Well, I must have touched a nerve. I walked into my local restaurant yesterday morning to pick up my son’s weekend treat breakfast sandwich, and was accosted by a very irate older man.
“Skid Crease,” he shouted.
I looked around, and there he was, holding a copy of the latest Caledon Citizen in which I had published an article titled The Ignorance of the Elders. “Yes?” I asked.
“You creep! You’re a stalker! You whiny little b___h!” he shouted
Now keep in mind that I was in a line up, a young girl and her mother in front of me, more than a little shocked by this man’s outburst.
“You join our conversation and then jump up and leave the table like a whiny little b___h!” he shouted.” He stormed out of the restaurant with a final, “I’m going to call the cops. This isn’t over yet!”
Ah, it finally registered. This must be the man whose pontificating I had been shocked by several months before. I had been researching the rise of hate crimes and far right political thinking that had been encouraged in recent months by the rise of Trumpism in the U.S.A. I hadn’t expected to find it in my little town, but there it was alive and well and loud.
I had joined a table of older men, introduced myself by name as a storyteller and a writer, and asked if I could join their conversation. The conversation, it turned out, was more unsettling than I had anticipated, and I left the table with the words, “I’d like to stay, but if I listen to any more of this, I’m going to be sick.” That conversation later became the inspiration for the article.
On later visits to the restaurant I heard other members of the group, on three separate occasions, threaten that they would love to get Kathleen Wynne, Dalton McGuinty, and Justin Trudeau in their “crosshairs.” All of those threats I called into the local OPP. I was told they had freedom of speech, and if I hadn’t seen a weapon, there was nothing they could do. Incredible.
My wife is a Principal in an elementary school, and if a student even just verbally threatens another student, the police are called in. Not so when disturbed older men make death threats against our political leaders.
When I had approached one of the men after hearing him wanting to kill the Canadian Prime Minister, one man told me loudly to “F___ off!” and another taunted me with “You poor old pathetic f___ing piece of s__t.” Obviously the intelligence level of this exchange was going nowhere, so I left. I went home and called my friend Justin to tell him about the exchange and invite him to drop into my neighbourhood on his coffee shop tour of Ontario.
“Skiddy,” he replied, “if I had to worry about every disgruntled older man venting in coffee shops, I wouldn’t get much sleep.” Such a wise man to be able to park all of this and carry on with classy calmness.
I let that one go, but after the last slanderous personal attack, calling me out by name and defaming my character in a public audience, I called in a full report to the OPP and submitted a full written report. The very professional young officer who handled the case, said he would put a “head’s up” flag on it and suggested that this was a case of miscommunication.
“Make sure you include ‘journalist’ along with ‘storyteller and writer’ the next time you do this kind of research,” he wisely cautioned.
Of course he was right, it’s part of my Canadian Press Code of Ethics. In my defense, I had never intended to do a news article on this event. It was only on later reflection and hearing the vehemence of the subsequent threats that I decided to write it. That and the horror of the Montreal mosque massacre, the perpetrator of which was inspired by Donald Trump’s Islamophobia.
From what I have seen since the misogyny and racism and lies of the Presidential campaign, to the first chaotic dysfunctional month of the new “so-called” President’s term, I am not encouraged. The New York City Police Department reported in January that there has been a 115% rise in hate crimes since the election of Donald Trump. It is as if his ascendency has given permission to the far right to take it from venting in the coffee shops and bars and Tweets, to take it to the streets. It’s like they’ve been given permission to hate openly. And the only defence against that is to call it out.
I feel like I’m back in the sixties again, marching for civil rights, and environmental security, and nuclear disarmament. Yes, indeed, once more into the breech dear friends, once more!
Skid Crease, Caledon