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.

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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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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.