Resolutions 2: Shouldering the Burden

   I still have some unresolved issues from last year, some anger simmering on the back-burner that has yet to be brought to a word-punching boil on this blog. But it’s about time, I say. It’s about time I write a word or two about my dislocated shoulder.

   This is the story of something that happened to me a year ago last weekend. Here’s how it all went down:

   Friday, July 9th. I am walking down a busy Chinatown street toward an art gallery to deliver a submission form for an upcoming show. I had just run into a friend of mine who was doing well after about a year of physiotherapy following a dancing accident. I told her about my amazing new job I’d been hired at only the day before after a lengthy, painful stint of no-money-hood. I was thinking about my good fortune, and how much it would suck if I got injured just when things were finally starting to turn my way. Such were the thoughts swimming through my head when I saw the guy. I suppose I’ll go ahead and give him a name… Douchy McPunchyFuck. The street was crowded, but not so much that you couldn’t walk without bumping into someone, and here was this guy seemingly beelining straight for me. He was giving me the old Stare Down- you know, when they walk right at you as if they’re on a collision course, but at the last second they walk around you just so they can stare you down as you walk by (it’s their little way of telling you that the streets belong to them, and you’re not welcome. Or they’re just staring at your boobs). Seen it, been there, done that, ignored it, remained steadfastly unimpressed with each new occurrence, have come up with a staggering list of synonyms for the word “douchebag”. But the sidewalk was messy with trash and fruit baskets and those ring-shaped poles you lock your bike to, and wowzers, the dude really meant it. Lacking the space for total maneuverability, I raised an arm (my left) to protect myself, which brushed lightly against his shoulder as he passed (and by “passed”, I mean, “fully intended to body-check me”). I said “excuse me.” And that’s when the first punch hit.

Perhaps I was so used to the old Stare Down that I hadn’t counted on the old Punch Out. In any case, the dude randomly erupted on me in a fist-shaped explosion. He connected with my right shoulder- the one I broke as a teenager and never let heal right- which was promptly dislocated. Clean dislocated right the fuck out of its little shoulder-hole. It had happened to me before, but this time I couldn’t pop it back in. The ball was out of the park, out of the socket, and somewhere in my back.

He took off rather briskly. I realized I couldn’t move my right arm and I couldn’t pop the joint back in myself. I tried to somehow simultaneously fish out my phone and cradle my right arm with my left, and I realized that I’d be no match in a fight. So, I just let him go without another word, figuring the damage was done and there was no point in seeking retribution. Oh, wait, no, that’s not what happened at all.

So I shouted. “Hey! That isn’t okay! Why would you do that? Are you going to apologize to me?”

“No,” he answered brusquely, the only word he said.

“Well you owe me an apology. You can’t just go around hitting people.”

By this time he had dashed halfway across the busy street, disrupting traffic. I said something about him running off, thinking that he could get hit by a car for all I care, when he spun around and came at me with a fresh volley of blows. These I deflected from my face and neck, gaining a few extra bruises on my shoulders and chest, but nothing serious. He continued off on the same side of the street, and I yelled after him, “do you want me to call the police?”

“No,” he predictably answered.

As I watched him hurry off, I considered my options: walk back to the police station (nearby), and report the incident. Walk to the nearest emergency room (also nearby), and get my immobilized and increasingly numb arm taken care of. I looked around. One person hovered near with a concerned look on her face; everyone else continued with their day.

And that’s when the degree of my injury sunk in.

If you have never suffered a severe shoulder dislocation, I assure you, you cannot imagine the pain.

My arm didn’t move, couldn’t move, and I was in more pain than I had thought possible (and take my word for it, I know pain). I considered calling 911. Not being a frivolous person, I realized that if I was considering it, I should probably just do it.

“Police,” I answered to the first question. I related the details of the incident and described the assailant as best I could. I told them where I was. They asked about my injuries, and I told them I couldn’t move my arm. Did I feel safe staying where I was? The guy was long gone and everyone else was ignoring me, so sure. They said to stay there, they’ll send someone for me. Sure. I hung up. The girl with the concerned look asked if I was okay, if there was anything she could do. I’d be fine, they were sending an ambulance. She offered to wait with me. It was nice of her to offer, but no, I’d be okay. The truth is I just didn’t want anyone around, I didn’t want anyone near me. I was having a hard enough time standing up, I couldn’t engage in conversation. My body didn’t know what was happening and it was reacting strangely. There was water in my eyes. But for the record, Concerned Girl, wherever you are, thank you. Thank you for being kind.

The ambulance arrived, asked for me, I got in. The paramedic asked if I wanted to wait for the police, but I didn’t want to wait for anything. He rolled up the sleeve of my slightly-tight-but-only-article-of-UofT-clothing-I-have t-shirt and winced- apparently, it was that dislocated. We were off, he fished my Health Card from my wallet and every bump and pothole felt like it was going to rip my arm right off.

We get to the Emergency Room, and the nurse at Admitting looks at my shoulder and winces. I sit down in front of another nurse who tells my paramedic he can leave as she looks at my shoulder and winces. After I’ve explained what happened yet again (met with yet another “he just hit you?”), she sends me to the next window. I answer the same questions and tell my story again to a guy who’s looking at my shoulder, wincing. He asks for an emergency contact number. This is the person they call if you die. I give my parents, and picture their reaction to the news that I’m dead. I hope it doesn’t come true. He tells me to have a seat and wait.

I text my significant other, whom I had made tentative plans with for that night, telling him I wouldn’t be making it out. He texted back asking if he should come to the hospital and wait with me. I said no, but realizing how difficult it might be to get home since my entire nervous system was starting to feel like it was doused in acid, I might need help getting home. I tried to focus on my book (Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test), but as the pain was crescendo-ing to a plane where I was fairly certain I would not be able to bear it (which really makes you wonder what your options at that point are), I couldn’t exactly concentrate.

Fortunately, I wasn’t waiting long, although it felt too damn long for me. I pictured them taking me into a space blocked off by curtains, giving me a leather strap to bite on, jamming my shoulder back into place, and giving me a lollipop before sending me on my way (okay, maybe the lolly was wishful thinking, but the rest seemed reasonable enough). Clearly, I did not understand 21st Century medicine.

Once behind the curtains (I got that part right, but I hadn’t expected such hideous stripes), they managed to get my shirt off without cutting it. I lay down, and the nurse grabbed my left hand and started explaining something.

“First, we’re going to give you some Gravol, because the other drugs we’re going to give you will probably make you sick. Then, we’re going to give you some morphine (she couldn’t have started with the morphine?), and then some anti-inflammatories.” I could tell by the way she was holding my hand that these were not to be in the form of orange-flavoured chewable tablets.

