Today was different. This morning, I walked to the subway, along a street torn apart to make way for a new streetcar right-of-way that has been hotly contested over the past few years. Amidst the smashed concrete slabs, coffee-slurping orange-vested dusty throngs of city workers and whining machinery, I had one of those recurring movie-like vignettes. In a historically vibrant moment, a lone, scarred streetpost popped out of the secenery and commanded my attention. The post had one leaflet left on it- they are regularly removed by city workers. The leaflet stood out as a bold, lone survivor amidst the skeletal staple graveyard of wasted efforts. The headline on the small piece of paper said "BRING THE TROOPS HOME NOW" and beckoned people to attend a "Pan-Canadian Day of Action" on Oct., 28 to call for Canada's withdrawal from Afghanistan. I know I've written about this subject a hell of a lot in recent months, but it was at that moment that it truly hit me: We are at war. Granted, that statement means nothing unless measured by the yardstick of one's experience in life. I'm 38 years old. In the 80s, my youth was intellectually tormented by angst about the coming nuclear holocaust that we would all surely be experiencing. Mine was a generation that was acutely aware of the concepts of M.A.D. and the circles I travelled in read social philosophy and pondered regularly questions of global security relating to the Soviet and US spheres of influence over some modern jazz and hash.But we, as Canada was, were always bystanders to the cynical, destructive games that the evil superpowers played around the world. The comfort of our armchair position and the warmth and wisdom with which we regarded all cultures and civilizations was a badge we wore with pride. How naive we were - or maybe just too high?One of the guys I was impressed with back then was this incredibly erudite and sensitive son of an exiled Russian noble named Michael Ignatieff. I don't know- maybe it was my fondness for Solzhenitzyn or my own Slavic descent that made me identify with Ignatieff. I remember a treatise that he wrote called "The Needs of Strangers". In others' words , that book talked about "a wide-spread failure on the part of humanity to provide the passionate sense of community "in which our need for belonging can be met." The implications of this kind of compassionate thinking were not lost on us. Russians could love Americans and the world could be safe from extinction one day. Hey, if Woodrow Wilson- an American- had thought so at some point, then why shouldn't we be optimistic? Looking at that anti-war pamphlet now and the black marker scrawling on the plastic cover of the Toronto Star box below it, which read "Fuck Ignatieff", really hammered home two things that I had not consciously connected before this morning. One is that the country I love has lost its way and found itself in the middle of a game of spheres of influence being perpetrated by higher powers. Second, is that possibly - just possibly- Michael Ignatieff, that sensitive philosopher who believed in compassion, could be the only man able to pull us back on track.
Labels: Foreign Affairs, Philosophy, Politics, Red Scared, Urban Anecdotes, War