Leonard Pitts: One of the last sane places on Earth
Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 27, 2022
Really? Et tu?
It’s been a few years since my last visit: My wife and I spent a weekend in Vancouver, drawn by an article declaring it one of the most livable cities on Earth. The man at the rental car place gave us a map and showed us how to reach the sights. He took pains to point out what he said was a rough neighborhood we should avoid. Naturally, that’s the first place we went.
Canada, I grew up in South Los Angeles. I’ve spent time in Miami’s Liberty City, Chicago’s South Side and Washington’s Anacostia, so I feel I know a thing or two about rough neighborhoods. This one struck me as maybe a little down at the heels, but that was about it. I looked for the gang graffiti, listened for the sirens, waited for my spider sense to tingle. Nothing.
Granted, it was just a quick drive through — maybe all the mayhem was over on the next street. Still, seeing what you consider the ’hood, I was struck, and not for the first time, that you are a country I could happily live in. To me, Canada has always felt … civilized. Like America if America wasn’t crazy.
Of course, that was before the truckers.
Like many of us, I watched in disbelief over the past month as convoys of them blockaded your capital city and the Ambassador Bridge that links Detroit with Windsor, carrying 25 percent of the trade between us. Their stated reason for this act of anarchy was the vaccine mandates adopted in the fight against COVID-19 and its various variants. But that’s nonsense, given that 90 percent of Canadian truckers have already taken the shot. The idea that vaccine resistance is only a pretext is also attested by the fact that protesters have adopted iconography that has nothing to do with vaccines and everything to do with extremism and hatred, including the Nazi swastika and its U.S. analog, the Confederate battle flag. Small wonder these truckers don’t even enjoy the support of their own advocacy group. The Canadian Trucking Alliance has denounced them.
Canada, this is some America-grade stupidity. And I have to say: I thought you were better than this.
Yes, I know that’s unfair. I know most of your people oppose this chaos. I also know that I’m probably romanticizing and idealizing you in the way distant admirers often do. You’re not perfect. I get it.
But as right-wing movements, as shrill as they are intellectually incontinent, cast shadows across South America, Europe, Eurasia and the United States, I had grown used to thinking of you as a sort of oasis. As fascist voices grow emboldened, as more people in more places pull away from the center, the consensus, I found comfort in regarding you as one of the last reliably sane places on Earth.
The so-called “Freedom Convoy,” however, tells us that not even you are immune to insanity, to this virus of ignorance and inchoate intolerance that has infected much of the world. That saddens me.
We had a good time in Vancouver. Browsed on Granville Island, saw a movie, rode the gondola. I was coming out of a parking structure and the oncoming car promptly stopped so that I could enter traffic and I remember thinking again: Yeah, I could live here. More accurately: I could escape here.
Now, the refrain of an old song that once came to you from Detroit across the Ambassador Bridge seems to mock that stray thought: “Nowhere to run to, baby, nowhere to hide.” Indeed. One of the last sane places on Earth is now infected with the lunacy of the age.
Say it isn’t so.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Miami, Fla., 33172. Readers may contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.