(Title taken from the lyrics of this song. It’s a relevant soundtrack for the following post.)
On Friday morning, we got up bright and early and set off for the Calgary Stampede Parade. My mom has several incredible friends who always wake up at 2am the night before the parade and go to the parade route to set up chairs. You simply drop your chairs off at the house of these saints and then the morning of the parade you swan in fifteen minutes before it begins and claim a prime spot in the shade. It’s absolutely unreal – how do such lovely, kind people like this exist?
The Stampede is a 10-day fair in Calgary with a midway and rides, rodeos and live music and free pancake breakfasts. For a week and a half, the whole city pretends to be cowboys. It’s excessive and amazing and obnoxious, and most seasoned Calgarians welcome it with a mix of excitement and resignation. I’ve avoided it for years but having a kid renews your interest in these sorts of things, so Olive and I got all dressed up in our finest cowgirl duds and hopped on the bus to avoid crazy downtown parking. She was floored by not having to wear a seat belt and we amused ourselves by counting cowboy hats. We jumped off the bus, met a friend and headed to our seats.
She went to the parade a few years ago but she doesn’t remember it. While we waited for it to begin she kept saying “This is boring!”over and over again as she stared at the empty street – absolutely no idea of what was to come.
I took almost no pictures because we were enjoying ourselves too much, but she was blown away. So many horses and mascots, tiny airplanes and beautiful dancers. Her eyes got wider and wider, and every time a marching band came by she’d hop out of her seat and start to shimmy around in her little boots. It was one of those perfect mornings that she’ll never remember, but I will.
It also felt a wrong somehow, to be smiling and clapping at a silly parade when it seems like the world is beginning to collapse in on itself . But I grabbed onto that feeling nonetheless and held it tight. I tried to keep it the whole day as we left the parade and walked down to a splash pad and I helped her improvise a bathing suit and sat there in the sun and silently watched her frolic in the water with a new little friend.
On a recent visit, her Nana (my mom) brought her a trampoline for an early birthday/Christmas gift and yesterday we jumped until we couldn’t breathe and fell down from laughing. Today we made playdough and her uncle won her a giant stuffed elephant and after she went to sleep I sat and watched videos of masked men in riot gear descending on peaceful protesters and I felt helpless and bewildered and angry.
I don’t think you realize how much of this hatred is taught until you have kids. Olive doesn’t blink an eye at friends of different races, friends with same-sex parents, or the adorable little boy in her class who loves dress up and wore a tutu to their end of year party. There are curious questions, sometimes, but never judgment or fear or condemnation. That’s taught. We teach it.
We are living in an era where a man running on a platform of misogynistic, bigoted, and racist policies has won the republican nomination for president. President of the United States. And the worst part is that Trump didn’t invent these sentiments just like cell phone cameras didn’t invent profiling or police brutality – they’ve both just pulled back the curtain to show it to those who wouldn’t have witnessed it otherwise.
We’re not immune here in Canada. When we began accepting Syrian refugees I had several acquaintances on Facebook vocally protesting against it. We were talking about people, human beings, fleeing for their lives. We’re supposed to say no? To turn them away? Is this what you would want, were the situations reversed?
It’s horrific, and I don’t understand it. How did we become so polarized? It feels like we’ve lost all progress and everyone’s made a sudden about-face and allowed ignorance and fear to take over. Fear of the unknown, fear of scarcity and loss, fear of anyone different from ourselves. Perhaps most depressingly, we seem to be embracing ignorance. A stubborn resistance to educating ourselves about those differences – education which would probably change our minds, if we could only open them enough to let it in.
Every day I read about what’s happening, I watch it and I feel myself grow cold and sick inside. I feel like things are boiling over – and fuck, they should. They absolutely should when a man gets shot without cause during a routine traffic stop with his four-year-old child sitting terrified in the backseat; when his girlfriend can do nothing more than record her boyfriend dying and address the man who murdered him as “sir” so she won’t get shot as well.
It’s wrong, and if what’s happening in the US right now doesn’t terrify and bewilder and anger you, you’re not paying attention.
It’s not wrong to take happiness where you can get it – parades and playdough and the way, when I had a headache this morning, Olive earnestly patted my head and said, “Would a little snuggle help you feel better?”. It’s not wrong to chase that and hold onto it. But we can’t insulate ourselves in these tidy worlds of toddlers and trampolines. We can’t turn our heads away from what’s happening. We can’t shut our ears to the stories emerging simply because we’re not affected yet . I fully support #BlackLivesMatter, but this isn’t just a black issue it’s a human issue. We’re all culpable.
I don’t want Olive growing up like this. Right now she doesn’t know what’s going on, we don’t have a TV, I don’t listen to the news in the car. But I don’t ever want to have to sit here and explain to her why a father of five lost his life lying face down in the parking lot of a convenience store, or how the police officers who murdered him both conveniently lost their body cams moments prior. I don’t have an explanation for that. There just isn’t an explanation for any of this except that it’s wrong. And it’s going unchecked and unquestioned and unpunished because it’s viewed as a black issue, and thus, less important.
Enough. Pay attention. Speak up. And if you don’t, watch this and ask yourself why.