standing on parliament hill
Three times now, I have sat down to write an essay I’ve been working on about marriage. It just won’t come. I recognise my exhaustion by the number of times I catch myself dazing out the window. It’s snowing outside though, everything white and clean. Who could blame me for marvelling for a bit. Still, here I am talking about snow and not talking about marriage so clearly there’s something else on my mind.
There’s been so much happening over the last couple of weeks. I was called upon to write something that was very hard to write and share it in a way that was very hard to share. We have also been wading through the waters of government bureaucracy as we advocate on behalf of our daughter and all of our children. We’re simply exhausted.
We have also been going to the freedom rally in Ottawa. We helped make healthy meals for the truckers and their support teams. We’ve driven up to Ottawa and partook in a celebration of endless hugs, dancing, chants of “freedom”, and tearful national anthems in the streets. There’s a few diesel jerry cans in the barn with the truckers names on them. If we get arrested, I have given a key and instructions to some loyal compadres on how to feed our critters. I figure I can just fast in jail instead of eating their soy patties fried in canola oil slop. All good!
It’s been sad to see that all of us are living in different realities depending on the media we consume or the bubbles we operate in. My husband has had colleagues ask how he’s okay with the “white supremacy” and “nazi racism” at the rally. It’s disappointing, and disheartening, to see how easily our leaders and media spin the truth with such disregard for how it affects us, the people. I long stopped listening to mainstream media, but my word, if I did, I could see why people would be confused by our support of the filthy fringe out to pillage and plunder.
More and more I’m seeing this as an issue of class over the favoured narrative of race. Race doesn’t really fit, given that there are all sorts of races attending and supporting the rally. What seems to fit more honestly is the issue of class. The truckers, and indeed the other workers that form the backbone of our country, are to be applauded when they keep things moving as needed, but when they stop and ask to be heard, they are the lowest of the low, not worthy of being heard. So vile, we mustn’t even acknowledge them as human beings.
I grew up around blue collar workers. My favourite uncle, a trucker himself, always smelled of diesel and whisky. He was quick to laugh and let me blow the horn in his big rig. Many of my uncles and my grandparents were labourers or carpenters or farmers. There was no pretence there. They spoke plainly and with humour. They were all extremely capable and dependable men that conducted themselves according to the unsaid code of manhood: work hard, provide for your family, be dependable. What their dreams and aspirations were, I could not tell you. Maybe what I saw was it. Maybe there was more. Maybe they were tough as nails to the outside world. Maybe they didn’t have long, looping conversations with their wives about how to fulfil their needs. Maybe they did. I don’t know. I just know that they were men of character that based their value on their actions and contributions.
I saw those men, all of the men of my childhood, again and again as I walked through the rally. I spoke to the truckers. I spoke to the supporters. I spoke to families with small children. We touched each other’s arms when we spoke, something that almost shocked me in its simplicity and warmth. “Yes! I remember when we used to do that!” When did we stop doing that? I know when.
At one point, I got squeezed into a huge crowd of people, definitely mosh-pit worthy. I could see my husband’s head further ahead, but had no way of reaching him. I was squished on all sides, immobilised. I put my hands on the back of a middle aged guy in front of me, a big husky fella’ with reflective outerwear on. “I need to get up there to my husband, can you be my bulldozer?” His whole face lit up and with a big grin he said, “Of course I will be your bulldozer.” He plowed, I hung on for dear life, and soon I was safe in the arms of my love once again. My bulldozer, my hero.
On the way back from the rally, we inadvertently walked past a counter protest in front of city hall. There were around 100 people there along with all of the media I was looking for at the freedom rally. There were no Canadian flags, no hugs or joy. There were just masked people, every one, standing in the shadows of city hall with signs saying “go home racists”, “go home nazis”, “stop bullying us”, and “black lives matter”. I couldn’t quite pick up on what they were for, evidently not freedom, but the hodgepodge of signs told me what they were against - the intolerant, racist “them” the media and our illustrious leaders told them about. They chanted, “Go home, misfits, go home.”
It was all strangely infantile with a strong waft of victimisation. I thought about that as we continued our walk back to our car, passing the odd person with another social justice slogan on a placard heading in the opposite direction. I finally clued into where we were - right in the heart of the University of Ottawa campus. That explained the demographic and the messaging of the counter protestors. What did they stand for? Equality for all of the equality worthy amongst us. Equality according to them. The truckers and their lot? Misfits. Racists. Unworthy.
I wish I could say this sentiment is reserved for those being manipulated in the hallowed halls of higher learning, something one grows out of with age and experience, alas, we see it everywhere. Friends tell me of family members that have disowned them for being bigots, not based on evidence, based on the proclamations of a leader that wields his powers with callous disregard for the division and hatred he sows. Dissension is met with cheers. Dissension is met with hatred. It all just depends on who is doing the dissenting and whether or not that dissension fuels the objectives of the powers-that-be. Worse than the division our “leaders” have fuelled, is the ease with which it was done.
Me? I follow love. Sounds rather 70s hippy-esque, but I am a child of the 70s so I come by it honestly. I’ve never been a big fan of protests. I don’t jive with the idea that we can stop something by putting energy into the death of it. Energy is energy. I prefer creating something over tearing it all down. It’s how I’ve shaped my whole life - using my life energy in the creation of something I want more of instead of destroying what I hate. These last couple of weeks have been joyous. I have hugged and been hugged, cried tears of frustration and joy with strangers, and stood in the centre of a cyclone of joy and hope the likes of which I thought were only a memory.
I know that. And because I know that, I know what is being said is wickedly malicious. And because I know what is being said is wickedly malicious, I have lost faith and all trust in the information I am told to believe. That genie will never go back in the bottle. I wonder if our leaders and the media have considered this, the lasting legacy of their demonisation of a whole group of people. I wonder if they even care.
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