Friday, June 17, 2011

what if we don't win?

As I walked home from work Wednesday, I wondered about that. What if we didn't win the Stanley Cup? Would people be able to manage their disappointment? We all found out on Wednesday evening as events unfolded. Cars burned. Stores were looted. Several thousand people participated, to a greater or lesser extent, in a awful outpouring of wild, destructive anger. At home, we watched our televisions with mounting dismay, disappointment, embarrassment. We had all hoped that the Olympics had taught our city how to manage a big street party. We wondered, "If the Americans had won the Olympic gold medal hockey game, would this would have happened then?"

I fell asleep Wednesday feeling changed. Sure, the excitement of the buildup through the hockey playoffs was gone, replaced with disappointment and resignation. We did lose, after all. But the stronger feeling was an overwhelming sickness about humanity. How could we be so awful and uncontrolled? How could the good people - enforcers and bystanders - not have prevailed? How could anyone commit such acts boldly, cheerfully almost, in full view of video cameras? I thought of images of young men and women not so very different from my own kids. The news reporters said that some had been planning the riot before they came downtown earlier in the day, but there were lots of ordinary looking people. They looked like people who had just showed up and joined in. They were throwing heavy objects through store windows, running inside and grabbing makeup and mannequins, dancing crazy dances of rage and alienation, or slinking out with proud/sheepish mix-mash looks on their faces.

Thursday morning I woke up numb and sad. "We'll get over this," I thought. But it will take a long time. "What will people think of us? What will we think of us?" I didn't fully realise how sad and upset I was until I heard the news on the radio on my way in to work. Thousands of people had signed up on Facebook, and were coming downtown to help clean up the city, wear the Canucks colours in pride not retaliation, do acts of goodness and contrition. I sat in the parking lot at my work and cried in the car.

All day we went through our routines, the same but somehow more subdued and unsettled. One of my co-workers came in a little late to work. She had driven downtown to help pick up trash before coming in to the office. The seniors at the rec centre talked about fear and shame. Was it safe to go downtown? Who could have done this and what did we do wrong not to stop it? We talked about the cleanup too. This helped everyone feel better. Later at home, I talked with my family about it and we absorbed the images on the news.

Citizens with rubber gloves and brooms and garbage bags from home. Messages of hope and healing inscribed on the plywood covering a store's busted out windows. May all of these signify a power greater than that wielded by the car burners and store looters on Wednesday evening. In every crowd, there are instigators, eggers-on, observer and recorders. Let's find our places in our own mob of kindness and rightness, get on with business as usual, and know that we are changed by this. It's our choice how so. I hope it's for the good.

question - what's your part?

mompoet - hugging my children and talking about it with my friends


Lynn Valley Girl said...

You have written this so well. The sadness at what happened was overwhelming. Even a win, I am told would have had the same outcome in the streets. The anarchists had it planned ahead of time and then the mob mentality helped it along.
I walk down Granville daily as part of my commute and I was overwhelmed at what I saw in the aftermath.

Heather Hiebert said...

Sue, as a mom, I think you caught an aspect of this that a lot of reporters and bloggers didn't -- how does one respond as a parent to the images and reports of largely young people with what seems like no moral compass, getting liquored up and behaving atrociously. I also wonder if the drinking isn't a convenient excuse used by some youth to excuse the amorality-- It seems a lot of young people seem to think if you just say sorry, that should somehow gloss over any multitude of sins. Somewhere along the line making amends for bad behaviour seems to have been left out of their equation. I think the worst thought for me is that even with everything I've done to try to teach and model good morals to my son, I can't say with certainty that he wouldn't behave the same in such a situation.