Eldest wasn't feeling very well on Canada Day, so she stayed home while the rest of us went out. Of course she went on the computer at one point or another, and she uses my browser. My home page is facebook, which logs in automatically, so she sees what's in my news feed before going on to whatever browsing she was going on to do. After I got home from the afternoon portion of our celebrating, she asked me in a rather shocked tone about some people on my friends list. It turns out that some folks just couldn't let Canada Day slip by without playing political games. They had changed their profile pictures to black, upside down Canadian flags, though with the cropped profile image, only the upside down maple leaf is usually visible. The explanation that came with it, while encouraging others to do the same, was that the upside down flag is the international symbol of distress (which is true) and went on to say that, with the police action during the G8/G20 summit, Canada was in distress, so everyone should change their profile pictures to the upside down flag. No explanation was given as to why black was used. Black is symbolic of death. While it may not have been their intention, my interpretation of the symbol was basically Death to Canada.
It's difficult for me to articulate just how offensive I find this. Only 3 people on my friends list actually changed their profile pictures to this, and they haven't changed them back yet. Two of them, I'm not too surprised, but with one of them, I really didn't think she was that far over the deep end. Unfortunately, one of these people is pretty prolific about sharing anti-Harper and anti-Conservative articles, so I'm seeing her Death to Canada image fairly regularly. Another person was someone I spoke to fairly regularly through facebook, but I have not been able to write to her since she changed the image. The sight of her profile picture literally makes me feel like throwing up. Several times I came close to removing them from my friends list and blocking them. Especially with one person in particular, who's hatred of all things even vaguely to the right while repeatedly demonstrating her ignorance gets pretty tiring and offensive.
I haven't done it, though. Despite what these folks have been saying in their status updates and shared articles, Canada is a free country. They are free to be insulting and display their offensive profile picture, and as much as the sight of it sickens me, there is no right to not be offended.
On top of that, I try to keep a balanced view of things, and keep my mind open to opposing views. If I didn't have these people in my life, I would not be exposed to these extremes, and not know that there really are people who think this way, other than the ones ranting on their blogs or in the Toronto Star. In reading articles and comments from people farther right than me, I've encountered the term "liberalism is a mental disorder." I'd dismissed it as hyperbole, but in the last while, seeing some of the comments being made by these folks on the far left, I find myself understanding why people were saying this!
I do tend to lean to the right on more things than I lean to the left, but I loathe extremism in either direction. I keep contact with people at both extremes because I find it educational and enlightening. While I know people on both sides of the spectrum (though more left of centre politically and socially), the only person I know in real life that's extreme is my mother, and I don't know that I can really count her, since I'm convinced her behaviour is a symptom of paranoid schizophrenia, or something similar.
I've come to know a couple of people online on the extreme far right. One is so far right, he hates PM Harper and the Conservatives because, in his eyes, they are liberals. Actually, that's not quite right. He doesn't really hate Harper. It's more anger, disgust and frustration but not actual hate. He's also a 9/11 Truther and thinks Al Qaeda doesn't really exist. Another isn't as far to the right, nor is he into conspiracy theories, but has the foulest mouth I've encountered since my husband left the navy. While his brief comments tend to be very emotional and heated, the only real hatred I've seen displayed has been towards the Catholic Church specifically, and all religions in general (hold on - aren't right wingers were supposed to be all evil, fundamentalist, Christian extremists? At least that's why the folks on the far left keep telling me...).
I seem to know a lot more people on the far left and they are almost universally female, while the right seems to be well represented by both male and female, and lately these far left leaning women have been having apoplectic fits over what happened during the summit protects.
What blows my mind about some of the things they've been saying is their incredible ignorance. Take, for example, the popular trope right now of calling Canada a police state because of what happened during the riot. It pisses me off, really. Clearly, in their soft, privileged lives, they have no clue what a real police state is. For starters, they wouldn't be free to show their dissent by displaying their upside down Death to Canada maple leafs. In a police state, protesters who walked up to the riot police and spit on their face shields, hurled insults at them or threw rocks, bricks and urine at them, would either have been shot, or "disappeared." In a police state, the protests probably wouldn't have been allowed in the first place, and if they happened anyway, chances are, they would have all been arrested en masse, if not massacred.
