April 03, 2003

Draft Jessica Lynch 2020

Just wanted to start the ball rolling a little early. She'll be 20 soon, which makes her eligible to run in 2020.

Larger image available.

Posted by campbell at 10:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Montréal and Politics: Full Contact Blood Sport

What can I say?

This is shameful to me as a born-Canadian and patriot to both my birth country and the US, where I am now a citizen and have spent most of my life.

Canadians hurl abuse at U.S. hockey peewees

MONTREAL -- A peewee hockey tournament in Montreal became a trip into hostile territory for a busload of Americans who say they encountered such fierce anti-Americanism that they will think twice before returning.

During a four-day visit, boys travelling with their Massachusetts hockey team witnessed the burning of the Stars and Stripes and the booing of the U.S. national anthem. When travelling in their bus emblazoned with a red-white-and-blue "Coach USA" logo, they saw people on the street who extended their middle fingers or made other angry gestures.
The children watched as several demonstrators made obscene gestures toward the bus. A U.S. flag was dragged through the street.
Mr. Carpenter came across a knot of demonstrators surrounding a protester who, with an Iraqi flag and a U.S. flag, had climbed atop a traffic light.

The crowd cheered when the man waved the Iraqi flag, and booed the U.S. flag, Mr. Carpenter said. Then the protester doused the U.S. flag in kerosene.

By a strange coincidence, we were in Montreal at the time of these events, taking the eldest and his friends on a college tour of our alma mater, McGill.

I'm not surprised this happened. It was actually quite a raucous time in the city, with all these loud hockey players roaming around. Our friends were staying in the Holiday Inn with seeming endless streams of boisterous kids humping huge hockey bags and sticks around.

My wife and I didn't feel these tensions. Of course, we weren't in a truly foreign country or city. But I will say I felt a little apprehensive about leaving my car overnight on the street with the New York plates. But I felt the McGill sticker in the back window would act like a little totem of protection. Yes, I'm guilty of denying my country. "See, I'm not really one of them."

Yet I still wore my American Flag pin proudly in downtown Montreal. Maybe a little apprehension. But 200 pounds and a red belt in Tae Kwon Do give one a certain confidence if not arrogance.

Some observations, not to excuse but maybe to cast light:

— Hockey is a rough sport, with rough people. I personally don't watch it much (Formula One is more my style). Some of that always spills on the ice when there is tension between teams, cities, countries. What happens at hockey games should never be taken as characteristic of a people.

— Canadians can get pretty pissed off at Americans. They will often comment on how Americans joke around at ball games during the Canadian national anthem. A bit of getting back at the Yanks might have been in play. Government officials stepped in almost immediately to denounce this behavior. If it had happened to adults, it would have been annoying. That it happened to young kids is just horrid.

— Montreal is a highly charged, politicized environment. I know it is hard for Americans to realize that they are not the primum mobile around which all action revolves, but the politics has almost nothing to do with the US. It is in Montreal's very nature.

Politics is apocalyptic.

There is the French-English tension on a citywide level.
That is also a class tension, as a large chunk of the French population is working class, and traditionally the ruling class in the city was English. That has changed in recent decades as, frankly, the English have fled, but it's bred in the bone. There is literally a street running down the middle of the town: to the East, predominantly French-speaking; to the West, English.

There is a language tension. Laws restricting English have been a source of strife and high feelings.
There is a city agglomeration tension, as traditional independent communities have been forced to join a larger urban entity.
There is economic tension. Things just aren't that rosy in Montreal and haven't been for 30 years. At one point in the 60s and 70s (when I lived there), gun battles and bus burnings broke out between rival gangs of taxi drivers. I kid you not.
There is nationalist tension. Strained relations with the rest of Canada stretch back to 1760. In 1970, that led to bombings, kidnappings, assassination and the imposition of martial law.
The license plates say "I remember" but that might be better expressed as "we never forget".
There have been repeated attempts by up to 50% of the province to redraw the map of Canada. These campaigns are brutal, vicious affairs that leave everyone bruised and bleeding (often literally).

There are ethnic tensions that often explode. I hate to characterize people too broadly, but there is a strain of xenophobia in the Quebec populace. During a recent electoral failure, a senior government official actually referred darkly and threateningly to the "new" Quebecers who had defeated the separatist referendum. The implication was that they would be dealt with.

These things pop up like "whack-a-mole" periodically and need to be beaten down. Usually with a royal commission.

Italian immigration in the 60s led to French-Italian conflict in the 70s. Traditional anti-semitism can run up against a substantial Hasidic community and a more ordinary Jewish presence. Large numbers of Africans and Caribbeans have moved to the city, adding a racial tension.

And in recent years (a surprise to me on this trip), large numbers of Muslims have moved there from the French-speaking North African countries. Concordia U (the other English university) has ongoing, often physically violent struggles between traditional ethnic rivals. I am told that the nickname for the college is Al Qaeda U.

In addition, the Gallic intellectual does tend to the Marxist, adding a soupçon of the romantic revolutionary to the mix. Your average French college student (not in business school) tends to fancy himself or herself a dashing mix of Che and Communard. The one-finger salute and the rude comment are their way of demonstrating their street cred. Hey, it's better than a molotov cocktail or a brick.

In other words, politics in Montreal is a full contact blood sport.

By contrast, Americans are used to way more gentility and bipartisanship than you find on a good day up there.

So never fear. Last month Montrealers were throwing the finger at Americans.
The likelihood is that tomorrow they'll go back to giving each other the finger. Like God intended.

Posted by campbell at 01:20 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack