I take brief breaks from being in bed, nearly broken by the effects of burnout on my body and mind. On occasion when all I can muster is laying around, recovering, I have the pressing need to express my concerns for the current state of the world in something slightly longer than a status update. This is one of those.
Two weeks ago I was in the starting stages of working towards the medical leave that I am a couple steps closer towards. I was feeling the emotional strain of working in the helping profession, within a system so full of cracks that I caught myself saying things like, “I'm sorry you are hungry, we don't have the funding or mandate to offer a food program.” and “It really sucks that you are essentially living in hiding because the authorities want to take you in for the sale of one pill.” and “I can only hook you up with this voucher for thrift store goods once or twice a year, so next time you are going to stash your stuff somewhere, make sure it won't get stolen or soaked, because we might not be able to replace it again.” I interacted daily with folks who are dying at the hands of a failing system. I needed some time away to ground and recuperate. Knowing of course the heartbreaking truth, that the privilege allowed to me, wherein I get to go home to a house, I get weekends and medical benefits is something that is painstakingly far from the lived realities of the folks I am working with.
It took a few days to actually successfully get gone, but once I did I headed towards the beach at the opposite end of the lake. I had taken a serious fall into the river during my couple of days of trying to get out and the growing bruise kept me from venturing too far from my car camping spot. I split my time at the beach between painting a character I had first started to develop last year as a part of a role playing game and reading graphic novels. A graphic adaptation of Howard Zinn's History of American Empire had me thinking about uprisings and what measures may have to happen to end the systems that we both depend on and that are so incredibly toxic that we can't reasonably continue. Like a bad delusion, or a potent addiction, the society we are accustomed to continues to grow in its' parasitic fashion. Across the territory Idle No More, Warrior Societies and grassroots resistance is standing in the way, burning bridges, holding blockades and attempting to find the wrench that when it lands in the gears all will grind to a halt. As I drove back down the lake towards my home, I wondered when and in which ways we may have to rise up – joining in unified resistance.
As I rounded the last corner before the village closest to my home there was an unusual amount of traffic parked along the side of the highway. As I approached the village entrance road I saw an armed RCMP officer standing in front of the road way, car blocking the path, lights flashing. I pulled over and rolled down my window to ask what it was all about. First, the officer scoffed at me, seemingly flabbergasted that I hadn't heard the news. When I told him that I knew nothing, and that I wasn't trying to get past, I just wanted to know what was happening, he told me that a man had “opened fire and shot at some of “our guys””. He told me that the village was on lock down and the news was full of reports that would give me more of the story. I made my way home and logged online to find the new reports he was talking about. At that time they had already been in lock down – manhunt mode for one full night, but they hadn't released any name or details.
Increased momentary police presence isn't entirely unheard of around here, a place where we don't usually have cops around unless they are specifically called, even then- limited and sporadic; but when they have an interest to be here they appear. Last year when a misled tanker trunk dumped 33,000L of Jet fuel into a pristine river system, the cops appeared, supposedly to “help”, but in reality they used the situation as a motivator to set up highway check points where they were ticketing people for expired insurance and confiscating prohibited substances. A growing industry exists here, while it shrinks due to decreased profit margins and increased risks. Changes to medical grow permits in the past year took away the ability for people to grow their own medicine, instead leaving the industry to be dominated by corporate giants. Small scale growers and folks growing for personal use were once again subject to the prohibition of a plant that has been proven to have medicinal benefits, looking at large fines, jail time and other impacts of criminal charges; harvest season around here leaves some people a bit on edge. It's become unfortunately routine that around this time of year police raids, helicopter fly overs and cross-border inter-agency busts see members of our community disappear into the “halls of justice”. This particular brand of “justice” will never be following up on the misdoings of corporations like Executive Flight Center, SNC Lavilin or the RCMP, because their job is specifically to protect their interests at the costs of personal freedoms and well being of individuals.
While the village of Slocan was locked down, and armed officers were granted permission to search all buildings within the village I worried for folks whose livelihoods are outside of the law, or existing in a moral/legal grey. I worried for students in the school who were locked down in the school before being transported out of the village on a bus with armed officers. I worried for village residents who have been on the receiving end of police brutality being re traumatized by this Rambo show. And I especially worried for Peter de Groot. Once the media released his name they started releasing other, now revealed to be falsified, information about him. They called him armed and dangerous, they said he had served tours of duty with the armed forces, they told people to stay in their homes and lock their doors. They brought in helicopters and dog teams, they chased him into the woods and continued to build an environment of fear. As I woke to helicopters overhead on the third day I couldn't help but have some empathy for a scared human out in the woods being hunted by a large (reports said around 40) squad of armed militants. I thought about the ways that this is becoming increasingly common, I laid in bed with a date and we held each other while watching John Oliver's commentary about increased militarization of police.
