Harper needs to learn that we are not the enemy

Saturday, August 25, 2007

While watching some of the televised news of the protests at Montebello, my husband — a very wise and insightful man when it comes to these kinds of issues — said the protesters were carrying the wrong message on their signs.

Rather than condemning U.S. President George W. Bush as a criminal, or Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a pawn, their message should have been this, he said:

“We are the people. We are not the enemy.”

But later, after the event was done and the “three amigos” had all returned to their respective homes, I watched another video that drove the point home.

It’s one on youtube.com and, while there’s nothing to confirm allegations the three masked protesters were in fact undercover police, just watching it made me feel sick.

There are some of the older protesters, including Council of Canadians head Maude Barlow and Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union president Dave Cole. They’re standing between a group of younger protesters and the Quebec police sent to guard the meeting.

A trio is standing there with rocks in their hands. They’re wearing identical masks. They look fit.

They’re trying to provoke a confrontation with the police.

Cole and his crew confront them.

“This is our line,” he shouts. “It’s a peaceful demonstration.”

Then it gets ugly.

Cole says the three are cops trying to get the rest of the police a reason to go after the protesters.

He demands they identify themselves. He tells them to take off their masks. He orders them to put down the rocks.

They do none of this.

Instead, you can watch them start to push their way toward the police, who immediately put them on the ground, handcuff them — and they walk casually to the waiting police vans.

No struggling. No pepper spray. No tear gas. No rubber bullets.

All police tools other protesters were exposed to at the rally.

It gave me the creeps. I don’t know who these three were, but they were certainly spared the manhandling we watched others endure at the secretive talk site.

We are the people.

We are not the enemy.

It’s something these two powerful men, and their buddy from Mexico, President Felipe Calderon, should remember.

But don’t expect Harper to do so.

He sanctioned the police actions.

A protest camp six miles from the posh Montebello retreat was deemed a security risk.

Apparently, six miles is way too close for the average person to approach our prime minister.

For these business titans, however, the room next door was just fine.

Harper wouldn’t even accept a petition from the 10,800 people of Canada who are worried about the talks the trio was having with representatives from big — very big — business to discuss harmonizing the economies and border restrictions of the three countries that comprise North America.

These are discussions about how our economy will synchronize with those of the U.S. and Mexico — discussions Harper has said he doesn’t have to take to Parliament for approval.

They’re talking about regulations and all those mechanisms we rely on to ensure not only that our economy is strong, but that the goods we import and export meet these standards.

And all we have by way of explanation of this Security and Prosperity Partnership are assurances from Harper, Bush and Calderon that there’s nothing sinister about it.

Trust them.

It’s not hard to understand why people went there to protest.

Harper’s comment when he heard of the protests, the clashes with police?

“I’ve heard it’s nothing. A couple hundred [protesters]? It’s sad.”

No, Mr. Harper. It isn’t sad.

It is the people speaking.

They are not the enemy.

Maybe some day, you’ll understand that.

Today, they are all viewed as ‘small’ steps

Friday, August 10, 2007

There’s an event happening today that makes me wish that we could all be transported back to the summer of ‘69.
Not to relive all the wild and crazy stuff that was going on, but to once again feel the complete wonderment that enveloped the world on July 20, 1969, when a man from Wapakoneta, Ohio, walked into history.
Remember those words?
“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
What a moment.
It was one of the rare times my parents let my sister and I stay up way, way, way past our bedtime (although, in truth, they had to wake me up) so we could watch a grainy black and white image on our very tiny television screen (ensconced, of course, in a massive hunk of wooden furniture and with two controls — on/off and channel).
How could anyone possibly go back to bed after seeing something that, up to then, had been nothing more than a seemingly ridiculous promise made by then-U.S. president John F. Kennedy at the beginning of the decade, that man would walk on the moon before the 1960s ended?
A few years later and we were all tethered to our TVs — many of them by then colour — listening to the only journalist who mattered as Walter Cronkite helped us through the crisis of the disabled Apollo 13.
Remember how you felt when that capsule finally was shown onscreen, bopping in the waves of the Pacific Ocean, the crew aboard all massively stressed but safe?
Today, Canadian astronaut Dave Williams is expected to make the first of perhaps three space walks, using the Canadarm, to make repairs to a space station.
That is beyond cool.
There’s a teacher aboard the Endeavour space shuttle this time, the first teacher to head for space in 21 years.
And that fact is also amazing.
It doesn’t seem like more than two decades have gone by since the shuttle Challenger blew up on takeoff, killing its crew, including teacher Christa MacAuliffe.
By that time, there were few of us even interested in watching the takeoff.
Cronkite was long-since retired; the major networks weren’t carrying the takeoffs anymore.
CNN was watching that day, however, and some of us in the newsroom where I was working were also watching.
It’s one of those moments that lives in your memory forever.
The entire space program still brings a thrill of amazement — at least to me and likely many of my generation.
I’ve tried to explain all of this to my children in the ensuing years — how truly remarkable these accomplishments were.
How they changed the way we viewed our world and gave us an entirely new universe to contemplate.
When I took my older children to the then-Cape Kennedy site, now back to its original Cape Canaveral name, they looked at me in a mixture of bemusement and bewilderment as I rhapsodized about the Gemini series of space flights, of how we were all waiting for John Glenn to fall out of the sky — because the idea of leaving the Earth was basically science fiction.
And now, with the younger ones, it’s become apparent that the space program is old hat, a fact of their lives and doesn’t capture their imagination nearly as much as it did mine.
If they want to experience the concept of space flight, all they need to do these days is plug in a video game or load up a computer game. They can go beyond Buck Rogers and venture into any world they want to create.
And, while they can have fun pretending to be an astronaut at the controls of a joystick, it seems they’re missing out on something that was integral to those of us growing up in the ‘60s — that sense of awe and the realization that the world was just starting to open up.
And that we had no idea what would come next.