She looks nice. Too bad that’s the smile of a bonkers, blissed out religious fanatic. “Coercion is not consent” is a nice sentiment, but that’s not what Ephesians 6:12 says. It says,
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
That’s a problem. She’s not supporting the truck convoy in Canada, she thinks she’s in a battle with vast supernatural powers. She’s not. The truckers use “FREEEEDOM!” as a slogan, but the protest is really about a bunch of well-off working class people trying to protect their privileges and pretend their bogus beliefs about viruses and vaccinations are valid. These are people who are cranky-ass babies who don’t want to get vaccinated against a disease that has killed about a million people in the US because their preachers or right-wing radio and television have told them not to. Under it all is…religion.
Christian sermons of varying lengths emanate regularly from the main flatbed stage on Wellington Street and from curbside preachers using microphones attached to portable speakers. Their words waft in the air and mix with the rumble of diesel engines and fumes, thumping dance music, the tinge of marijuana.
Starting Friday, “Jericho marches” began circling the parliamentary precinct every morning. The name refers to the Old Testament story of the Israelites walking around the walls of Jericho for seven days. On the seventh day, the Israelites marched seven times, blew rams horns and shouted. The walls came tumbling down.
This past Saturday, a woman draped in a Canadian flag led the march with a megaphone in hand.
“When we sing, enemies flee,” she said as she entered the grounds of Parliament Hill. “Hallelujah, hallelujah.”
The march then joined a mass of people gathered in formation to spell the word “freedom.”
It’s madness. Nothing but madness.
It’s not about freedom, or vaccines, or even just religion. This is a loony fringe of a fringe who are exploiting the fact that the powers-that-be, the police, the media — you know, the actual rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual wickedness in high places — will give them loving attention and pander to their every whimper and whine. They really are spoiled babies who have discovered that tantrums will get them praise on their favored media.
It’s easy to shorthand these shambolic yet menacing gatherings as “anti-vaccine-mandate”—and they are, glancingly, the way the movie Robocop is about a robot cop, or Animal Farm is a study in zoology. The weeks-long occupation underway in Ottawa—its big rigs symbolizing the distilled essence of “white working class” mythology that cloaks these protests, nominally against vaccine mandates and coronavirus safety protocols, but in actuality accruing a vast baggage train of right-wing grievances and conspiracies—has become a memetic form, to be eagerly adopted and copied, as far as possible, all over the world. It’s worth noting that as vocal as they are, this is an extreme political minority: Canada’s population has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, at 80% fully vaccinated, and among truckers, the rate is even higher, at nearly 90%. As with any large-scale right-wing protest, the police have reacted with a profound lassitude that is tantamount to complicity, and it takes the most wide-eyed cop-boostering stance of centrist faux-ignorance to pretend that this is not solidarity but incompetence. Police have allowed certain menaces—from open fires to public urination to noise complaints to road blockades—to continue unabated, in the name of the protesters’ free speech. “In Ottawa Protests, a Pressing Question: Where Were the Police?” read a comical New York Times headline, manufacturing consent with a frenetic both-hands jerkoff motion.
The question of “why the police seemingly abandoned the country’s seat of power,” as the Times put it, is a question that answers itself: law enforcement apparatuses are a law unto themselves, fed strength by a neoliberal state that needs them to enforce its deadly inequalities. No one is watching the watchmen as they cheer from the sidelines, and that’s true on both sides of the border. Though the police have cleared a smaller bridge blockade that stopped trade between the U.S. and Canada for days in Windsor, Ontario, and seized a cache of guns on the border in Alberta, the Ottawa protests continue apace. Given the laxity that thus far has allowed the protest to grow in Ottawa, gain notoriety, proffer real menace (and so many racist and antisemitic hate crimes a hotline was set up to report them), and issue unhinged proclamations unfettered, imitator protests have already arisen in Canberra, Italy, London, Wellington, Paris, Jerusalem and elsewhere.
It’s a perversion of the concept of freedom. Freedom from responsibility? Freedom from criticism? Freedom to spread disease? Freedom to foul your diapers and let nanny change them? Freedom to believe and act on conspiracy theories?
You don’t have the freedom to afflict your neighbors, but that’s the only freedom conservatives actually want.