I have yet to meet the person who is completely comfortable with needles. Maybe I don’t hang around with enough junkies. I’ve known a diabetic or two, but I think that even they flinch and die a little inside at the sight of an IV. In any case, I kept my eyes averted from my left hand, the hand she stuck the needle (which I have named Excalibur) into, which gave me a chance to look over at the shoulder that everyone had been wincing at. It was weird. It looked like a cross between “mis-shapen” and “gone”. It didn’t do any good, looking away, as she insisted on describing what she was doing as she was doing it. And it hurt. It hurt badly in a sharp yet achy and deeply uncomfortable way- I could feel it fishing around in my vein. I expressed a little discomfort, and she responded with “oh, the needle’s not in there anymore.” Oh, good, but then, why did it hurt even worse? “It’s a tube now. We’ve fed a tube into your bloodstream.” Lovely. Like being violated and having to be grateful for it.

The morphine turned my blood cold- a frozen numbness crept through my veins, and started to make my head spin. But the pain was still there. It was not diminished, I had just sort of.. gotten used to it. Like if your roommate was a murderous robot shark who smelled of sulphur oxide and left the seat up. You just start pretending he’s not there.

This is when Detective Detached and Lieutenant Literally Bored By This Bullshit showed up. They asked me the same questions whose answers I’d started considering changing up a bit just to keep the novelty going. I didn’t, because violent crime happens to be something I take somewhat seriously (one of my buttons, you might say). I answered their queries as best I could, but man was that morphine starting to kick in. Yet somehow, the pain remained undiminished. It only seemed… a little more distant somehow…

After pumping me full of enough anti-inflammatories to kill an elephant who’s allergic to anti-inflammatories, they sent me to X-Ray (no relation), where a delightful technician looked at my shoulder and winced. He asked me what had happened and I told him.
“He just hit you?” He asked.

He was appalled, but had a sense of humour, which was important, as I was trying desperately to keep my own. Freaking out doesn’t do any good. Panicking helps no one. Stay cool, stay calm, find the humour in any situation. I looked at the clock and realized that the gallery would be closed. It was the last day for submissions. That asshole had cost me my spot.

X-ray guy choreographed my poses as we joked about the whole ridiculous mess. The room was not cold, and even though I was in a hospital gown, I didn’t feel a breeze or chill. Yet I was shivering. Was it the drugs? I felt like I was shivering on the inside. I mentioned this to Mr. X-Ray.

“It’s the shock,” he said. He gave me a look that said that he was sympathetic to my determination to stay strong. “Whether you acknowledge it or not, you’ve been through an ordeal. And your body knows that.”

I went back to the en-curtained bed. Ordeal? The word stuck with me. I was walking down the street, minding my business, just another day downtown, where I live. How did this become an ordeal?

I remembered the nurse telling me that I’d be awake when they put my shoulder back, but I wouldn’t feel it, and I wouldn’t remember. I held on to that- not the not-remembering, but the being awake part. I didn’t actually like the not-remembering bit. I much preferred my leather strap idea. But I supposed that they knew best- after all, it’s not like they were going to mis-lead me in order to get me in a position where they could do something even more traumatizing to me that I wouldn’t be able to resist.

As I lay back, another tube was jammed into my hand. Saline solution, I guess, to flush the other drugs out. So now that I couldn’t move either arm, the nurses casually mention that I was not going to be awake for the procedure after all, that I was going to feel a little funny, a little loopy, a little out of it, and then I would feel nothing at all.

I was being put under.

I’d never been put under before. I wasn’t okay with it. I can handle douche canoes on the street who want to get up in my shit, but not this. Being restrained and helpless on a slab as strangers did God knows what to my body… I tried to let them know that I wasn’t okay with it, I tried to tell them no, but they were shoving oxygen tubes up my nose and I couldn’t stop them, and the little electric pads stuck all over my torso made the machine beep in ways I didn’t understand. I tried to object, I wanted off this ride, but everyone was so far away, and they weren’t listening. They weren’t even there, they had all left, they’d left me, and I was all alone. Alone staring at the stupid striped curtains forming grooves and folds and valleys with voices in them that I knew I could understand if only I could hear them, voices that might not have been there, but I wanted them to be, because then I wouldn’t be alone. But maybe they were bad voices, maybe they didn’t care about me, maybe they were out to get me, and I was so helpless, but they tried to guide me, Ken Kesey and Neal Cassaday and the unpredictable pranksters that I couldn’t trust but they tried to guide me through the abyssal wilderness when I knew we were all nothing and existence was insignificant and I was going to die and I was already on the other side, and God help me, it was all real, and I didn’t know what was happening. And among all the colours and the voices that only I could comprehend there was a face, a floating two-dimensional face in front of the endless stripey fields of three-dimensional, four-dimensional, five-dimensional colour, running off into their vanishing points, emptiness now, and now, a face. And now it’s gone- flat face, alien, stranger, it doesn’t belong here. I feel sick. It isn’t part of this world, I don’t understand, it has a smile, and something sickens me. I feel sick. Why is that face here? Is there a head behind that face? Whose is it? Is it familiar? Why is it familiar? Who is in this world who shouldn’t be, whose monument, whose Easter Island, Zardoz, God-Head gazing down at the folding world, head in the abyss that rings a bell of recognition somewhere beyond the stripey plain? What are you doing here? I want to ask it but the words won’t come. I cannot speak, I never could. Forming words are beyond me- they’re already taken by the echo of a synthesized robot voice being carried on the wind from somewhere far away. Why are you here? I try to speak, but the electronic interference takes over again, a buzzing washes over me like a nightmare on the wind. Is it coming from me? Is that my voice? I try to speak again, and I realize the sound is in my head, the spirit of dizziness, migraines and confusion, the interference is in my head and it is coming from me. It’s coming from me from somewhere far, far away.

I can’t move. I have no body. There is a net-like discomfort where my arm should be. I look at the face. There are shoulders now. Soon it will have a whole body. One shoulder, two. Where are my shoulders? I recognize the face. Was it him? It was the Boy. The good guy. The wonderful guy I’ve been with for three years. I’d texted him, earlier that day. Was it the same day? How long had it been? I’d asked him to pick me up when I was done. I wasn’t done, so what was he doing here?

I considered that I was imagining him. I tested my voice again- I was still in the eternal field of stripes, I now lived on the cover of a Yes album. He looked confused. I realized what was going on: they hadn’t told me this was going to happen, that I’d lose grip on reality. I didn’t know I was going to hallucinate, but I was, in fact, tripping balls.

