Sunday, June 28, 2020

Honestly, I'm not missing Pride much this year

Lake Shore Blvd West in Toronto earlier this week.
Lake Shore Blvd West in Toronto this past week
Perhaps I'm just older now and don't need the Pride festival to feel good about my sexual identity. 

Perhaps I've long ago learned to party responsibly so the loss of a weekend filled with boozy parties and running around to the point of exhaustion is a welcome thing.

Perhaps I don't miss the crushing crowds packed into a handful of blocks along Church Street, the noise, the blocked off streets featuring too many sound stages that pound out forgettable music so loud the smart neighbours nearby leave town for the weekend, not to mention the garbage left piling up. 

Perhaps the sight of non-LGBTQ food and street vendors taking over the streets to sell their fatty crap, who do this for every Toronto street festival without much actual care for the history of these communities, not to mention all the corporate floats and involvement that are really just mass communications efforts designed to sell you more you don't need.  

Please don't get me started on the awful parade.  Not perhaps, but definitely the parade has become awful both to watch and in which to participate.  If you're gungho to participate in the parade alongside a political party or your local union (as I have in the past), the long wait in the hot sun at the staging area for the parade to finally start moving has been excruciating.   I remember waiting three hours in the heat to get moving after our rendezvous time in 2014 World Pride.  For others, it was even worse that year.  Of course, once you get moving, seeing the cheering crowds and waving can be fun.  But alas, it's also fleeting as the crowds become a bit of a blur.  Pride parade organizers still seem after all these years to have little idea how to efficiently run parades. 

I haven't watched the parade comfortably from the sidelines in decades because it's almost impossible along the narrow Yonge Street route to get a good view amid the horrendous crowds.  Plus one half of the street will typically be covered in steaming sunlight as it's an afternoon parade, so without sunscreen it can be unhealthy.  I did try to watch in 2016 with visiting family when we found a spot on Yonge south of Carlton that provided a bit of a glimpse of those in the parade.  But alas, that was the year Black Lives Matter held its sit-in a few blocks north of us, grinding the parade to a halt. 
 
In retrospect, I admire Black Lives Matter activists who bravely pushed their agenda that day.  It raised awareness in ways few other actions could.  It reminded us all that Pride is political, that Pride was based on acts of protest.  Demanding armed and uniformed police officers be absent from the parade went a long way to helping the marginalized in our community find their place again in this event. 

But it's still a noisy mess. 

I do miss the excuse to see friends I haven't seen in weeks or months.  I miss the traditional house parties that won't happen this weekend.  Sure there'll be other weekends in the future.  Here's hoping that vaccines against Covid-19 eventually make communal life possible again. 

Pride weekend this year has been unusually restful and quiet.  I've done some reading.  I've done some awesome cycling.  I've done some planning for my next project.  I've watched Rupaul's latest All Stars episode with a close friend.  Today, there are no calls to come join some parade and wait around in the sun for 3 hours.  It'll just be more reading, a bit of writing of this blog, probably more cycling, a phone call with an old friend tonight, and perhaps some virtual Euchre with some other dear friends. 

A quiet, lovely Pride indeed.  It takes a year like this to remind us that much of the chaos and noise that Pride has become isn't really all that appreciated.  How did this beast get so big and corporate and manic?  

Why must Toronto be stuck with the existing Pride structure - shutting down the narrow corridors of Church Street, with its long waiting lines to get into bars or the boarded off outdoor events?  Why can't we have the parade in the evening when it's cooler?  Why does it have to be Yonge Street?  Why can't we take over a different location like a park and give people the space to attend?  With Covid's impact possibly lasting years, that may indeed force a much needed change.  

We'll see.  I may even have to join Pride Toronto again and try to advocate for change. 

But for today, all I will do is enjoy the quiet this year, knowing there's no party to miss. 

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The shortcomings of Donald Trump and neo-conservatism on full display thanks to Black Lives Matter and recent protests against racism...

The recent momentum earned by Black Lives Matter activists and their allies is indisputable. 

It finally seems that the recent murder of yet another innocent Black man, George Floyd, by a police officer in the United States has finally pushed public opinion into new progressive territory. 

Even my own younger brother, a middle-aged teddy bear of a White man whose political leanings definitely line up with most middle-of-the-road centrists in safe, mainstream Ontario, wrote recently on Facebook about how sad and sickened he was by the racist police violence we continue to see.  He vowed to do everything he can to make sure his own kids understand their part in fighting anti-Black racism, and all racism.  I'm proud of him. 

We've seen episodes like this in our society before.  Black men have been unfairly brutalized by the police for decades.  But this time, mainstream/aka White public opinion may have finally connected all the dots in ways racialized communities have been doing for decades.  It seems finally we are all simply sick and tired of the police brutalizing innocent Black people. 

But fixing this is a tall order, as we know.  If left unchecked, our existing power structures are more than happy to perpetuate injustice forever if it's profitable or makes the powerful feel stronger.  That's how power works.  I'm sure most police officers and their fans these days see this as just the latest backlash and expect temperatures to die down soon so they can go back to their old ways and nothing changes.  We can't let that happen.  The public needs to demand police forces that treat all people with dignity and respect regardless of race.  

