The Contrarian Community of Calgary

A community is democratic only when the humblest and weakest person can enjoy the highest civil, economic, and social rights that the biggest and most powerful possess. – A. Phillip Randolph

1969 Polio protest for the right to live independently

For the first time since the pandemic was declared I am now sitting at Kanpai Sushi on 8th Street sipping saki and eating sushi while contemplating the special City Council regarding the most recent Beltline “protest”. That’s almost three hours of my streaming time I will never get back. Great sushi, friendly service, saki just the right temperature so come on down and put a few shillings into the businesses that were able to withstand the pandemic challenges.. And it feels good to be back supporting a local business (besides having missed my sushi) that is so wheelchair close. I can see my condo from here so, if the mood hits me, I could get as drunk as a skunk and still wheel home without incident (barring any untimed protests) however those, drunk as a skunk days, are far behind me. Isn’t aging a bitch?

So while I sip my saki and nibble my sushi (Spider Role, two Maki yellowtail tuna, two salmon and two Unagi eel) I am mulling over today’s Special City Council meeting. And, although my saki is the right temperature, my disposition is past boiling. As a residence of the Beltline this weekend madness has to stop which requires more than “writing a letter” to the Police Commission. That mentality is right up there with believing Putin will leave the Ukraine alone if we put enough sanctions on him or as much naivety in the belief that Tinkerbell’s pixy dust will help you fly. No, Putin is an irrational (unfortunately intelligent, most narcissistic personalities are) who will bully his way through until someone starts to call him for what he is. It is that same naive thinking that allows the bullying of the residence of the Beltline.

These Saturday “protest” events are the same, that Saturday cacophony of sound isn’t a protest, it is bullying action hiding behind “freedom” rhetoric. For this to come to an end we have to forget the curse of Canadian politeness, stop saying sorry and call it out for what it is. This is no protest, it is plain and simple, civil unrest and encouraged by a population (non-Beltliners) that live in a continual state of denial while refusing to recognize the truth.

I have no issues with protest, I have been involved with many over my lifetime. In my mind, they were for the “collective good”. It’s all part and parcel of fighting for disability rights to independence, civil rights, anti-racism and the fight for women’s rights. There was a time when to be disabled meant you were a product for a system of care that denied you any form dignity, independence or, and this is an important one, self-determination. However what has been happening in the Beltline isn’t “protesting”, it’s an incursion of “self-entitlement” hiding behind the rhetoric of freedom. Protesting for “rights” brings a degree of responsibility and this group of “freedom loving” protestors behave more like a collective of bullies rather than protectors of rights.

Freedom fighters respect the needs of ALL, not just the over glorified few waving their “privilege” around in the faces of those who just want peace in their community. I am a resident of the Beltline and I use to feel very safe in this neighbourhood. That feeling of safeness has evaporated during the pandemic and appears to have provided a venue for hate mongers to make life miserable for all of the residence who believe in the responsibility that comes with “rights”. I’m tired of it…very tired.

When taking a stroll in a wheelchair is already restricted by weather, access, poorly maintained pathways and self entitled idiots, the last thing I need to add to my schedule is the avoidance of an uninformed group of idiots, it becomes time to speak out. First to Mark Neufeld’s comment regarding “Protesters on both sides share blame for increased hostility in Beltline demonstrations” sounds a lot like Trump’s comments on the Charlottesville protest. Neo-nazi’s carrying Tiki Torches is hard to reconcile with “you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides”. How far have we sunk? “Fine” people do not go out of their way to disrupt a community spouting issues that the City has no authority over. And a few bad apple cops using their bikes more like weapons than safety barriers should not “tar” all cops as bad. The cops are only the messengers with a few acting like perpetrators. That’s what happens when you don’t inform yourself properly before casting your vote.

I am not against “protests” or demanding ones rights, I am against someone telling me their rights are more important than mine. I have spend a lifetime as a polio survivor (survivor, not victim) however I have been a “victim” of a system built on “good intentions”. I’m still, 40 years after the fact, fighting with the City over something as simple as “access”. What I have discovered is basically most people don’t care until it’s in their backyard. In this case the backyard is the community of Beltline, my “safe place”, which has lost a lot of its “safeness” since the pandemic erupted.

What further complicates it is the need for others to demonize the community residence who decided to take a stand. That’s the nature of being a contrarian, when you stop being a victim, the next step is demonization. That’s not a new feeling to me, I am told my “straight forwardness” is unsettling. Get over it, it’s not personal, it’s meant to encourage “actualization”.

More to come…

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