The water of Howe Sound is a dull green and the mountains and the Islands are obscured inside a shroud of smoky haze, like a Chinese watercolour painting, evidence of the 600 fires ravaging the province, displacing thousands of people. The sun is a fiery orange and the shadows are faded and an acrid smell permeates the air. It’s the new normal every summer it seems. Welcome to hot house earth, I thought, feeling a bit down.
I could see Campbell was already seated at our usual table in the corner, intent on his smart phone until he spotted me when he swiftly tucked it away. I was wondering what my friend Camp had to say about the ongoing spat between Saudi Arabia and Canada.
“King Salman of the house of Saud completely overreacted to a tweet from Ms. Freeland,” he said dismissive.
“Foreign policy by twitter? Like the prez?” I said.
“Not a good idea but nothing wrong with the message,” Camp pointed out. “I’m fully behind her asking for the release of jailed political dissidents. We all know that the Saudis human rights record is deplorable and the Wahabi interpretation of Sunni Islam and sharia law is not helping. Saudi Arabia is pretty well dead last when it comes to gender equality and they don’t want to be told by a woman – Ms Freeland – what to do.”
“Not on twitter,” I said. “She could have chosen a more appropriate method of communication.”
“Yes, maybe by diplomatic envoy, maybe asked some of our so-called allies to support us before delivering the message. It would have had more impact.”
“They now allow women to drive,” I said “and access medical and social services without the permission of a legal guardian, say husband.”
“Great, how are they going to get a drivers license covered with a hijab?” Camp said, “and how are they going to access services if they’re not allowed outside their house without a male family chaperon?”
“Pulling out 1600 students and their families and over 200 medical internists is kind of punishing their own kind. Imagine quitting your apartment, studies and friends you’ve made just because your irate head of state is having a hissy fit,” I said. Camp held up two fingers for Rosie or Vicky to see. This hot weather makes for a mighty thirst.
“The real shame is that no other country is supporting Canada on this. Nobody, except Amnesty International. Human rights take a back seat to petro dollars and oil,” I said.
“It probably also has to do with the proxy war in Yemen, Sunni Saudis against Iranian Shiites. The house of Saud wants to keep the upper hand on the peninsula and feels it cannot afford to be publicly shamed, by a woman of all people.”
Rosie brought two fresh pints, which we instantly attacked.
“Here is another question for you Camp,” I said, setting down the half empty mug. “Who or what is the real enemy of the people?”
Camp raised one of his bushy eyebrows. “This a trick question? We know it’s not the news media or the free press. You want a name? Comrade Stalin? Dear Leader? Trump? I tell you what is the real enemy of the people. Hubris! That’s what will bring about the downfall.”
Just at that time two couples, large, boisterous tourists, rose to their feet, laughing and guffawing loudly, like people do after a few drinks on a muggy summer evening. They left behind a battlefield tabletop littered with dishes, ketchup, spices, half eaten fries, empty chip bags, napkins, several glasses, bottles, straws, cutlery and other assorted garbage. Both Vicky and Rosie came to clean the mess while we looked on.
“Lousy tippers,” Vicky grumbled, “but large eaters,” Rosie said.
Camp laughed. “I read somewhere that today is the first time in history that rich people are thin and poor people are fat,” Camp said.
“Indeed,” I said. “Corpulence was always a sign of well-to-do and signified that he bearer of all this fleshy weight has recourses and means while the poor people were scrawny, overworked and underfed,” I said.
“Exactly and now it’s turned around, at least here in North America. Thanks to fast food and sugery pops,” Camp said.
“It’s an upside down world. I guess we somehow fall in the middle, not rich, not poor, not thin, not fat.”
“Not pop, just beer.”