I realized that I probably seemed very strange to him, so I tried to explain. I was high. I was extremely high. I was higher than I’d ever been in my life. And I was terrified. I had no idea what was happening to me, where I was, who I was, how long I’d been gone, what had happened to my arm. My arm! Did I still have it? Were they going to cut it off? Had they done it already? My right arm- my right arm! How was I going to draw? How was I going to write?! It wasn’t fair- I was absolutely terrified, and too stoned to express it, and he laughed. He laughed, and the nurses laughed, and everybody laughed at me.

Did I mention I felt sick?

No one seemed to care how I felt. Everyone had left. I was still in stripe-land with the voices I couldn’t hear, my mentors still trying to tell me about the electric Kool-Aid. I didn’t know what to do, where to go. My arms were still restrained. I leaned over the bar on the side of the bed. Eventually, he was there, holding a container a little too late beneath my retching, terrified face. I was not entirely in contact with my body and yet it went ahead and did horrible things without me. And he was there. We’ll call him Charon, because he was my moon that day, never leaving my side, even if I had been knocked down a peg or two by the world.

I started to come around. I heard the beepy noises of the EEG. The rolling stripe field turned back into a curtain. The cops meandered back in, and I answered the rest of their questions as best I could. It isn’t often that you can say to a police officer “I’m so high” without fear of reprisal. My arm was still there, in a sling. It was over, and I didn’t even remember passing out.

After another round of x-rays (during which I tried to throw up again, but as I hadn’t eaten that day, nothing came up but frothy bile), I was wheeled back on a stretcher by the kind nurses to the bed where I faced the challenge of getting my clothes back on. Charon and a nurse helped. I couldn’t quite follow the sling instructions, and so eventually decided that the process of getting it on comprised solely of getting the Velcro to stick to absolutely everything except what it’s supposed to stick to. I set a follow-up appointment at the fracture clinic to determine my eventual physiotherapy needs, took a bottle of Percocet for the road, and leaned on Charon all the way home.

The drugs didn’t agree with me. I was hungry, but I felt too sick to eat. Charon picked me up some food- grapes, baby carrots, Digestive cookies, crackers and cheese,- and had also brought with him some gummy candies, because they’re my favourite. My weekend was ruined- I couldn’t go out, but he stayed in with me. But I couldn’t write. I was angry about what had happened to me, but I couldn’t write, and I couldn’t draw, so I couldn’t express how I felt.

I couldn’t work, either (as a bartender), but that was okay, since I was starting a new job. A new job that I also couldn’t do, it turned out. I couldn’t type. I couldn’t file. Hell, I could barely make a cup of coffee. Using only my left hand, everyday tasks became challenging to impossible. No more wearing certain clothes or washing my hair. Forget redecorating my apartment which I was in the middle of- I couldn’t even tie my fucking shoes. I couldn’t even put on goddamn deodorant. Fishing out my wallet for my debit card took ten minutes, never mind counting change. I couldn’t do anything fun. I had plans to go hiking, camping, play frisbee, fucking bowling- none of that happened that summer. Possibly ever. And forget sex. I could tell it would be a while before that would happen again.

I couldn’t sleep from the pain (the painkillers did nothing), and from spending most of the night trying to find positions that didn’t hurt or damage me further. My left side began to ache due to the added responsibility. I couldn’t be comfortable or accomplish anything. I couldn’t cook, could barely eat, barely sleep. I couldn’t do fucking anything but feel pain and remember the fear I felt in the hospital. I felt like I’d lost everything, including faith in myself. That one random crazy guy took it all away from me.

And even at the time, I knew I would heal. Soon enough, it would just be another story to tell (again and again and again..). It didn’t matter. This was one of the last summers of my youth, and I spent it being impotent, because of him.

Have the police caught him? What do you think? Of course not. My stoned-out description of the remarkably generic-looking guy I’m sure was a real help. So he gets away with it, right? And I’m just supposed to accept that. Right?

That’s a problem, you see. I don’t think I can. I can’t accept the tongue-clucking, the condescending “my, the streets are getting so dangerous these days, but that’s what you get for living downtown” attitude. I can’t accept the acceptance that this kind of thing is par for the course, the status quo. I can’t. And I won’t.

I have become a target for other douchebags who have some kind of fascination with a girl in a sling. They use it as a pick-up line, they use it to put me in my place, they use it to debase me, to threaten me, to make me feel like a victim. One Kinko’s employee, outside on his smoke break, said to me as I passed by, “hey, can I break the other one?” Strange, when you’re hurt, people feel the need to point it out to you, make sure you feel weak. That doesn’t work on me, fucktards. You think I can’t handle your old Stare Downs? Because I’ve handled worse. You can’t hurt me worse than I’ve been hurt. If Punchy McDouchehat couldn’t do it, you don’t have a chance.

And as for you, asshole…

I know you’re out there. And while I’m sure you’re not reading this, somewhere in your whirling coked-out fever nightmare of a brain is a seething awareness of what you’ve done. You took my independence, my art, my means of expression away from me. You made me feel fear in that hospital. I did nothing to you, nothing. But your ugly face and stupid sweater are burned into my memory, and one day we will meet again. One day, you will feel the wrath of rage contained no longer by fear and social courtesy. You get no more politeness, no more calm requests for an apology. If I ever see you again, you motherfucking assmunching douchecunt waste of human filth, you will know my rage and pain and it will be unleashed a thousand times upon you by an army of righteous souls, and you will have no escape. I have loyal friends, Asshole, and they will straight-up fucking murder you. And I will laugh, and punch out your crooked teeth with my swinging right arm, and I will tell you that that’s what you get for not apologizing. Dickwad.

There is no lesson to be learned here. I was walking down a busy street in the middle of the afternoon in broad daylight, minding my business and getting in no one’s way. And there’s no way I could have seen it coming. There is no lesson, no silver lining. Just rage. The rage is all I have.

It still hurts, you know. I still have to be careful- it slips, every now and then. I’ll never be able to use it like I used to, never be completely free of the fear that something could happen, something could aggravate the injury, and I’ll require surgery. That’ll mean going under again. It’ll mean losing mobility. It might mean an end to my art, or at least my current drawing style. I hope you’re happy, Punchy McAssdouche, but you probably don’t even remember me. You have no idea what you’ve done. You feel no guilt, and while I’ve been in excruciating pain for the last year of my life, you’ve been tra-la-la-ing through yours, blissfully punching strangers and bearing no consequences.

And that’s gotta be the most infuriating part of it all.

Riot Night In Canada

Long-time readers of this blog are probably aware of how I feel about riots, and more importantly, their aftermath. But when Toronto lost its shit over the G20 summit almost exactly one year ago, as ridiculously unjustified as that was, it was at least over something important: the rights of citizens in their city. Oh, and politics, and the environment, and big corporations, and, uh… hipsters, or something.

