I would guess the number of Americans who truly don’t understand why half their country took up arms in protest is quite small. Trump supporters, clearly, are fully aware of the sack of shit that is their President, and the sadistic cowards revel in the idea of a rapist and conman driving the country in the ground. Perhaps less obvious is why the rest of the world cared so much.
In Edmonton, Trump’s inauguration was greeted with a convincing rendition of Silent Hill.
CBC estimates that 3,500-4,000 people attended. Bubblegum pink pussycaps dotted the crowd, amidst signs saying “General Organa sent me” and “Pussies grab back” and “It’s so bad even the introverts are here.” The unusually humid air clung to skin, drawing cold through winter armour, a breeze cutting through the rest. Pride flags flap in the wind, people shuffling together and jumping up and down in circles to keep the blood in their toes. Three hijab-clad women take a spot in the crowd in front of me, just behind one of the Pride groups.
I worry that this is simply going to be an hour of being lectured in the cold. Nobody attending today needs to be told what is important to stand for in our future. That’s why we are here. And the cold claim its casualties–the protest slowly bleeds participants as the event creeps on, myself included 40 minutes in. Still, 4,000 people is about ten times as much as you’d get over a local issues protest.
Faith leaders are called to speak at the event, all of whom were women. The Catholic was met with stony silence, the Jew with a few mitten-smothered claps. The Indigenous speaker had to hush a group of clueless white women who started chanting over her prayer–though the mention of the Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women Inquiry was met with enthusiastic applause. The only speaker with any substantial charisma was the Muslim woman, who took the sort of firebrand preaching you’d expect from a doomsayer but turned it into a social justice rallying cry. The energy in the crowd practically ignited, cheers & chanting erupting where there was half-hearted enthusiasm tempered by shivering.
Even as I listened and cheered along, recognizing many of the same political goals in this firebrand that I had, I felt unnerved. I described her as a preacher for a reason. She did not mention god (or allah), but her speech, however forcefully delivered, nonetheless spoke in righteous condemnation of sin–defined by greed and selfishness and misogyny–and called for us to be pure in our commitment to equity and justice. Powerful though the speech was, I could not help but feel the nagging sense of manipulation so ubiquitous at religious services.
Let us not forget that Trump has the overwhelming support of Evangelicals. More religion, we do not need. And the reluctance to identify the capacity religion had and continues to have in our geopolitical landscape strikes me as an awful oversight.
The saying goes, “when America sneezes, Canada catches a cold.” We care for your welfare because we are ethical human beings, but it also true on a pragmatic level that every dog-awful head-up-ass decision America makes costs Canada something. And, unfortunately, the western half of Canada has caught the stubborn cold sores that are evangelicals.
Overall, the message seemed overwhelmingly clear that progressives of all stripes were ready to band together against the reactionary movements in our province. But I worry that religion will continue to receive the kiddie-gloves from the next political generation. My hope is for a generation of human rights values without exception, a generation which needs no existential greater calling to simply agree that we are all human, and that is enough.
America, Edmonton is with you.