I know many of you think I have better things to do than follow the protests in Ottawa, and you're right. You can blame my 10th grade World Cultures teacher. You can also blame him that I graduated from high school with near-zero knowledge of world history. But he was one of my favorite teachers.
Instead of giving us a broad general knowledge of the world, Mr. Balk chose to lead us deeper into a few limited areas of particular importance in the late 1960's: Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the American civil rights movement. He also encouraged us to follow the unfolding of current events, in particular the Prague Spring. That's a lesson I never forgot.
Plus I love David-and-Goliath freedom stories.
Will this really come to be seen by future eyes as an important historical event? Time alone will tell what impact the Ottawa protests will have on the restoration of the rights of Canadian citizens. But watching the cross-cultural camaraderie of this diversity of Canadians who, despite the seriousness of their grievances, maintained for three weeks the peace and joy of their protest, has done my battered and cynical heart much good. If we had not put in the time to watch hours and hours of live, boots-on-the-ground coverage, and relied simply on general news stories, we would never have known the truth.
I have loved Canada since I was a child. Where I lived in upstate New York, crossing the border was not exceptional, and stores both accepted and gave out Canadian change. (The two currencies were closer to par back then.) At one point I could sing the Canadian national anthem in both English and French, along with most of the other songs on my record of Canadian folk music. Canada and Switzerland were the two places I had declared myself willing to live if I had to live somewhere other than the United States. Sadly, as time went on Canada's social and political policies, like those of my long-beloved home state of New York, convinced even this life-long Democrat that it would take a major change to make me willing to live there.
Whether or not they turn out to be historically significant, the past three weeks have restored my hope for our northern neighbors. True, the governmental responses, plus the realization that their Constitutional rights are not nearly as robust as ours, makes me even less inclined to move there. (That and the weather.) But if the strength, love, joy, and unity demonstrated by these protesters is infectious, I have hope. Despite the genuinely outrageous actions taken by Prime Minister Trudeau and other leaders, I'm actually more optimistic in general than I have been in over a year.
(But really, even those peaceful people sure could learn to clean up their language.)