So I don’t know if Vancouver is just trying to be Toronto (no surprises there), or if they really just take hockey way too seriously.  Either way, I earnestly implore my BC friends:

Come on guys. Really?

I don’t suppose it’ll mean much if I say it’s “just a game.” I get it- hockey is a big part of our culture, and watching a Canadian team lose to the Boston Bullies in a Stanley Cup final is a serious blow to our collective ego. But there are good hockey riots and bad hockey riots.

GOOD: When Toronto boy and former Timbit Sidney Crosby scored the gold-medal-winning goal in your fair city during the 2010 Olympics, the entire country took to the streets in celebration. Walking home that night along Yonge, I experienced the massive party in Yonge-Dundas square, saw the spontaneous parades marching proudly down the street, and heard buskers everywhere break out into our national anthem. It was a beautiful, glorious moment, and one that the Canadian hockey lover in all of has every reason to cherish.

BAD: This bullshit.

I admit, I don’t necessarily get the whole “hocky culture” of Canada. I grew up here, but I was born in the States, and my parents are from entirely different continents. But I am Canadian.

One of the proudest days of my life was receiving my Canadian citizenship. I like beer, bacon, and maple syrup, and when I get bumped into by a pushy stranger, I apologize. I believe that Canada is the best country on Earth, and deserves the respect and admiration of the world.

But you, rioting Vancouver Canucks fans. You’re just making us look bad.

We’re supposed to be better than this. Okay, I know, Toronto rioted last year too, but at least we had genuine grievances, and the overwhelming majority of us wanted nothing to do with those proceedings. I have yet to hear a single Vancouverite speak in defense of his or her city. Not that I’m saying that all Vancouverites are rioting douchebags- I know they’re not. I know that they don’t even necessarily all love hockey. But, well… here’s my thing with Vancouver:

I’ve known many people from Vancouver, and most of them have been very nice. Some have even been my friends. But I haven’t met one who didn’t move to Toronto in search of better opportunities in whatever they were trying to accomplish in their life, and then constantly complain about how much more stressful Toronto is, and whine that they wish they were back in BC. Torontonians are all cold and mean, apparently, and BC is some sort of hippy paradise where everyone smokes organic weed and hikes through mountains even though it’s raining but, you know, you just get used to it. Toronto’s too cold and our sushi is sub-par, and the lake is nice and all, but, you know, it’s not the ocean. And it’s loud and bright and crowded all the time. If only everything closed down at 5pm so you could spend more time fishing in your backyard. But hey, have you ever thought about why Toronto is so busy and crowded all the time? Because people move here looking for bigger and better opportunities. Just like you did! We have the best University, the biggest industry, the most happening arts and culture scene, and the multi-culturalist people in Canada. And when you have all that going on, you tend to stay out a little later. You tend to play your music a little louder. You are busier, and the places you go are more crowded. If you don’t like it, move back to the mountains. Oh wait, I forgot- many of you do, when you realize that you can’t hack it here. Your sunshiney disposition may be missed, but your superior attitude won’t.

Am I generalizing about the people of an entire city that I haven’t even been to since I was a kid? Yes, yes I am. But please understand that I don’t hate all Vancouverites- on the contrary, their relaxed go-with-the-flow attitudes can be a refreshing change (and they always have the best weed). Are they all like that? Of course not. But in my experience, yes. Some acclimate to their new environment quite nicely, and some don’t. Our cities just have different cultures, and I get that- I mean jeez, Toronto is supposed to be the most multi-ethnic city in the world. Surely we can tolerate a few Vancouverites?

But, of course, it isn’t just a few. It’s a lot. Sometimes, it seems like there are three types of Canadians: Torontonians who move to Vancouver to get away from the hustle and bustle and stress, and then complain that they’re bored and it rains all the time; Vancouverites who move to Toronto in search of bigger and better things, adventure, excitement, and a shot at making the big time, and then complain that it’s too fast-paced and hectic and they want to go home and curl up in their Native-Canadian-woven hemp blankie; and everyone else, who are from the maritimes or Winnipeg or something. Now, is this the very attitude that makes the rest of Canada hate Torontonians? Oh, hell yes. I freely admit that. And I don’t believe that that’s really the case- it’s just that the experience of living in Toronto necessarily narrows your vision until that’s how you see the rest of the country. Because, while it may not be true to the rest of our vast, great nation, it certainly is true here.

It’s the whiny, pretentious, entitled attitude that I object to. If you move to the city where everything happens because you want to be a part of the action, don’t complain that it’s more stressful than what you’re used to. Duh, of course it is– that’s why you moved here! People lead busy lives, and deal with other assholes every day. We’ve seen it all, and have become rightly cynical. Your wide-eyed wonder is adorable, but when you come to my home and list off all the reasons why the city that I love is inferior to the place you moved away from, then prepare for a demonstration of that famed Torontonian rage you’ve heard so much about.

You are not entitled to constant peace and quiet if you live in a big city. You are not entitled to great sushi if you move away from the ocean. You are not entitled to leisurely strolls if you are walking down Yonge street. And you are not entitled to a Stanley Cup if your team loses fair and square.

And yes, I’m sure there are dozens of technicalities that the referees “missed” or whatever (you want to talk about officiating conspiracies? Try talking to a Habs fan), but you lost, the Bruins won, deal with it. Vancouver, you often accuse Toronto of being a city full of assholes, but shit like this doesn’t happen over a goddamn hockey game here.

Of course, there are other reasons for that.

So I don’t know if you’re bored, making an attempt at badassery, or just trying to be like us, but in any case, get over yourselves, Vancouver Hockey Rioters. If you’re going to riot, do so over something like civil liberties, not over a hockey game. You’ll get another chance at the Cup next year, so live up to your reputation and CHILL THE FUCK OUT. Because you’re acting worse than bad Canadians right now. You’re acting like Americans.

And no one wants that.

 

PS: To all my dear British Columbian friends… um, I meant those other Vancouverites. Hugs!

Harpercalypse!

Ack! I mean, Jesus! Really? I mean… goddamnit! Seriously! Goddamn those goddamn bastards! Argh! I’m so angry! I don’t even have the words. I don’t even know what to say. Just… just…

AAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Made For Walking

Last month, a Toronto police officer giving a lecture on rape prevention advised those gathered that the best way to avoid being raped was to stop “dressing like sluts.”

At that, all the rape victims in the world finally realized where they’d gone wrong. From Canada to Iraq to South Africa to the United States, everyone donned a parka, burqa, or Virgin Mary costume, and no one was ever raped again.

Because, that’s how it works, right?

