Monday, June 28, 2010

Werein Time Does Not Exist

In an airport, there is no place, there is no time. There is only the possibility of future transition.

Peaceful Protest at Queen and Spadina, Toronto, Turns Ugly
And as I transition, plugged into the internet, I am again brought up to speed with news from
home. Again there is protesting, though this time it is without violence. This time a full riot squad charges those in the street.

It's like the beginning of the graphic novel Transmetropolitan. The police decide to charge a group who are doing very little to resist – in fact no laws were broken this time in Toronto. Just like in Transmetropolitan, it seems as if nothing would have been noticed, as the area was blocked off, if not for one person watching from on high, recording the incidents. It's times like this that I'm disgusted with our police force.

It's true they are tired, they are cranky, and they have been baited over the last twenty four hours. I will not deny this. But they have to be better than that. They have to rise above. As a teacher it's something that I have to deal with. When a student tells me to, “go fuck myself,” I do not scream back at him. Or her as the case may be. If a desk is thrown at me, one day, I do not wait until I see that student enter class the next, and then throw a desk back at him while he is singing the national anthem.

it seems obvious. It seems only right. As one in the position of authority, we rise above. And yet, that whole desk throwing during the national anthem? That's exactly what has just happened back home.

The video is making its way around the internet. People have gathered in the street to sing our National Anthem, Oh! Canada. Right as the song ends, the police charge – first those in riot gear, then the calvary – our horse backed officers, who normally carry around collectible trading cards of each officer to give to children. I do not envy the job these men and women have before them, but my god – was this really the correct choice?

As I've said before, it's the voice of irrationality that cries out which scares me most. The comments for the video have people saying it, “wasn't a peaceful protest, because it didn't take place in an approved zone.” You either know why this is one of the most terrifying things to read, or... Well, I just don't think the people posting this understand the whole concept of protest. Penn and Teller would back me on this – try to find their episode where they are protesting the right to protest, and getting people to agree with their strange backwards logic. It's brilliant, and sad. Mostly brilliant. But mostly sad.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (section two) allows the right to assembly and peaceful protest. Hanging out and singing the national anthem would fit in with that quite nicely. But no – the police have decided that that right does not exist.

It's true that that right can be revoked, it does not stand for all times in all cases. If a group of people stood in the streets lambasting the Jews, while dressed in full Nazi uniforms, they would be shut down. If a group had signs showing homosexuals being murdered were burning rainbow flags, they would be shut down. But this is just people singing a song. A song that means something to us – no matter how many times we're forced to hear it in school (about 2500 times for those who didn't skip first period in high school.)

Now the police have been granted special powers, which is also in our charter. But should they have covered this? I do not think so. It also is starting to spread that the police may have set one of their own cars on fire the other day – other officers have come out saying that there was no way a protester would have been able to get around the barricades to access that area. It's also not uncommon for plain clothes officers to try and bait protesters. But even if this is all just rumour, with no truth to it, charging a number of people for singing Oh! Canada... well, it's just wrong.

I had friends there, running through the streets. When you cause panic and create a stampede, you are not solving things. You're only causing more harm to the individuals, the citizens you're supposed to protect.

I understand that police are under appreciated – I know they have a tough job – I do not envy them.

All I'm saying is I want my collectible card dispensing buddy officers back.

Passing Through The Gate
I remember that I'm flying to America when it comes time for the additional security screenings. As I show my passport, and flash a winning smile, I make my way down the gauntlet of officers on either side. There are areas off to the side, behind artificial walls, where people can be sent to have themselves checked.

Eyes straight ahead, I march – not wanting any problems getting out – stay calm, I tell myself, and then I'm through. A weight lifts off of me, and I suddenly realize just how screwed up that is.

Other people probably just make their way down the line without ever worrying about anything. Well – other white people, anyway. For me, every time I have to deal with American immigration routines I have to endevour to maintain my calm.

And to be fair, I'm a white male. A middle class white male. All I have going against me is my beard. I know that these feelings will return when it's time to enter America in Hawaii, and I know I will probably be searched for an hour or so, but that's just part of the game. It's those moments of wondering if I'll get pulled or not that causes the strange subtle stress.

I can't help but wonder what it must be like for someone from, or who looks like they're from, the middle east. They have far more reason to fear being pulled – and when they are, they are detained much longer than the one hour I have to wait. Not only that, but if there was ever an issue with translation – well, I just don't want to think about it. It's strange to look around an airport – normally a place where you feel pretty happy, pretty calm, and pretty at ease, and realize that everyone here is travelling for their own reasons. And who knows what's gong through their head.

To be aware - in the most real sense – that we are all individuals and unknowable to all, save perhaps ourself, is a truly strange and powerful thought.

Little Blue Folders
Getting on the plane, I think it's cute how everyone has these little folders, normally bright colors, and translucent. All their important travel documents are kept inside, so they don't get lost. What hotel they'll be at, their ticket, and all that fun stuff. It is normally the people travelling for a week or two that have these.

I know there are long term travellers that neurotically carry around all their information too – and I used to once upon a time.

Now I'm lucky if I have my copy of the ticket receipt, crumpled up in a pocket somewhere, or hidden in my pack – long since printed out, and now potentially needed. Not that they ever are, mind you. Just show your passport, get your ticket, and off you go.

Now? I have the directions to my hostel – and that's about it. No mighty folder here. If anything does go wrong, I'm sure I could track down internet and grab the emailed information from there – but nothing has ever gone wrong, and I've been out and about, in all sorts of places for a long time.

Those bright little folders. They're so cute. I wonder if their mothers made them do it?

Over the Ocean I quickly went to sleep – woken hourly by a screaming baby whom, I do believe, the whole plane wanted to see tossed out the nearest hatch. With a parachute, of course. The mother could go too if she wanted – her choice. Not forced.

But then I was landing, landing, landing – oh not landing, that was another Hawaiian island, there's ours – landing.

Welcome back to the morning of June 28th. Time to start all over again.

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