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People Who Often Disagree Stand Together Under Festive Gunpowder, Celebrate A Shared Home

ashbridgesbay

Celebrants enjoying the Canada’s Day fireworks in Ashbridges Bay, Toronto. The site of zero battles, though many still mourn 1997’s infamous skirmish between the rollerbladers and the stroller-pushers. Of which there was no clear winner. Photo: Sam Javanrouh.

As the fireworks detonated in humid night skies across an improbably large, disparate, and yet deeply ardent nation, Canadians gathered in the common spaces. Those same spaces created by much-debated tax dollars, in some cases on contested land, watched by a police force many are unhappy with, lit by lights powered by unpopular public utilities – or even less popular private ones, having arrived by vehicles that the cyclists would rather not abide, and by bikes that the larger vehicles wish would just stick to the parks, and stay off the effing streets.

The Liberals. The Conservatives. The New Democrats. The Green Partiers. The unaffiliated. The third of Canadians who didn’t vote in the last federal election but still have loudly-held opinions. They all gathered to watch the events. To stake out a decent seat with a view. To eat the food. To drink the drinks. To sing the national anthem; lustily or quietly, fearfully or hopefully, longingly or carelessly, bawdily or reverently. Silently, or not at all. And to wave an improbable flag.

“Mike,” says a man, happening on a guy he knows in the near-dark of a lakeside park in eastern Toronto.

“John,” acknowledges the other man, grateful for his hat, the brim of which hides his eyes, which are not happy with Mike, whom he considers an asshole.

“You here for the fireworks?”

“Uh-huh. Yep. You?”

“Yeah. I’ve the whole gang here. Somewhere.”

“Oh yeah. Hard to keep track of, aren’t they?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Did you have a good weekend?”

“Yep. You?”

“Oh yeah.”

The two men looked out at the open space between themselves and the lake. It’s full of people; drifting and mingling, running and walking, disappearing and reappearing among themselves. A churn of differences, a mix of values. Tightly held conspiracy theories bumping into fervent ideals, interwoven with those who couldn’t care less. None of them aware of each other’s politics in the anonymity of the crowd, and unlikely to mention them on a day that is as much a laying down as it is a taking up. 

“I saw you on the old Facebook there last week,” one of the men said eventually, breaking the silence.

“Oh yeah. Yeah, now that you mention it, we had a bit of a debate going didn’t we?”

“Yeah. Hope I didn’t offend you.”

“Oh no. No. No, don’t worry. It was all good.”

The fireworks began then without any warning. The crowd turned to the display, dark shapes craning their necks upwards to follow the tracers of aesthetic artillery. Everyone watched, gasping together when the largest explosions erupted overhead, murmuring wows as the staccato bangs split the peace over the darkened lake. And then the cheering, and whistling, when it all ended in a cataclysmic volley, and the night returned to the warm heaviness of summer.

“Phew. Heck of a show.”

“Yeah. Really something.”

“Well. See you around.

“Uh-huh. Yep.”

“Happy Canada Day, Mike.”

“Yeah. Yeah Happy Canada John. We’ll see you around.”

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10 replies »

  1. The same ritual noise making is currently in full force here in many parts of the US. However, most seem to like seeing and hearing things explode so it begins in late June and reaches a peak on July 4, gradually ending after several injure themselves during their own detonations. They often sing a song written in the 19th century as a National Anthem (although only about 4% have the needed range to accommodate all the notes) and then send thoughts and prayers to everyone we sent to kill people in other countries as many die is the process. Sometimes, just for a change, we will sing the British National Anthem with a different lyric. Few of us realize that it is the British National Anthem.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. On my Paul‼️🇨🇦🇨🇦🇨🇦🇨🇦Thank you 👏👏👏👏
    Another great epistle!!! What fun!!!
    Moving madness has certainly NOT destroyed any of YOUR neurons!!!
    Lost another deal friend this week😡
    Hoping there is WiFi in Heaven so she can keep up with you😇

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Really enjoyed this piece. I was just listening to a discussion yesterday on public radio. I’m american by both birth and passport but in December 2016 bought a small place in the woods and now spend about 2/3 yr up there. .I return south to visit aging mother, toddler grandson among others. This year finds me south of the border for the upcoming 4th July. In years past ,yes, even down here in america politics have been put aside to celebrate our country. Sadly, I know this year it will not be that way. Not with tanks in the Mall, planes flying overhead and donnie throwing a pay to attend party where he will speak to “his” country.
    I ADORE fireworks and usually would go to great lengths to attend. This is I am staying home. There is nothing to celebrate down here, south of the border.
    Reading your piece brought up a longing to return to the “old” days of america. Thank you for writing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m staying home too. It’s raining (as usual) anyway. I have been a patriotic citizen all my life, and considered myself a proud citizen of Earth as well. But these days, there is nothing to celebrate and no patriotism left in my heart. I have had a very eye opening look at my country and my government these last 3 years or so. I knew we had problems, but deep down I always had faith that our elected representatives had our best interests at heart, and would eventually do the right thing. I no longer have that faith. I have been watching the 50th anniversary documentaries about the moon landing. I was born the same year, and my pride in, and love for, what my country had done has always made my heart swell with pride and joy. Now I watch those scenes with a hollow, sad sort of cynical nostalgia. I am from Alabama, so I have always been ashamed to admit what state I was from, but at least I could still have pride in my country. Those days are no more. Now, when I am forced to think about my status as a citizen of America and the world, all I can hear is the audience at the U.N. banquet laughing at our elected leader as he bragged about nothing and lied obvious lies like a 3 year-old saying he shaved the cat because it asked him to. I will be watching Dr.Who this evening, and trying to remember that I can still say with pride that I am a citizen of the Solar System. At least until we finally make it to Proxima Centauri and discover that it’s inhabitants have had peace, prosperity and faster-than-light travel for ages, but never came here because they consider it a bad neighborhood.

      Liked by 1 person

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