I mean, come on, some eleven-year-old children are just totally asking for it, right? Take real good look at a Catholic altar boy some time. Goddamn begging for it. Could you resist the little tramps? When the Japanese invaded Nanking and raped thousands of people, some multiple times, some until they died, you just know it was because of all those sexy lacy thongs those saucy little minxes were wearing. And when my unstable boyfriend suffered a psychotic break in the middle of the night, woke me up with violent touching, and proceeded to torture me until I was barely aware of my surroundings, it must have been because of those damn button-down pyjamas I was wearing. Pyjamas which I’d borrowed from him.

It was a cop who’d sworn to look out for us who said this. Someone I might turn to if I’m ever attacked again. Someone I’d count on to be on my side, to see that justice is done. But justice is an easy word to throw around, whose meaning is fluid, hard to recognize and understand, just like the word “slut”. Exactly what is a slut? What constitutes slut-dom? Its meaning seems to change according to its circumstances, much like the word “rape”.

When I was a kid, I thought a “slut” was just someone who’d sleep with anyone, without being picky. But I noticed that when some people did this, they were called “studs”. This was confusing. So I looked for differences in behaviour- what marked a slut from a stud? It seemed to me that a ‘stud’ is defined by sexual conquests, getting many people to obey your sexual whims, having sexual power over those from whom you take what you want (which all sounds pretty rape-y to me). A ‘slut’, on the other hand, was someone who let herself be used for the pleasure of others. Usually suffering from poor self-esteem, she seeks the lowest form of attention and affection, becoming an empty vessel without desire or agency to be used and consumed by those who don’t really care for her. But unless you get a t-shirt that says all that, I don’t really see how you can get that across via clothing choice. Which is when I discovered that, apparently, “slut” refers to females (and only females, for some reason) who wear clothes that men traditionally find sexy. Which simply means “not much clothes at all.” Which, of course, doesn’t take into account that different men find different things sexy. Some go for lipstick and heels, some for glasses and sensible boots.

So if it isn’t the clothing itself that defines a “slut”, and it isn’t merely a submissive but invisible attitude, then what? Most definitions seem to agree that quantity of sexual partners, or a willingness to have sex, are intrinsic to the identity of a “slut”. Which sounds pretty close to the definition of “stud”, except there’s no suggestion of coercion here, no “making someone your bitch”, as it were. Females who, somehow through dress, express themselves as sexual beings.

But, aren’t we all sexual beings?

So, if a “slut” is simply any woman who doesn’t retch or freeze at the thought of having sex, then a “slut” is basically any woman with sexual agency? Or am I leaving something out? I’m so confused!

The problem is that this word that carries so hurtful a meaning doesn’t seem to actually mean anything at all. But it isn’t going to go away. Like it or not, it’s a part of our language, even if we don’t know what we’re saying when we use it.

So I guess that means that the meaning is open for a new interpretation, huh?

And there are women in this city who have decided to take it back.

If “slut” is to mean “a woman who is comfortable with her own sexuality”, then fuck it, I guess I’m a slut! And I am proud to be so. It took me a long time to get here. It was a hard climb from Victimhood Valley to see the Sexual Liberation Summit from where I stand. Maybe I haven’t quite reached it yet, but at least I have my goal in my sights. And you have no idea how hard it’s been.

When you’re raped, you stop being you. It’s like being assimilated by the Borg. Suddenly, your body doesn’t belong to you anymore. It’s being used for someone else’s purposes, without your consent. We here on Earth like to believe that human rights are absolute, inalienable facts. You have some sort of soul or mind or consciousness that is housed in a fleshy structure, and that structure is your only means of interacting with your environment. You are that structure. It is you. You have exclusive rights to it, and only you may decide what happens to it and what it’s used for.

And that is a lie.

Your body is nothing more than a walking meat pile, as public a commodity as trees or water or dead animals. Nothing stops others from doing what they want with it. If someone else decides that you have one arm, you have one arm. If someone else decides that you’re not a virgin, you lose your virginity. If someone else decides that you are a vessel for their pleasure, then that is the case. If someone decides that you die, then that’s the end of you. You do not own your body. That’s the truth. And yes- it is possible to prove it to you.

People often talk about psychologically surviving rape by “leaving your body”- mentally checking out so you don’t have to acknowledge the horrifying, empty truth being proven to you using your own body, your spiritual home as evidence. But what no one ever mentions is that, after you leave your body, you can’t get back in. That’s it. The locks have been changed, and someone’s repainted the interior an awful colour. Your mail is marked “return to sender”. You’re not there anymore.

Meet the rape-victim zombie.

Floating through her life with the understanding that the only purpose of her fleshy substance is to provide pleasure for others. Her own doesn’t matter. She is not a person. She is only an empty shell.

God. If only she’d worn the flats. Clearly, she was asking for it.

Let’s be clear: it is impossible to “ask for” rape. That is contradictory to the very definition of rape. But here we go with definitions again. What is rape?

Rape is the act of separating a person’s soul from her body. Rape is the act of seizing absolute power over another. Rape is the act of demonstrating to a person that their basic human rights are a fiction, they are not entitled to a mind or soul, that they are nothing more than walking meat piles existing solely to be consumed by others. Quite simply, rape is the worst thing in the world.

Despite ridiculous legal gray areas, there is no difference between “date rape” and any other kind of rape. From “incest” to “pedophilia”, we keep trying to tell ourselves that there are types of rape that are somehow worse than others. We forget that people are equal, and everyone has a right to their own body.

So why the victim-blaming? Why do we perpetrate the myth that rape victims are women who walk the streets at night dressed provocatively, instead of acknowledging the reality that they are people like you and me, who are probably raped in their own home, by someone they know? Some say it’s some deep-seated cultural misogyny, some say it comes down to a fear of female sexuality. And some just desperately need to believe that such a thing can only happen to “someone else”. Someone who made herself a target somehow. Someone who was asking for it.

In fact, you probably know someone whom it has happened to. Your friend. Your co-worker. Your wife. Your mother. Your daughter. Your son.

The truth is, it can happen to you. Yes, even if you’re a guy.

But that doesn’t mean it will.

You cannot live in fear. The streets of your city belong to you, and you have every right to walk down them wearing whatever you want. Your body is not a commodity, and no one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable, or threatened, or to take your rights away from you. You own yourself, and no one can take that away.

The fact that we live in a world where rape is even possible is existential-crisis inducing indeed. I won’t tell you how to prevent rape, because that isn’t your responsibility. It is your responsibility, however, to NOT rape. It is every person’s responsibility to not be a rapist. We live in a society where we accept sexual assault as inevitable, the status quo. We live in a rape culture. But that can change, if we take control. Don’t be a rapist, and don’t be a victim. And when I say “don’t be a victim”, I don’t mean that it’s your fault if, god forbid, the worst happens. It isn’t. But victimhood easily becomes an identity, even to those who have never been attacked. If you have been there, remember, you don’t have to see a victim when you look in the mirror. You don’t have to see that red raw meat that you no longer recognize. You don’t have to live in fear. Be a survivor. Be free.

