of a reactive patchwork, a game of whack-a-mole that often ends in futility. If you put up barriers on Yonge Street, the next driver will simply travel a different road. If you close down the websites that spread hatred, you still haven’t eliminated the rage.

Ultimately, the biggest frontier is in reducing the likelihood that some people, especially young men, will become angry and turn to violence in the first place. If more young people are healthy and engaged and fewer are remote and disenfranchised, maybe there will be less gun violence. Maybe a few teenagers won’t join gangs. Maybe one or two fewer individuals will plan an attack on innocent bystanders.

Nothing about this is simple. But supporting and engaging young people is a worthy goal on its own merit, and one that just might help reduce violence somewhere down the road.

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