Ghandi once said “In a gentle way you can shake the world.”
I believe this to be true
I am a veteran activist and protester – mostly from my student union days. I have protested Cruise missile testing, tuition increases, welfare cuts, homelessness and lack of affordable housing, the Gulf War(s), George Bush Sr/Jr., the Oka crisis, and the destruction of our old growth forests. Well, those are the ones I can remember. Have I made a difference in the world? I like to think so. At least I had my voice heard, and tried to affect change instead of just complaining about things. Some of my local activism in Regent Park as a community organizer, has directly improved the lives of those living there. These are some of the moments of my life I am most proud of.
So when my kids lined the street this week with their entire school to cheer on the Olympic flame, I had extremely mixed emotions when they came home to report that protesters had ruined it. My kids seemed to spit nails as they uttered the word “protesters”. The anti-Olympic protesters blocked the street they had been waiting on and the flame had to be re-routed. Their disappointment was palpable. Molly had even made a ‘Go Canada” sign just for the event.
While I don’t support destructive methods like the ones downtown last week where property was damaged I also don’t universally condemn it either. There is a level of anger and frustration demonstrated there, that simply cannot be ignored. Violent vs. non-violent action is another more complicated debate.
So here I am with two kids who view protesters as fun-killers who hate the Olympics. This, I observed, was an opportunity to talk issues with my kids. We had a long talk about social justice, housing, political will (or lack thereof)and the need to gently shake the world. At the end of the conversation they no longer hated the protesters – they just wish they had not blocked the road. Phew.
Anneke told me this week her whole class has been working on letters to the editor about their experience. S/he said s/he planned to write about her disappointment, but also write about how important it is to build homes for homeless people, and help poor people. I realized in that moment one of the best ways to ‘shake the world’ is to raise kind, compassionate children.
This is my current political action.