Tomorrow, we take back the streets. We take back the word that has so often been used against us. We stand up for our rights. We march.

Join me and countless others as we march the Slut Walk down Toronto’s streets. Meet on Sunday April 3rd at 1:30 on the south lawn at Queen’s park. Together, we will wear what we want, and proudly carry our sexuality, whatever form that takes, down the streets that are rightfully ours. And we will not be afraid.

Note: Read also my other blog, that I write with another fabulous lady, where I’ve posted a complementary piece on this same all-important subject.

New Year’s Resolutions 1: the Long Arm of the Law

Happy 2011, Rage-aholics!

I realize that it’s almost March. I’ve been busy. And the news has been nearly impossible to keep up with. So many stories, so many issues filling me with anger and contempt, I didn’t know where to start. So I moved a bunch of them to the back burners to simmer. And now that the news outlet’s short-attention span theatre has moved onto other things, I feel it’s high time to start the new year off right by getting some things from 2010 off my chest.

So I’m just gonna go ahead and dive right into today’s retrospective pet peeve of 2010: Police brutality.

Cops are the modern-day Knights in Shining Armour (well, them and Elton John), riding in on great white horses to save us from distress. As our city mourns the loss of one of Toronto’s finest, we become acutely aware of the dangers faced by our law enforcement, and the sacrifices they make on behalf of all of us. For their continued dedication to serving and protecting the public, they have my eternal admiration and gratitude. I have nothing but respect for officers of the law. Every single officer I’ve ever met has been polite to me, and I’ve never witnessed a police officer harassing someone unnecessarily (as far as I could tell). But it’s the start of a new year, and I don’t feel like we can move on until we find some resolutions for unresolved issues from 2010.

Regular readers of this blog (hi, mom!) will recall my indignation at the events of the G20. It probably sounded like I was on the side of the police in that debacle. The truth is, although I admired the actions of some, I knew that the law enforcement heroes of this great city had much to answer for. There is no question that I have no sympathy for the opportunistic vandals and looters (such as those in the notoriously removable “Black Bloc” outfits), but that does not mean that I did not support the peaceful protestors, or that I thought the cops were in the right. Like I said, they have much to answer for in regards to that day.

But will they answer? Will they be held accountable? Will we ever see justice done?

It’s been eight months, and some people are tired of waiting.

On that warm summer day, hundreds of protestors were brutalized by police officers “in the line of duty.” Were some of these individuals in fact being so unruly that the only way to calm them was with force? Were they out of control, a danger to themselves and others? Were they breaking the law?

Sure, some probably were. But not all. In fact, not even most. Truth be told, not everyone beaten within an inch of his or her life by Toronto cops was even a protestor.

Click on that link. Go ahead. And while you’re at it, click on this one too. That’s my friend Dorian, who survived a horrific beating following a sucker-punch from a police riot shield. He was hanging out at Queen’s Park that day, no sign, no chants, no particular beef with anybody, just watching the crowd, ready with his camera in case anything interesting happened. Hell, I wasn’t there, and I’m not a reporter, so if you want the facts of the day, read those links up there. What I do know is that Dorian is one of the most harmless individuals I know. He is reasonable and not prone to starting fights. I honestly cannot imagine him doing anything to provoke this reaction. His injuries were beyond brutal, his experience appalling. And yet, those responsible have yet to see the slightest sign of justice.

I cannot tell you how angry this makes me. But, since that is the entire purpose of this blog, I am certainly going to try.

Somewhere among the shining examples of duty and bravery of Toronto’s finest are some bad seeds that give a noble profession a bad name. To those cops who beat and held my helpless friend who hadn’t done a damn thing wrong, you probably know who you are. And you ought to be ashamed. Your entire profession ought to shun you, kick you out of their ranks. You are the reason that people hate cops. You are the reason they shout “Fuck da police”. You are the ones they call Pigs. You are not officers of the law. You are nothing more than petty thugs. And you must be brought down.

Do you think we’re afraid of you? You’re not above the law, and you can’t get away with shitting all over our civil liberties like that. You are everything that’s wrong with the system. You are “the Man.”

If you use your power to abuse others, we will find you. If you think it’s okay to assault those weaker than you, we will find you. Because we are stronger than you think, and we have numbers on our side. Better than that, we have the law.

Be you beat cop, seasoned detective, S.W.A.T. member, or even Mountie, if you disregard our rights, the very law that you purport to protect, we will find you, and we will take you down.

To those virtuous examples of the Law Enforcement profession, I am sure you are just as disgusted and outraged at the conduct of your so-called comrades as we are. Help us. Help us to find justice.

To those who make a mockery and shit on everything that the good cops stand for:

Fuck you. And the horse you rode in on.

Hanukkah Matata

I’m a night owl. This tends to lead me toward employment that allows for later hours, like when I worked in an indie video that stayed open well after dark. After renting someone their Tinto Brass DVD that they were watching “for the commentary on the decline of the European civilization,” I would follow up the transaction with a friendly “have a good night!” It became habit, and one I couldn’t shake, even during the occasional morning shift. On the phone or in person, I’d end a conversation with “have a good night,” and inevitably, some jackass would eventually correct me. “Night?” he’d say. “You’re a little backward, aren’t you? It’s not even noon yet!” A good laugh had by all at my expense, but fair enough- I mean, how stupid does someone have to be to wish someone a good night when it’s still light out? Clearly, the ridicule was well deserved.

I could never understand why they were so offended. Did they want to have a bad night? Sure night was several hours away, but I was just thinking ahead. It’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?

 

Deep thought.

One day, around this time of year, I was walking home past the Jewish Community Centre. There was a pair of gentlemen standing outside, wishing passers-by a happy Hanukkah. It was nice of them, to stand in the cold and offer complete strangers a warm smile. As I passed and they said the same to me, I returned the greeting right back to them, and I genuinely meant it. They asked if I was Jewish, and I told them I wasn’t, but that I hoped they had a lovely holiday. They wished me the same. All in all, it was a decidedly agreeable encounter.

And then, as I walked away, it hit me: I’d just become a casualty of the War on Christmas.

I mean, how dare these people push their heathen holiday on me? Why do they hate Christmas so? Why do they hate joy? Wishing a Christian a happy Hanukkah is almost as offensive as wishing someone a good night during the day!

So you see where I’m going with this.

Today is the final day of Hanukkah (which seemed to come early this year for those of us who don’t follow the Jewish calendar). Christmas is still a couple of weeks away, so we’ve avoided the overlap that sometimes occurs. This would indicate that perhaps we’d be spared the “Holiday Wars” for one year. Which would be a shame, seeing as it’s become tradition.