Police in Ferguson, MO gunned down Michael Brown about 2 months before they gunned down Peter de Groot. The people of Ferguson have been demonstrating ever since. In the course of those two months another score of unarmed young men (mostly men of colour) were killed at the hands of police and at least as many young indigenous women have disappeared. After decades and mass call outs for public inquiry to the missing and murdered women – no official response has ever happened. Volunteers in Winnipeg started dredging the Red River, looking for bodies after decades of failure to respond from the authorities. 43 students disappeared from Guerrero, Mexico, believed to have been kidnapped by police on their way to demonstrate against corruption. Large scale public response and demonstration has received limited media attention. While elections were turned over to corporate interests and private business decision makers in Hong Kong, people gathered to occupy a previously public space, only to defend themselves from teargas and attacks from police with umbrellas and plastic wrap. Any direction you look it isn't hard to see that police forces are quick to defend corporate interests and corrupt governments and that the mythology that we have been fed, that police are around to serve and protect, is a falsified and dangerous idea to hold onto. Movements of the people, resisting brutality, corruption, genocide and torture are consistently challenged and brutalized by these publicly funded, overly armed power tripping teams of deluded quasi-soldiers.
Most recently a soldier was gunned down in Ottawa. It is being used as an opportunity to increase security, crack down on terror threats and continue to profile enemies and insurgents against the state as “terrorists”. I have seen very limited response of this incident being willing to state that soldiers are killed in war. The Canadian nation state has been actively at war for a very long time, some might argue that it is a core element of the existence of this occupied and unceded territory. While soldiers representing Canada have been a part of supporting the brutal treatment of military personnel and civilians both overseas and on occupied indigenous territory, when one member of this publicly funded gang is taken out in a public place, the government and media respond as if it is a tragedy. While I wish to hold space for the family of the soldier to grieve, I can't get on board with thinking that this is a tragedy. Tragic are the deaths of Darrien Hunt, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Omar Abrego, Michelle Cusseaux, the Iguala 43, Peter de Groot and far too many more. When unarmed civilians, dissidents, mentally ill, poor, and otherwise marginalized people are taken out as victims in this war game of capitalism, that is tragic. When people are faced with economic drafts, seeing enlisting as the only possible way to meet their needs, feed their families, get an education, that is tragic.
Tragic was also the conversation that I had to have with one of the kids in my life this past week. She's not quite 4, younger than school aged. While we drove up the valley she asked me why cops kill people. She asked if they will kill us if we break the rules. On the spot I responded to her honest enquiries as best I could. I told her that when she does something that is harmful to others, the adults in her life, and the other kids, will probably tell her, maybe she will get in trouble. She is still learning about how to navigate the world in caring and respectful ways and that being called out when she steps out of line is a part of that. Police unfortunately don't get in trouble in the same ways when they hurt people, in fact all too often, it becomes an indoctrinated part of their job to do so. This can really confuse a persons brain and heart in knowing what is right or wrong. Sometimes the rules are wrong, and we are put in a position to try and hide and make sure that we don't get caught breaking these unjust rules. Trying to educate our future generations about the role of government, laws and police is a complicated task as we see these systems failing our communities.
Those tasked with the education of our future leaders have not been without their own set of challenges either. While all of these demonstrations, murders of civilians and growing corruption and destruction was happening we had a school strike that lasted through the summer and into the beginning of the school year. Money that should have been going into ensuring that all students, including students with special needs, have access to an accessible and public education, was instead going into development of an LNG industry which is in violation of treaties (and in many cases- where treaties have NEVER been negotiated), international law and best public interest. We can clearly see the ways that the money that we hand over to the government each year in the form of income tax (which is still illegal- another post for another day), sales tax, and more are not going in the directions that are in our public, our future or our environments best interest. Instead that money is feeding a corporate machine, addicted to growth and destruction; and the militaristic forces required to defend such a downfall.
When and how are we going to stop the escalation of this brutal trend? At what point do the un-funded individuals, just scraping by and trying to keep from falling through the cracks, find ways to come together and resist the militarized corporate occupying forces that attempt to paint themselves as a democratic government? Are we waiting for a leader? A call to action? How much longer can we afford to wait? And how many potential leaders are actively murdered and disappeared in the process?
I write all this hoping that it can serve as a clarification, reminder and potentially a call for action; and of course also, hoping, that in writing and publishing this that I will not be next.