The culture of policing itself needs a complete transformation.  In parts of the U.S. and Canada in recent decades, the militarization of police power has become horrifying.  There seems to be no limits to the budgets they receive to buy the latest military toys and vehicles completely unnecessary to conduct reasonable law enforcement in their communities.  My own limited experiences in Toronto have taught me that most male police officers under 40 are in it for the power, frequently abusing that power as they see fit.  These types need to learn to be better, or be gone. 

To undermine these power structures and force them toward greater public accountability, the public needs to be steadfast.  We need to demand our politicians hold police to account and change for the better.   That doesn't necessarily mean defunding the police.  But yes, it should mean that the public doesn't rely on police to provide all emergency social services.  But how did those social services get so underfunded, forcing the police to pick up the slack?  Well, it's been conservative politicians of course, voted in by conservatives in the public, eager to see funding for social services, for mental health services, and other public good measures cut to the bone.  So penny wise and pound foolish!  

Conservative ideology is like a drug.  Too much of it, and you overdose.  It's like organized religion that way.  Only in moderation, preferably mixed with a lot of liberal common sense, can neo-conservatism be anything better than corrosive.  

Yet in the U.S., most conservatives live in Fox News-inspired bubbles, cut off from the rest of humanity.  Those idiots have no idea why people are taking to the streets.  And they don't really care either.  Just like their president. 

It's always been my impression that conservative ideology is based fundamentally on the oppression of others.  Conservatism promises to make you a stronger person by crushing everyone else around you.   Conservative ideology teaches its disciples that they are uniquely superior because of their choices, or their values or religion, or their lifestyles.  They've chosen the good path.  That gives them the right, in their minds, to punish and torture (or enjoy as others torture) everyone who has chosen differently.  Most conservatives love the police as much as they love and adore the military.  There's something intoxicating to them about the unfettered fire power, I guess.  Yes, it's very much like a drug. 

The worst example of a conservative these days is, of course, Donald Trump.  He's the ultimate conservative: vain, racist, sexist, morally vacuous, only concerned with himself, his own power and wealth, and that's about it.  He's very much the product of the worst that ideology has to offer. 

He's also particularly unsuited for this moment.  As peaceful protests against anti-Black racism have found momentum across the world, Trump’s instincts are to constantly placate his racist, hateful base and make matters worse.  He can't help himself.  It's all he has to offer (as he did yet again this week by marking both Pride Month and the 4th anniversary of the tragic murder of 49 people at gay Pulse Nightclub in Florida by removing health rights for LGBTQ people.)  Trump's a narcissistic sociopath who needs to be removed and pushed aside as soon as possible.  Thankfully, the majority of the American public seems to agree, not appreciating his mishandling of both the recent George Floyd demonstrations and the Corona-virus outbreak.  Let's hope public opinion stays that way until November. 

Yes, there are some conservatives out there who abhor Trump.  I'm glad about that.  But in truth, most conservatives are really a part of the same problem that Trump represents: a selfish indifference to the plights of others, particularly if those others don't look, or love, or pray like they do. 

Systemic racism needs to be constantly challenged.  Undoing the influence of racism that has carved its way into our institutions so deeply takes concerted effort.  That means we, the public, need to demand that the levers of power in government, in the police, in our institutions, be opened up and shared.  Hierarchical systems have failed us.  They aren't and have never been based on any kind of merit.  Instead, our hierarchical systems have simply been used to fortify and strengthen existing injustices and imbalances.  Insiders anointing more insiders.  Advancement is more based on your amoral ability to suck up to those who have power.  I'm not someone who is full of shit who enjoys playing that sick game.  I don't lie very well, and that makes me uniquely unsuited for "leadership teams" in most North American management structures. 

At least, prior to this current enlightened episode, that is.  Now most organizations are falling over themselves to publicly state their dislike of anti-Black racism, with promises to do better to fight it.  The cacophony of corporate statements supporting the causes of Black Lives Matter now puts those corporations on the record.  They can be held accountable for future inaction.  If all of this talk leads to nowhere in those organizations, we can shame them for it. 

Those white insiders who have gone all in on that amoral game I described above should know that all this talk of ending systemic racism (or any kind of systemic oppression) is a direct threat to their power.  It's not just about race, of course.  Sexism and misogyny have also thrived under existing power structures.  Homophobia too.  Imagine having to compete on your merits and not win simply because your best buddy who looks and acts just like you is doing the hiring or making the day-to-day decisions.  Workplace cultures need to change. 

Sadly, most conservatives are not going to be helpful in the fight to make the world a more just place.  If you can't even see the problem, how can you possibly help solve it?  Even if they do acknowledge the problem, many just don’t care enough to do anything about it.  I decided long ago to reject conservative parties and politicians for those reasons.  Sure the tax cuts may sound enticing.  But all the shit that inevitably comes with conservative ideology is simply bad for humanity. 

We must constantly challenge anti-Black racism.  It's time to get real and make efforts at improvements in our daily lives.  I fully intend to keep up that fight.  I'll do it in all areas of my life where I can do so safely.  Yes, I benefit every day from white privilege.  I have tried deliberately to not take advantage of it.  But I need to do more.

This fight will take time.  But we've always known that. 

There is no one path to a better world.  But one thing is for certain: removing Donald Trump from the White House will help immensely with that goal.