In his first article for #itchysilk, Matt Jones shifts our perpetual anxious gaze from the Ukraine (if only for a brief second) to our liberty squashing (perhaps man-made) covid virus.
I know you’re probably feeling a little abandoned right now – the spotlight leaped from your antics in Ottawa, and let’s face it – it’s cold and lonely in the dark. But the situation in Ukraine began, and no matter that people are dying and refugees are clogging the roads, I can still muster a few drops of compassion for the Freedom Convoy, your bold stand against life-saving but annoying conventions.
I mean, who among us hasn’t been trapped in a seatbelt as it slowly constricted like an anaconda? Has scorned to clip in while rock climbing? When the plane starts to plummet, and the oxygen masks drop, wouldn’t you rather suffer stoically than endure the inconvenience of tying the mask on? Look at the way humans protested the seatbelt, or masks during the Spanish flu. I suspect anti-smoking legislation, drunk driving laws, even child-labour regulations were all vehemently protested in their day.
It’s quite insidious; the rich man slides his cold hand in slow. Before the poor man knows it, he’s become an ass puppet, parroting the rich man’s views.
But let’s be more generous to the Freedom Convoy, which started as a peaceful protest, and evolved into an occupation, with truckers brandishing swastikas and badgering soup-kitchen employees with racial slurs. Millions of dollars rolled in from corporate donors because America loves a goddamn proxy war. So began the endless summer in the depths of winter, one of those wild carnivals where anything goes, the rich in their palaces strip and fuck the homeless.
Of course, in antiquity’s famous bacchanals, the revelers usually wore masks. Perhaps we should have kept this tradition. Even in these end-of-the-world days, there might be some consequences to climbing onto the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, straddling the dead, nameless soldier’s coffin, and screaming “Freedom” like it was fucking Braveheart. As if you had bested him in battle yourself, or perhaps the fact that this dead soldier, killed in a battlefield in WWI, had earned an honourable repose was unendurable, holding up a mirror to our wretchedness. Maybe that’s what happened. The Commodore who took the video probably scolded the young drunk freedom fighter, so there was an element of class and even generation gap going on here, and that contemptuous look at the end of the vid, as if to say “See. You’re not the boss of me,” reminds us there is power at work here. The power of the child who refuses to be potty-trained.
Yes, friends, this is where it went. The National War Monument in Ottawa became a public toilet for the Freedom Convoy protestors, those statues of WWI era soldiers, sailors, and airmen, whose service in stone continues, sentenced to enduring decades of fierce winter, pigeon shit, and now even the piss streams of degenerate drunks boasting in their debauchery they are somehow championing freedom.
A sleight of hand if ever there was one, that pissing on a war memorial is a heroic act. And maybe it was a sleight of hand too that we told the young soldiers sent into those meat-grinder wars that they were heroes and not just cogs. Certainly, I don’t think going to war made me a hero. If anything it left me a bit broken and fucked up and difficult to know. In some ways it’s easier for me to identify with the dead soldier in his sarcophagus than the people protesting against masks and vaccines.
But there is maybe one thing that every soldier who has gone to war and comes home knows, and it’s this: you should only fight about things that matter.
Eventually Prime Minister Trudeau evoked emergency powers to the police and it was, ultimately, force that resolved the protest-turned-block-party, as the trucks were towed and hundreds of protestors arrested. Looking back, perhaps if the freedom fighters hadn’t danced on the war monument and shat on the unknown soldier, the public would still be behind the Freedom Convoy, and Ottawa would still be in gridlock, its businesses decaying.
Ukraine happened, and the eyes turned from Canada, and for a few glorious moments we saw the two stories play out hand in hand: true suffering and pretend suffering together at last.
Featured image by Naomi McKinney