A lot of hubbub is also being made of the trampling of rights and the arrests of innocent people. They wail and gnash their teeth over how unprecedented it was, and what a blot on Canada the whole thing is. Which is just another display of ignorance. Yes, about 900 people arrested is the largest mass arrest in Canada, but the whole thing was over by the end of the day, and no one was seriously hurt. Compare that to, say, France in 2005, which lasted 20 days, saw almost 3000 arrests, and 2 people died.
Now, I'm not trying to say there were no incidents of concern, and they certainly do need to be looked into. With day after day of people
I also kept going back to, "what did they expect?" These summit protests are known to devolve into violence, no matter how much the protesters insist they are just there peacefully. It's happened time and again, so why were they surprised? Especially knowing that the Black Bloc would be there.
Speaking of which, the folks on the far left have already convinced themselves that the Black Bloc were really police officers in disguise, deliberately instigating the riots. These would be the same people that accuse the right of being conspiracy theorists? Hmmm...
Let's touch on the Black Bloc for a moment. Among the complaints I've been reading is that the police allowed the Bloc to riot and cause damage, like burning police cars. Oh, there's an interesting progression right there. At first, the stories were that the police drove their cars in, then the officers ran away from the protesters. Then it was said they deliberately abandoned their patrol cars. Now it's being said that the cars were first emptied of all things of value, then driven to the protesters, then left as bait for torching. More conspiracies.
While the police were supposedly allowing the Bloc to run amok, they instead scooped up hundreds of innocent, totally peaceful protesters and bystanders. All of them 100% pacifist, from the way they describe themselves.
What has been forgotten is that, before the summits, it was already known that the Bloc intended to cause violence away from the barricades to draw out the police, thereby allowing the "peaceful" protesters the opportunity to break through the barricades with little to stop them. This was not any big secret. So when the Bloc tried to do exactly that - start smashing windows in a completely different area - the police didn't take the bait. Instead, they went after the group that was expected to rush the barricades if they'd left; the "peaceful" protesters and all those innocent bystanders that just happened to be there.
Oh, and don't forget the most important tactic of the Black Bloc, which is to hide among regular protesters, shed their black clothes, and escape with the crowds.
My question for those that are so appalled by the sweeping arrests is, what alternative is there? 1) the police and everyone not living under a rock knows the Bloc's modus operandi and 2) the majority of the protesters seemed fully complicit in hiding the Bloc members within their crowds. Very few of these "peaceful" protesters seemed interested in stopping the non-peaceful ones. How can the police isolate a few individuals hidden within a larger group that is intent on keeping them hidden? The most efficient way is to round up the whole lot, then sort through them later.
Another of the great tragedies being moaned about were the "cages" protesters where kept in. Again, their ignorance is displayed when they try to point this out as examples of Canada becoming a police state and supposedly declaring martial law (like the term "police state," those bandying about the term "martial law" clearly have no clue what that really means). These cages have been used by other countries, too, and they are just as controversial. I ask again, though, what alternative is there? When thousands of people are expected to show up to protest, with significant numbers expected to turn to violence, it's pretty safe to assume a lot of people are going to be arrested within a short time. More people then there are normal jail facilities to hold. Where and how are the police supposed to hold these people? It's a legitimate concern that people weren't given water for a long time, etc., but the alternative would have been to... well, arrest hardly anybody at all, and letting most of the violent protesters and those eager to protect them, to get away. If someone can come up with a viable alternative, I'd like to hear it.
While I would agree that, during the protests, there were legitimate areas of concern (not providing vegan meals isn't one of them), the folks I see on the far left have gone way overboard with their hyperbolic rants and emotional wailing and gnashing of teeth. The accusations they make against the police and the government are extreme and do more to make themselves look like flakes. Unfortunately, they are very vocal flakes, and they appeal completely to the emotional, not the logical, which means it's easy for them to whip up the uninformed masses to their cause.
One solace I have is knowing that, for all the folks on the far left seem to think they hold the majority opinion (and always seem so shocked and angered on discovering there are those who disagree with them), they are, in fact, the minority. The general public would prefer a balanced centre way, but seems to be shifting more to the right, rejecting the far left's hypocritical ranting.
If anything, the louder and more hysterically the far left shrieks, the more they drive away those that might have been more sympathetic to their cause. The ones with their Death to Canada maple leafs have certainly succeeded in doing that with me.