My message to those who believe that war is being waged on the chronologically questionable birthday of our Lord and Saviour: get over it. There are other faiths. There are other holidays. There are people out there who do not celebrate Christmas. Accept them. Forgive them. Extend to them a hand in friendship. It’s the Christian thing to do.

And for those who don’t celebrate Christmas…

Listen. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to see everyone around you celebrate a joyous holiday and feel left out. It’s unfortunate that our culture is so Christmas-centric that it forgets that there are other faiths out there. But you have to understand, most of us were brought up in Christian households, with Christian families and Christian traditions. When we were kids, Christmas was it, it was the thing, and we weren’t really aware of Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Festivus. It’s not because we were willfully ignorant, it’s because we were kids. We didn’t know what mortgages or calculus or fellatio or Belgium were either. As we grow up, we become more culturally aware, but the expression “Merry Christmas” that we’ve heard from loved ones and classic films and greeting cards our whole life is a difficult habit to break. It’s what we know, and while we try to translate that into the multi-cultural world as we know it today, sometimes we slip. It’s not because we’re trying to convert you, or belittle your religion. Heck, most of us don’t even believe in Christ as the Son of God ourselves, and it’s well-known that most “Christmas” traditions are either Pagan in origin or merely winter-based. Sure, there are dickheads out there, the ones who believe in the War on Christmas, who might knowingly say “Merry Christmas” to a Muslim just to make a point or start a fight, but they are the exception. It’s the season for giving, so please, give us the benefit of the doubt.

 

If there really was a war on Christmas, we clearly wouldn't stand a chance.

The way I figure it, it’s cold enough out there for us to try to be warm to each other. Dear readers, I propose a new holiday trend: embrace the traditions of other cultures. Christians, place a menorah on your mantle this year. Jews, put up a Christmas tree. Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans, Satanists, Scientologists, Rastafarians, and Atheists, I put this to you: candles and twinkly lights are pretty, cookies and latkes are delicious, and everybody likes presents, chocolate, money, and chocolate money. Let’s not make each other feel left out but invite each other in. If someone tells me to have a happy Hanukkah, I will not be offended by their failure to accurately gauge my religious stance, but instead feel welcomed into their holiday cheer. There is no reason for petty arguments over which holiday is the “right” one. After all, if we put them all together, it just means that the party will be that much more awesome.

 

Some things we can all agree are awesome.

Happy Holidays!

 

 

Built Ford Tough

Toronto is known for its multiculturalism, its cosmopolitan inclusiveness, its vibrant youth culture, its cultural and environmental awareness, and its progressive liberal politics. Which is why, during the October 25th 2010 Mayoral Election, we elected this guy:

Laugh it up, Fuzzball.

You see, the lefty hippies, yuppies, and hipsters of downtown were torn between two other candidates: the amusingly named Joe Pantalone, who seemed to be most popular among downtowners, and George Smitherman, who wasn’t Joe Pantalone, but wasn’t Rob Ford either. No one really wanted to vote for Smitherman, you see- they wanted to vote for the unimpressive but inoffensive Pantalone- but they all did anyway. Why? Because no one was going to vote for Pantalone. And because of this reason, almost everyone who wanted to didn’t.

That makes sense, right?

You see, no one thought that Pantalone had a chance, as the early polls from a limited scope indicated little support. Because of this, the massive numbers of people who supported him decided to vote for the other Liberal instead. Everyone I talked to agreed that everyone wanted to vote for Pantalone, but no one would, due to the fact that no one was going to vote for Pantalone.

So since it had somehow been uniformly decided that the candidate with the largest downtown support base didn’t stand a snowball’s chance, the default became Smitherman, who didn’t have the same support, but stood a chance of beating Ford due to not being Pantalone.

This is what is known as “strategic voting.”

Let’s face it: voting for what you want is for pussies. Voting for something you don’t want out of fear of something even worse happening- now that takes balls.

So, with everyone downtown haggling over whether everyone should put their majority vote toward electing the mayor they want, throw it at the guy they don’t want less than the other guy they don’t want, or vote for one of the over thirty other candidates no one had ever heard of, the way was laid wide open for the lone Conservative on the ballot.

And man, did he work the suburbs.

Toronto is a large city, and most Torontonians live downtown (or so they tell us), where things like Nuit Blanche, TIFF, Luminato, Gay Pride, Caribana, Word on the Street, and the Fetish Fair explode on their doorstep with such regularity it’s not even weird anymore. These are people who support the arts, the rights of minorities, help for those in special need, women’s groups, LGBT culture, local organic produce, and bike lanes. And they depend upon public transit.

Unsurprisingly, this is also a laundry-list of everything that Ford is against. And we downtowners tend to forget how much the car-driving traditional-family-values suburban sect can resent our highballin’ hedonistic street-car-ing ways. In fact, we tend to forget they exist at all (which, upon reflection, might account for some of that resentment). Toronto has a lot of suburbs. And damn, they’re big.

While Mississauga was busy re-electing the kindly grandmother who had brought prosperity to one of Toronto’s finest burbs for the two-hundredth time, Etobicoke was hammering down on our dreams of drug-fuelled all-night Hollywood art-party orgies with the power and fury of ten thousand silent K’s.

It makes sense. There are probably slightly more liberal-minded folks around here than conservative, but the liberals were all confused over who they were supposed to vote for. Some of them gave up and didn’t vote at all, often citing their busy downtown schedules as the reason. The Conservatives had one option and a lot more free time. It was a no-brainer.

There’s been a lot of finger-pointing down round these parts. Who’s to blame for Rob Ford’s election? The Smithermites for not going with their gut? The Pro-Pants lobby for supporting a loser? The Ford group for actually voting for Ford? It’s a question with no easy answers if you ignore the obvious one, but anyway, the suburbs are really far. It’s much easier to blame your neighbour.

Did we do it to ourselves? If the votes for Pantalone and Smitherman were added together, they’d outnumber Ford’s by a hangnail. But who knows? Maybe a more unified front from our side would have stoked those fires of fear in the suburban hearths, and would have driven them out in even larger droves. As it is, only slightly more than half of the eligible population voted, so who knows what the outcome would’ve been if things had happened differently. It’s a dangerous game, this What-If-Roulette, with almost as many penises. But there’s a strange and terrifying kind of comfort to be taken in the belief in Democracy. If you’re an idealist, then it’s impossible for the wrong guy to win an election. Even if you don’t agree with the result, the Voice of the People has spoken.

So why am I angry? Well, we have elected a mayor whose vision for Toronto does not match my own, and mere disappointment won’t cut it. But whom is my rage targeted against? Whom do I blame?

