The public hearings on the emergency law end – I guess that’s the idea – with the prime minister. But as a viewer, I was more gripped by the opening scenes, with protesters/truckers/occupiers at the helm. They embodied more contradictions, raw feelings and therefore, potentially, more insight.
Everyone wants to think their moment in history’s brilliance is the greatest ever, so it’s no surprise they claimed that about their horn. There are other contenders: the Oka crisis, the Winnipeg general strike, Idle No More. But what struck me was their sense of entitlement. Not righteousness – everyone thinks they’re right – but their shock at being treated like other protesters.
Even this week, when ‘Freedom Convoy’ lawyer Brendan Miller spotted a minister’s underling in the room, he asked the commission head to take him to the stand to answer Miller’s questions. on a theory. It wasn’t just grandstanding for a speech, which often happened, say, at American anti-Communist hearings in the 1950s. Miller actually seemed to be expecting a win.
These people proudly say that they have never had any problems with the police, that they have friends and family in the police or the army. And they seem to have received information from police sources in Ottawa. They have nothing in common with groups that live in fear of cops all their lives. I am not saying that they are privileged. But they live on the safe side of the line that demarcates marginalized and vulnerable groups. It’s what you cling to when more direct forms of privilege start to waver, as happened in the 1960s with the empowerment of racialized groups, women, Indigenous peoples, etc.
In fact, some seem a bit obsessed with the sixties and are finally getting a piece of that action. As agitator Pat King said, “I’ve never seen anything so loving and peaceful in my life. It was Woodstock. The organizer Tamara Lich – much more sympathetic and plausible – called it a lovefest. There are emotional dividends in being marginal, as there are in being white, other things apart.
So it was the arrests that seemed to disturb them the most. Lich, who convincingly said she was not easily offended, also said she was sobbing in her hotel room at the thought of her husband seeing her arrested. For my life, I don’t see why. She should surely be proud, just like him, and the generations before them. (In the sixties, they used to sing, “If you’ve been in jail for justice, you’re a friend of mine.”) She’s upset that her trial won’t be until September, but what about of those who spent decades in prison, like Steven Truscott, although innocent? Or others, interned for years during the wars because they were Ukrainian, German or leftist?
It is this lack of empathy, the failure to extend your own dismay to the plight of others when it stares you in the face, that strikes me as the fatal human flaw. We retreat into particularity, instead of generalizing into common cause.
“No one else would have had three weeks with this kind of pampering,” a pissed-off protest veteran told me. Perhaps the best parallel is the 1935 On to Ottawa trek which began, via covered wagons, in British Columbia. They did not pass Regina. They were attacked by the RCMP, routed, two people died, hundreds were injured. End of the “convoy”. They probably would have been grateful to go to Winnipeg.
- Meanwhile, Why are American football fans so obsessed with instant replays? There are more camera angles than ever and rules experts have been added to the broadcast teams. They analyze the sentences like the commission lawyers dissect the CSIS clause. However, during the World Cup, a ball goes out of bounds, a player catches it and sends it back. The referee keeps extra time in his head. Nobody panics. My guess? When democratic institutions falter, people turn to courts and litigation. In American politics, the solution has always been, but not the one that Donald Trump is ranting about. (Hint: This is campaign finance.) So beware of lawyers, judges, and commissions — and focus on the real game.