Freedom

There’s an old saying that the enemy of good is not evil but comfort. There’s also a fable about placing a frog in tepid water and then gradually raising the heat. The frog remains in the water until it boils to death because he drifts off and fails to notice the gradual increase in temperature until it’s too late.

Watching the lawless rampages we’ve seen in protests across our country over the past three weeks, it’s occurred to me that perhaps many of us have been like that frog, sleepily basking in a comfortable environment, unaware that the heat was being turned up to a dangerous level.

We’ve been too comfortable. We’ve assumed that Canada is a civilized and lawful country. We’ve been complacent about our history, believing that, despite periodic setbacks, our foundation of Peace, Order and Good Government was still solidly in place.

We were wrong. We dismissed the populist movement as something that was taking place in other countries. We were smug about our country, proudly wearing our maple leaf pins when we travelled, confident that being a Canadian would stand us in good stead. But, in fact, our democracy, like the frog, is in hot water.

Many people have been distressed by the sullying of the Canadian flag. My friend Alison expresses her concern with a strong claim:

Over the past weeks, the word “freedom” has been used in Canada to champion illegal behaviour that caused personal and economic harm to individuals, companies and organizations and resulted in millions of dollars in police costs. In response to the protesters, thousands of people counter-protested across the country to defend their rights to move safely through their cities, to keep their workplaces and hospitals accessible, and to sleep at nights free from blaring horns. Fortunately, much of the protest here has now settled down, at least temporarily.

More tragically, we see the people of Ukraine are genuinely fighting for their freedom in the face of brutal attacks as Russian forces invade their country. Beginning with air and missile attacks, troops and tanks have rolled across Ukraine’s borders and already hundreds of people have been killed. Against great odds, the Ukrainian people have been remarkably courageous. As well, thousands of very brave people in Russia have been taking huge risks by marching in anti-war protests with hundreds of them now being arrested.

The words “freedom” and “democracy” are very much in the news and in our conversations these days. We want to protect our democracy, but what can we do? It’s hard to know where to start but maybe it’s worth trying some small things. We can

  • Educate ourselves and encourage others to learn more about our constitution and how each level of government works and how we can have input.
  • Choose reliable news sources (I like the Guardian, National Public Radio, The Conversation, though they may be accused of somewhat left-leaning)
  • Host discussions in small groups to listen to some of the legitimate concerns others have about inequities, fears, misinformation.
  • Write letters to MLA’s, MP’s and city councillors and others to express our concerns and, just as important, offer our support when we see them doing good work.
  • Urge local school boards and the Ministry of Education to make Civics a required course in our schools. It’s has been taught previously in B.C. schools; the curriculum is still on the books and it could be reinstated.
  • Make our voices heard in peaceful ways to support the good work that is being done by health professional and other essential services despite scant resources, lack of support and, more and more frequently, abusive assaults.
  • Make donations to non-profits that support specific democratic causes or to broader initiatives like Red Cross, Democracy Now and Amnesty International.
  • Model civility.

It’s time to take back our flag and our national anthem and stand on guard for our country’s democracy. Canada has its faults, but I can’t think of another country in which I’d rather live. Inequities and unfairness need to be addressed, but bullying is not the way to achieve change. Democracy isn’t perfect, but it’s better than mob rule.

Let’s support freedom and democracy at home and abroad.

On a lighter note, we have to find ways to cope with stress and anxiety during these tense times. A few days ago, I turned off the news and instead watched a webinar being offered by the Sierra Club pf BC with Dr. Julius Csotonyi demonstrating how to draw a frog:

These sessions provide a great way to escape from the barrage of worrying news that attacks us each day. It’s a healing refuge — as long as the diversion doesn’t make us too comfortable.

My little frog looks like he might just be able to escape the hot water, but there’s not a lot of time. We need to act. Let’s hop to it!

Comment below or email me directly at wayword@telus.net

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