The obvious answer is Rob Ford himself. But then again, in his mind, he probably honestly believes that he is the best person for the job, so you can’t really blame him for trying. So, you blame his supporters. Only, they were only exercising their democratic right to choose their candidate, and I can’t really expect everyone else’s values to reflect my own. Clearly, the man appeals to a large portion of the population whom I’m sure is comprised largely of perfectly nice, rational people. You can’t really blame someone for casting their ballot for the candidate of their choosing, at least, not if you really believe in democracy. So how about all those people who didn’t vote? Seems like a no-brainer, except there’s no guarantee that things would have turned out differently, and if they hadn’t, I’d be just as mad, and for the same reason. So is it possible that it really is the fault of everyone who voted for the other guys? That doesn’t seem right. Each person used their one vote as they saw fit- some to vote for whom they wanted as mayor, some as a stand against whom they didn’t. Sure, I personally don’t see that as an example of how democracy is supposed to work. Those who believed that voting for a candidate you didn’t like would work as some sort of Konami-code for winning the whole election found out they were wrong. But hey, they thought it would work. Sure, logic tells us that if everyone who liked Pantalone best had voted for him, he might’ve won, but that’s just logic-ing with your heart. Some people tried to out-think the election, tried to trick it by voting against their own wishes, because the election would never see that coming. Democracy is no match for the solid strategy of voting for the wrong guy. How the hell did that not work out?

But I’m not really angry with those who managed to over-complicate something that by its very nature is designed to be as straightforward as possible. It’s not really their fault- they only did what they thought the smartest thing was. By some convoluted egg/chicken logic, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

But as much as I disagree with such voting “tactics”, in the end, don’t their values reflect my values? Let’s face it; if Smitherman had won, I’d be okay with it. So how could I be angry with those who voted for him? Whatever their reasons, enough people voted for Smitherman to make him a serious contender. If a few more people had done the same, we wouldn’t have Rob Ford as mayor. I do understand the rationale- early polls had Pants way behind Smithers, so it’s reasonable that certain rats will jump ship. Call it peer pressure or jumping on a bandwagon, but in the end, their hearts were in the right place, even if their heads had gotten stuck in a self-fulfilling prophecy while they themselves believed they were outfoxing “the system”.

Am I angry with those who voted for all the other candidates, including those who had dropped out of the race? Of course not. If anything, their hopefulness is adorable.

So who am I angry with?

Anger is a reaction, so if you feel it, your brain is trying to tell you that something isn’t right. There’s an injustice taking place, perhaps, and where there’s injustice, there’s usually a culprit. That’s what on-the-face-of-it rationale tells us. So, to find the culprit, one must determine what it is that one is reacting against. And maybe it’s not what you think. Maybe it isn’t injustice. Maybe it’s something else, something you wouldn’t discover if you didn’t ask these questions. For someone like me, anger can be a reaction to almost anything. It’s my default. Sadness, frustration, guilt, regret, and fear- they all become anger by the time they get to you.

So sure, I’m disappointed. But for all I know, Ford will be a great mayor. After all, enough people believe in him to have gotten him elected. So, I’m not in mourning just yet, because I don’t really know what the future will look like, even if I don’t like the plans. Frustrated? That usually happens when I hit an obstacle of some kind that I can’t overcome. The voting process at the community centre here in Ward 27 was quick and pleasant. I did what I could, and it’s now time to move on. Again, disappointed, but I have no regrets regarding my own decision, nor do I feel any guilt. I did the only thing I could legally do to prevent a future for my beloved city that looks, from where I’m standing, somewhat bleak. I know he’s just a man, and the new City Council must approve every decision he makes. It’s not Ford himself that bothers me. It’s the legions of people who apparently think that this man having power is a good thing. People who care nothing for the things that I care about. People who, apparently, have us surrounded.

I think … I think I’m afraid.

What will become of us? Of our city? Are we working toward the Toronto we want, as all the campaign slogans said? Or are we merely running away from the Toronto we fear? What happens when it catches up to us?

So I’m scared. Big deal. Bite me. You’d be scared too if your mayor looked like this:

All the better to eat you with...

But, as we’ve all been taught, when a traumatic event occurs, denial happens first. Then comes the fear, which becomes anger. Fear hinders you. Anger empowers you.

But like all power, it must be used responsibly.

Today, as Ford took office, he was met with hundreds of protestors. Some genuinely lamented the loss of David Miller, while others seemed only to foam at the mouth at the words “Mayor Rob Ford.” I don’t like the man either, nor am I optimistic for the future of art and transit in this city. But I respect the fact that he was voted in democratically. And since I believe in democracy, I can at least give the man a chance before screaming expletives at his doorstep. Demanding the democratically-elected Mayor be impeached after less than twenty-four hours in office in order to implement an administration the people did not vote for just doesn’t seem like the democratic way. Whether we like it or not, the majority ruled. I guess I just wasn’t in the majority. If you are a democratic idealist, then it is impossible to believe the wrong man was elected. Which begs the question… is it possible that… (*gasp*)… I’m wrong? We were all wrong?

Now I’m really scared.

And I’m not alone.

I forgive those voters who voted against the man who scared them, or for the man who made them scared of others. I forgive those who didn’t even turn up, intimidated by the weight of civic duty, afraid of making the wrong choice. I forgive us our fear.

But you don’t have to take fear lying down. You don’t like the mayor? Fine, tell us why. Be passionate. Let your anger focus you, let it shut out all the noise so you can target the thing that scares you and face it. Don’t just scream and whine- be constructive. Let’s deal with this shit. Let’s deal with it now.

I hereby resolve to become more active in my community. I resolve to pay more attention to politics, and to take a stand when I think that something isn’t right. I will fight for the Toronto I want, and I will not run from what I fear.

You must be the change that you want to see. You must believe that democracy works, and that it allows you to support those whom you believe in. You must act based on hope, not fear, never ever fear. Let’s make our city into the community we want, the place we are proud to be from. Let us not hide our heads in shame for electing an ogre, but be galvanized in our quest for a better tomorrow. With the combined efforts of downtown and suburbia, from every fire escape to every cul-de-sac, let us march forward into the day of a bright, shining city of multiculturalism, cosmopolitan inclusiveness, vibrant youth culture, cultural and environmental awareness, and progressive politics, whatever those may be. What doesn’t kill makes us stronger, until we’re tough enough for the sticks and stones to bounce off our hides. Let’s lead the world in rationality, let our passion for peaceful protests and outreaching optimism be an example to those places still in the shadows of fear. Miller time is over, but today is the first day in a new chapter of our city’s life, one which will bring challenges and obstacles, and therefore just that much more opportunity to focus our fear into the raging storm of hope and change that will finally deliver us the city we want.