I will admit to a great deal of embarrassment. I am about to attend a protest march for the first time, and I admit to a real sense of ambivalence towards the idea. I am not Antifa, I honestly have always been much more comfortable standing with the Canadian Forces providing security against civil disorder than with anything resembling political activism of any stripe. I am not a radical political person by any means; I don’t like the far left, their simplistic idealism places ideas above people, and deny the harsh realities that adults have to consider because real leadership, like real parenting requires you to deal with the world as it is, not as it ought to be. I don’t like the far right because while I would love to be conservative, I find the absolute willingness of the hard right to narrow the question of rights so that only their own rights seem to matter, usually to the point that the rights of others, especially those not as rich, white, straight, or male as their ideal, seem to disappear completely. Again, the far right, like the far left seems to place ideology above people. I kind of put people first. I never had an ideology stop to help my family when we needed it, never had an ideology join me in bailing out someone in trouble, never saw an ideology reach across the table and try not to remain strangers; pretty much anything worth doing has been done by people, and the worst things done to people have been in the name of ideologies.
In Charlottesville Virginia we saw the “alt-right” march, with the nazi banners flying proudly alongside the Confederate battle flag, and various white power flags incorporating corrupted versions of their national flag, some even with our holy runes on them, polluting our faith symbols as badly as the national flags whose ideals they piss on with their hatred. It ended with deliberate murder, because that is where hatred usually ends, and violence is the tool by which the minority attempt to coerce the majority into tolerating the will of extremists. That is the thinking that gave us the Taliban, and Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia; extremist ideology, where human rights and dignity mattered nothing at all, and where the price of remaining silent was illustrated so very well for all who cared to look.
I joined the Canadian Armed Forces back in 1988, a young man following in the footsteps of my father and grandfather, who had served in their times and their wars. I was raised valuing the freedoms of a Canadian citizen, and steeped in the duties of citizenship.
I listen to the anti-immigrant rhetoric of our own alt-right organizers, and I hear the echoes of Gobels. I see the use of our freedoms to allow the rise and spread of ideologies that seek to attack those freedoms from within, that seek to restrict those freedoms to the right sort (read straight white male sort) of people. I hear the ideologies that produced the sort of war torn shitholes that the Canadian Forces sent those like me who strove to keep the peace in failed states across this globe, and I know exactly where those pretty sounding ugly words lead, where the tolerance of that kind of intolerance leads.
I looked in the mirror and could not believe that I was looking at someone who was going to be a protester. I have to admit, I have made more jokes than I can count about the people who run around protesting every public decision they disagree with. I have defended the rights of people to do just that, but always with the understanding that I found it a little silly as a means of deciding public policy.
Then the violence escalated.
Ah. Well, that changes things.
When Islamic terrorists detonated a bomb in the London Underground system, North Americans were surprised that when it reopened the system was slowed because of record ridership. The simple fact is, the response of the British people to a terror attack was to simply and quietly show they could not be moved by fear. In response to an attack on their transit system, people who usually drove chose to use the transit system simply to show they could not be driven by the fear of extremists. That is the action of a citizenry that deserves the freedoms they inherit.
I look at the “alt-right” and their increasing claims to having silent support among average Canadians (that would be me), and I look at the escalation of violence they have chosen to embrace, the descent into street thuggery that was the tactic of the Fascist movements of the thirties, and I remember the point. The alt right wishes to steal the voice of conservative citizens, and wishes to silence the voice of moderate citizens, wishes to use fear to suppress all dissent. They wish to tell us who may be and may not be a citizen in this great nation, based on their opinions of race and religion. This generation they have chosen to demonize the Muslim, as it was the Jew in the 1930’s, because they think that they can get support for their hate filled agenda if they build up an enemy in our minds we will give up our freedoms for protection from.
I was a soldier, so honestly fear doesn’t work on me. When I was young and had no experience with wounds I was not moved by fear. At this point I have survived things that generally kill people often enough to have ceased to be all that impressed by them, and have grown to love my country and its culture not like a newlywed with a bride he sees through rose coloured glasses, but like an old man who simply cannot imagine anyone else ever being right for him. Canada isn’t perfect, but it isn’t shaped by hate or fear, and it won’t be.
I will be marching in the counter protest. I come bearing my first aid kits, working with others who have similar first aid training to make sure that anyone who is injured receives prompt and effective care. I will be there to stand up for the Canada that I believe in, I will be there to show that fear will never rule here, and I will be wearing my Mjolnir, my Hammer of Thor, because while the street gang “Soldiers of Odin” may like to pretend to be heathen, the actual Heathen community has always been about inclusion, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence.
There are hateful people of every race and religion, there are really worthy citizens in every race and religion too; and the latter outnumber the former by a large degree. Muslim extremists no more represent the average Muslim Canadian than those neo-Nazi racists represent the average white Canadian. Its not enough to say that though, you kind of have to show it. Its not enough to sit back and shake your head at the marching racists, you kind of have to stand up and take to the streets to show they don’t speak for you, don’t represent you, and most of all, do not intimidate you.
The press and the alt right will try to label all of us who march as Antifa activists. Sorry. Not true. We are just ordinary citizens who are tired of the wilful promotion of hatred. We are tired of fear being used to stir up strife in our communities, tired of the endless attempts to replace peaceful debate with mindless screaming of slogans.
When you see the pictures of the event, you will see protesters. That is funny, I would have as well. Hard to admit after all these years that I may have been wrong so often, but I have to. We will be keeping the peace, we will be looking after each other, and even after the racists, should one of them become injured, because that is what good people do.
When you look at the pictures and laugh as you see just another group of protesters you will be just as wrong as I was. We are not; not really. We are just citizens. We are just citizens, and we are taking back our country.