As the bombs rain upon Ukraine and citizens bravely block Russian military convoys, putting their lives on the line to resist a hostile invasion, undisguised imperialism and aggressive bullying on behalf of a de facto dictator’s bruised ego, I’m reminded of two things from very recent Canadian history.
First is a vignette of drunken “freedom convoy” louts bobbing in inflatable hot tubs on Ottawa’s Wellington Street, sputtering incoherently to anyone who’ll listen (insert breathless reporters from Canada’s conservative-controlled mainstream media here) about the tyranny they’re suffering under, their First Amendment [sic] rights being trampled, and how, since science is a liberal conspiracy, they shouldn’t need to adhere to carbon levies or epidemiology-based public-health policies with implications for the general populace and economy ’cause they know better—even if they never made it out of high school.
Contrasting this surreal tableau is an image of peaceful cyclists effectively repelling truckers and asking them to remove offensive symbols in Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa—in the latter case citizens whose rights actually were being trampled by a sonorous trucker encampment no one else seemed inclined to do anything about.
You don’t need a lesson in civics to identify the real heroes here, and attempts to paint the #FluTruxKlan as anything beyond a misguided, moronic, malice-driven display of redneck hubris and hillbilly insurrection flies in the face of facts—reinforcements for which emerge daily. Simply put, the convoy—or at least its organizers—are “people contemptibly lacking in the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things” (as the Oxford definition goes). Like pulling together to deal with a two-year pandemic… or acting on climate change… or mounting a transparently funded legal protest with an actual point (vax mandates were only an excuse) that doesn’t involve demonstrably toxic Trojan-horse elements of, in no particular order, white nationalism, Yellow Vestism, Western separatism, MAGAtism, QAnon cultism, fundamentalist Christianity and government takeover. Since they also shamefully employed children as shields, it’s hard not to see #FreedomConvoy2022 as a veritable parade of cowards. But they weren’t the only ones.
The police were cowards, too. Perhaps worse. Recall that we citizens pay police to enforce the law and keep us safe. To serve and protect. However, these past two years we’ve learned that both police and their political puppet masters make constant ad hoc decisions about which laws to enforce, where to enforce them, and, most appallingly, on whom. Contrast the multi-million-dollar, jackbooted, militarized police presence at the Fairy Creek logging and Wet’suwet’en pipeline blockades with the back-slapping, money-donating Billy-bobs refusing to do anything about the far more illegal and disruptive occupation of Ottawa by right-wing good ol’ boys until the Emergencies Act forced their hand.
But the worst cowards of all—no surprise here—were conservative politicians. The always flip-floppy and now jobless Erin O’Toole attempted to salve the convoy (and his party) with I-feel-your-pain bromides. He did so at the behest of his ersatz replacement, the raving MAGAt interim leader Candice Bergen, whose leaked emails show attempts to politicize the convoy from the outset and “make it Trudeau’s problem”—while actively encouraging illegal occupation and virtual imprisonment of Ottawa citizens. Ditto rabid-dog HarperCon Pierre Poilievre, self-proclaimed “next Prime Minister of Canada” (note to Pierre: you don’t get to say that, you have to be elected), who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near that office after his craven attempt to score political points by delivering coffee and donuts to racist insurrectionists whose rank and file flew swastikas and Confederate flags. And where was Ontario premier Doug Ford? With an election upcoming, his political calculus was clearly to abdicate responsibility—until, again, the Feds forced his hammy hand. Don’t even get me started on the absurdities that are still emanating from Alberta’s Napoleonic weasel, premier Jason Kenney.
While all players portrayed themselves as individuals rising up to take on (manufactured and non-existent) oppression, all have equally refused to rise to a true challenge: too cowardly to join with the >80 per cent of Canadians doing their part to end the pandemic; too cowardly to confront the undeniable reality of climate change and its effect on future generations; too cowardly to question the misinformation that drives their risible rage. Selfish and entitled in the extreme, exposed as patsy MAGA operatives funded by dark disruption money that might even include a few rubles, they have no “we’re just regular Canadians” excuse to fall back on.
Canada’s erudite UN Ambassador, Bob Rae, who delivered the most stirring speech on Ukraine to that assembly (youtube.com/watch?v=Lfum9XNhCdA), also pointedly summarized the Ottawa circus: “A truck is not a speech. A horn is not a voice. An occupation is not a protest. A blockade is not freedom, it blocks the liberty of all. A demand to overthrow a government is not a dialogue. The expression of hatred is not a difference of opinion. A lie is not the truth.”
We must see all of these actions for what they really were: acts of supreme and pathetic cowardice by a tiny minority of whiny, uninformed, mostly-white fools who selfishly emitted tons of carbon in order to throw a childish hissy fit on someone else’s dime, lacking the empathy or bravery to educate themselves on how to do what’s right for their fellow citizens.
Meanwhile, a real #FreedomConvoy arrived in Ukraine on Saturday—dozens of trucks hauling medical supplies and humanitarian relief from the European Union.
Leslie Anthony is a science/environment writer and author who holds a doctorate in reversing political spin.