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Fault Lines and Snowmen

Snowman SaluteIce Sculpture

Here is a lesson learned by Canadian youth, frequently with stiches or close calls avoiding same.  Ice is hard as diamond in the cold, strong as steel…..from the right angle, and shatters like grandma’s china when hit the right way.  Snow is never really all that together, at is best it has a lot of fluff, but when you pack it together, it lasts.

Societies can be described in this pardigam as well.  Monocultures, societies that pride themselves on a single shared identity, a single crystal clear vision of themselves are indeed magnificent.  Shining like diamonds, these pillars of diamond hard perfecton make pillars that stretch from rooftop to snowbank, shining as pillars of purity and purpose.  Or they do until some knucklehead with a hockey stick strikes at the fault lines of that purity, and the ice shatters.

We accept the myth, in a large extent, that we have a culture as a country.  Every country does.  It is a good myth a useful myth, a myth that, at its heart teaches a truth, that we all do share something.  Like all myths, it is essentially a lie that teaches a truth; a story that illustrates and underlying message and isn’t itself to be accepted as a fact….accept we do.  Terrorism relies on this myth, for they seek to shatter those fault lies, and break our society.

Lines of fault; the stresses between those communities within our community.  Racial, religious, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, economic strata or language.  There are a thousand lines of stress within our community, a thousand cleavage lines; and to the terrorist victory is as simple as a single public act of violence that strikes along those lines, and lets each side of the division seek and find fault ten thousand times over after the initial act of outrage.

Against a true crystal, against the beautiful and pure icicles, it would work.  Any kid with a hockey stick can tell you that much.  It didn’t work here in Canada with the shootings at the National War Memorial.  It didn’t work in Australia with the stabbings in Cairns.  Neither Canada nor Australia really buys its own mythology with the same patriotic fundamentalism as other countries.

We are snowmen.

We aren’t pure; in fact if you look too closely you will note enough dirt and other things that may make you desire to take your pictures from farther back.  We are not too tightly packed, on the whole.  We come together to build our community, and we like each other, mostly.  We don’t really see ourselves as a shining vision of purity, or really as one thing at all.  We clump together in happy half packed irregularity, hammered into a rough shape by the shared, somewhat amorphous dreams of our collective community, until we are struck.

Funny thing about snowmen, versus ice sculptures; we grow more tightly packed when we get struck, and what you break apart we can, and will, hammer back in place with a will.  Who has not seen children and teens, even adults or seniors when they think no one is looking stepping off the walk to do snowman repair.  Although we walk haughtily past them every day, a part of us is invested in seeing them, and when they are broken, we will often set aside our briefcase, or tool belt, and get our hands a little cold, and our dignity a little dinged to set things right.  We can’t really explain why, its just that snowmen are not expression of purity, they are expressions of hope, and we can build that.

We may dream of being the icy perfection, the cold clear purity of the ice sculpture, but the reality is our communities are snowmen, marked by the hammer of ten thousand hands, with more road dirt than we prefer to see, and perhaps the occasional stain for which our four footed brethren may take blame.  We are not all one thing, or mostly one thing, except perhaps mostly together.

We will never be more than mostly together for the things that divide us are often important, and often real.  We will never be less than mostly together either, for as long as lone acts of violence are seen by each of us for what they are, the act of an individual, we can and will continue to pick up the pieces of our community, hammer it back in place with shared hands, and step back onto the path of our normal day with a smile, knowing that through our work, the little snowman that we never really knew we valued is back together through the efforts of our hands.

Purity and unity are powerful visions, and great men and women use them to move whole peoples to do great, and sometimes terrible things.  Communities and snowmen are less perfect, crude and somewhat untidy, but they bring us together, and give us hope, as long as we keep stepping off the path of our own concerns, and getting our hands cold and dirty to put them back together again.

This Yuletide, take the time to stop and appreciate your local snowman.  Some of you may have the physical thing, and some of you may have to look harder to see the snowmen builders in your community,helping to bring together the untidy bits of our communities after some knucklehead with a hockey stick, or some terrorist with a cause, or polarizing police incident with a tragedy, seeks to break them.

This Yuletide, get a little dirty, let your dignity take a day off, and build a snowman.  If the Australians can get it right without two physical snowflakes to rub together, how much easier must it be for us?

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