Once upon a time I used to march in the streets: against apartheid, against the first Gulf War, against the NATO flights over Innu territory… and a host of other causes, all of them still worthy in my view.
I never loved to march though. I found it weird to chant “No Blood for Oil!” or “Hell no, we won’t go, we won’t die for Texaco!” or anything else in unison with a mass of people. I feel similarly about chanting at rock shows or football games, so it wasn’t just about the text of the slogans.
While I still vigorously support the right to democratic protest, it’s been a long time since I marched. I think the last time might have been when George Bush, Sr. was in town getting an honorary degree from UT, and I showed up to be counted among those who weren’t delighted with that recognition. When he showed up a bunch of jerks started throwing snowballs at him. I stamped out a peace sign in the snow, and left.
Meanwhile, I was performing music at a National Canoe Day event on the Otonabee River in Peterborough, among friends and families all engaged in the living tradition of loving the great outdoors in this country. It was wet out, but it didn’t matter. Everyone knows you can’t have a river without any rain.
Kids got balloons, and hot dogs, and you could paddle in a freighter canoe, watch an artisan make a paddle, or learn about the Trent-Severn Waterway. Despite the downpour, hardcore canoeists even paddled off to pack their canoes into the Lift Locks as the grand gesture of the day.
It beats throwing rocks through a window, or lighting a squad car on fire.
It’s another way to protest: raising a guitar, raising a voice, raising a paddle, raising awareness.
It was so disheartening, driving back into Toronto, following the riots on Twitter, warning signs on the highway reminding me this city’s gone crazy for a while. Then running for my computer the second I got home to raise my voice against damn fools and their mindless thuggery.
Sure wished I was on the river, where you know you’re doing something right when the weather’s the only thing goes wrong.
And we can all stand a little rain. It keeps the tempers from flaring.