Taking to the Streets

I walked along the seashore to the pub, enjoying the fact that the days were longer and a whiff of spring was in the air. But still I wore a whole wardrobe from socks to shoes to jacket and scarf, envying those who could escape winter and the daily ritual of getting dressed. T-shirt, shorts, sandals. Those are my three metaphors for a sunny winter.

“Look at the lovely bluebells and over here the lilies of the valley are out and see there, the daffodils are coming up.” Clare’s excitement over the crop of colourful spring flowers was a perfect counterpoint to my monochromatic state of mind. My head was filled with images of all those young people out marching for a better world. And yet they are inheriting a ravaged environment, the possibility of an overheating planet, a political landscape that resembles a wasteland, void of fruitful and invigorating forms of life. I didn’t even want to think of the millions of refugees fleeing war and weather ravaged homelands, only to be turned away, drowned at sea or in the best cases swept to the fringes of western societies. “How wonderful,” I said, taking a sip of coffee, hiding my true feelings but I couldn’t fool Clare who gave me a pitying look. “You really should get some rose tinted glasses.”

I was hoping to get some positive vibes from my learned friend over a pint but before I finished taking off my jacket and scarf, Campbell or Camp to all who hold him dear, embarked on a track not unlike my own.

The march for our lives’ campaign is galvanizing a generation that feels betrayed by the generation that went before them, “ Camp said. I sat down and before I could respond he said: “The deafening muteness from the golf course at Mar-a-Lago was totally eclipsed by Emma Gonzales’ roar of silence. When she took the stage in front of hundreds of thousands of marchers on Pennsylvania Ave. she named the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting and then stayed silent for 6 minutes and 20 seconds, the time it took the shooter to massacre 17 students at her high school. Emma stood there with eyes closed and tears streaming down her face. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Yes, I saw some of that on TV, I said. “At 18 years old, Emma has become the face of a protest movement, along with her classmate Cameron Klaski, who calls Trump’s idea of arming teachers a ludicrous plot by the NRA to put 700’000 more guns in the hands of Americans.“

“Let’s hope this groundswell of activist high-school students will translate into votes in November and turn into a tsunami sweeping anybody from office that is not committed to gun control,” Camp said, looking out at the calm water of Gibsons harbour, which seems far removed from the violence ravaging the schools and homes of our neighbours to the south.”

“Keep the dream alive,” was my sarcastic response, “and what about the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign. Did anything come of that?”

“Martin Luther King Jr’s granddaughter, only 9 years old, is keeping that dream alive,” Camp said. Her speech went something like this: “My grandfather had a dream that his four little children would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character, and I have a dream that enough is enough. That this should be a gun-free world. Period.”

“Even Paul McCartney marched along, having lost his best friend John Lennon to a senseless shooting, 37 years ago, not far from where this protest march took place,” I said, trying hard not to sound depressed. “I know, there have been over 30 mass shootings this years alone so far,” I added, ignoring my pint, which in itself was not a good sign.

“Whenever there is a mass shooting, first there is shock, then anger and then grief and then hopefully action,” Camp said. “But will any of these demonstrations really have any effect on our politicians or policies?”

“Not in Washington where Trump just hired two neocon warmongers to replace his secretary of state and security advisor.”

“I’m sure someone is listening and watching. These shows of dissent will have consequences,” Camp insisted.

“I hope so,” I said. “A year ago the women marched and now there is a record number of woman running for office. They call it the pink wave.”

“Except in Ontario where thanks to an arcane voting system the conservatives elected Doug Ford as their next candidate for premier. He is a buffoon, with no legislative experience, who is already boasting about his historically large victory coming in June. The Conservative machine is lining up behind him and he has a good chance to be the next premier of Ontario. Trumpism has arrived in Canada,” Camp said.

“Yes, sadly from Italy to the Philippines to Canada, traditional conservatism is being cannibalized by populism, a very worrying trend, hopefully offset by a new generation of young voters,” I commiserated.

“It’s Easter this coming weekend,” Camp said. ‘The book store will be open and hopefully we’ll get some tourists. When I was a kid we painted boiled eggs on Good Friday. Not much of that going on these days or is there? Muriel and Sophie also invited me for Sunday dinner. Not sure what to bring. Can’t very well bring painted boiled eggs.”

“Bring a couple of chocolate bunnies. Can’t go wrong with that. I grew up in the land of chocolate,” I said, “and at Easter we used to be swamped by chocolate bunnies, hollow, candy filled eggs and fluffy sweet pastries. Bakeries displayed whole castles, mountain scenes and even chocolate trains in their windows. At home we also painted eggs and then on Easter Sunday we smashed them against each other’s eggs and the unbroken ones were the winners. Then we ate chocolate and all the broken eggs until we were all sick.”

“You Swiss have strange customs? A bit medieval don’t you think?”

“You’re not enjoying your beer,” Vicky, our savvy waitress, pointed out. She materialized at our table with her pink streaked blond hair in a ponytail at the top of her head like a samurai, one hand on her hip and an empty tray cradled under her other arm. “I’ll get you a fresh pint but you must promise me to look around and to smell the flowers and enjoy the view. I want to see a smile on your faces.”

“You sound like Clare,” I said but quickly caught myself. “We were just talking about ‘The March for our lives’ last Saturday and smashing Easter eggs.”

“These teenagers are like the spring flowers,” Vicky said, “Fresh, colourful and so necessary but smashing eggs just sounds like a big omelette.”


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