André Picard Profile picture
Jul 22, 2018 15 tweets 5 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Please indulge me for a rare (but brief) thread of personal comments.
I was on a city bus in Copenhagen early this morning. A young man clearly suffering from mental illness was screaming angrily. Not an unusual occurrence on urban transport. Passengers ignored him. 1/
Suddenly the man rushed to the front of the bus and began viciously punching and stabbing the driver. A passenger intervened - he disarmed and subdued the man. (Turns out he used to be a police officer in Syria.) Two women in hijabs came to the bus driver's aid. /2
One was a nurse from Somalia. The other was a nurse from Iraq. (The bus route services a major hospital.) Police arrested the man. The bus driver, despite his injuries, asked police if they could ensure the man got help for his "mental sickness." 3/
The driver (an immigrant from Bangladesh) was loaded on a stretcher to be transported by ambulance. But before leaving he asked to speak to each passenger individually - to assure them he would be okay and *apologize for making them late.* 4/
Denmark, like many Western countries, is having a fierce public debate about the place of immigrants and whether they can adapt to Western culture and values. This incident I witnessed on the city bus was frightening but, in many ways heartening. 5/
It was a reminder that some values - like caring for your fellow citizens in a time of crisis- are universal. It was a reminder that immigrants and refugees bring incredible skills with them. It is not newcomers we need to fear, but the assumptions we make about them.
BTW, the reason I know the personal details of each of the bus passengers is that, while we waited to be interviewed by police, the passengers chatted and I asked them about their backgrounds. (Admittedly, the skills of a journalist are more useful after - not during - a crisis.)
There are uplifting parts to this story, but I don't want to gloss over the fact that, in all big cities, we've come to see people with severe mental illness as an invisible part of the urban landscape - we avert our eyes until a tragedy happens. /6
Finally, this story is a reminder that we routinely avoid engaging with our fellow citizens. Every one of the bus passengers I spoke to had a fascinating story, yet we only spoke because of a violent incident we witnessed. It shouldn't take a tragedy to get us talking. 7/
Here is a recent @nytimes story that is pertinent to this thread: In Denmark, government to force some (mostly Muslim) immigrants to study "Danish values" via @epaultaylor /8
Danish TV Ad 'All That We Share' Has Powerful Message About Diversity Thanks for sharing @LetiaObed /9
As people carefully dissect this quickly written thread, I need to correct/clarify one thing: The driver was punched - not stabbed. (Initially passengers thought he was stabbed because of all the blood, but it was likely a broken nose.)
Here is a more nuanced version of my in-the-heat-of-the-moment Twitter thread - where I add (and correct) some details: A bus ride gone bad prompts reflections on immigration, mental health and humanity… via @GlobeDebate
For those asking if the Danish press has covered the bus incident I wrote about: Bus driver attacked - asked passengers to calm down (DA)
The media don't tend to cover banal, everyday crimes like the assault of a bus driver. That's not what I wrote about either. I was fascinated by the response of everyday people to an everyday crisis - something journalists rarely witness and reflect upon. #journalism

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