Daughters Of Someone Else

Thirty years ago, 14 women were killed because they were women.
   Let me repeat that, in case you didn’t feel the impact:
   Thirty years ago, 14 women were killed because they were women.
   In Canada: in Montreal: thirty years ago, on this day.
   December 6, 1989.
   École Polytechnique. The Montreal Massacre.
   It was more than a mass shooting.
   I remember.
   I remember watching with horror, as details spilled out from the television set throughout that evening. It was sickening.
   I remember.
   I remember thinking of my daughter, not quite three years old at the time.
   I remember thinking these women were all daughters of someone else.
   I remember my tears.
   My daughter has grown up in the deep dark shadow of the Montreal Massacre She might not remember the actual event, but over the past three decades she has learned about what went on, and all that is wrong.
   She knows the significance of this day.
   The world changed that day.
   It has not changed enough.
   I will not take up space today to spit out my thoughts on gun control or public safety.
   I will not criticize today, here, those who continue to exhibit such blatant disregard for my fellow human beings, or the hypocrisy and/or misogyny of those people, or politicians, or corporations who try to hide behind flimsy excuses and transparent policies of diversity and inclusion. Or those who do not do enough to enforce, enhance, and encourage respect in the workplace, our communities, or countries.
   Today is not my day for that.
   Today, in Canada, is National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. It is a day for remembering the event, yes, but more so remembering the vital lives of the women who were hunted down and killed by a single man.
   I also will not, today or ever, utter the name of the killer. I will instead — as I do each year on the anniversary of this senseless tragedy — repeat the names of the 14 women whose lives were snuffed out by hatred, gender discrimination and attitudes which have prevailed in the years since.
   Our daughters, sisters, mothers and lovers face these injustices each day, in a country that prides itself on a satisfying and sufficient way of life.
   Violence against women is still here, it is systematic, and it is wrong.
   We all know it.
   The lives of those women killed, not their deaths, must remain an example. I dislike the popular term ‘Legacy of pain’, but I still feel it.
  These names must not be forgotten:

Geneviève Bergeron
Hélène Colgan
Nathalie Croteau
Barbara Daigneault
Anne-Marie Edward
Maud Haviernick
Maryse Laganière
Maryse Leclair
Anne-Marie Lemay
Sonia Pelletier
Michèle Richard
Annie St-Arneault
Annie Turcotte
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz

   December 6, 1989.
   This is a sacred day.
   Just as we pause on November 11, to pay respect for those who made the ultimate sacrifice defending our way of life in times of war, we must stop whatever we are doing later this day to pause and reflect on those whose lives were taken away, on this day. There must be silence.
   These women did not volunteer or ask for this violence. They lived with it every day, as many do now. Sadly.
   My heart goes out to the families, friends, partners, and loved ones who grieve for these significant women.
   I grieve with you.

   deep peace

How We Now Listen

As effortless as it is to turn on your favorite music and tune out the world around you, and go anywhere, it’s hard to imagine life without the convenience of portable audio.
  But 40 years ago, stereo-to-go was cumbersome, if not impossible. Until Sony introduced this nifty little device called the Walkman.
  Life changed, music changed; certainly how we listened to it did. It became personal and portable; this cassette tape-propelled little brick that delivered quality sound through lightweight headphones at a volume you, only, could fully experience.
  Yeah, just like we do now, with our mobile devices, but this was different. This personal listening experience was never before available until the Walkman.
  Thinking of it now, I still find it amazing.
  In the ‘60s, if you wanted music at the beach, you had to rely on the transistor radio. You accepted the music broadcast through a small monophonic speaker on whatever AM station you could tune into through a small monophonic speaker. Yes, you would sometimes get your favorite song. It was better than nothing, but it wasn’t anything like it could be.
  Technology was primitive. It was limited.
  The ‘70s brought the boom box, but let’s talk about cumbersome. Hauling around a suitcase-sized stereo proved, mostly, to be less fun that it was intended. And it became costly; all those big D cell batteries could eat up your allowance pretty quick.
  So the Walkman – itself not cheap at $150 – gave you freedom. Four double AA batteries could get you anywhere, or take you anywhere. Cassette tapes (now a thing of the past) allowed you to record music from vinyl (one album per side on a 90-minute tape), and away you went; running, cycling, walking, or studying. It was like adding a soundtrack to your life.
  Before that, it’s hard to imagine what commuters did on the bus or subway. Did they just talk?
  While Sony streamlined the original Walkman (later adding the Discman when compact discs became available), the technology was quickly knocked off and became the thing to have. Prices dropped to the point where personal cassette players were almost free with gas, and everybody seemed to have one.
  Headphones heighten the experience.
  The Walkman changed how we consume music. The Walkman inspired how we now listen, either through headphones or with the ear buds popularized with the iPod.
  In 40 years we’ve lived through a range of personal audio products to the point where we don’t think of it any longer as unique. It’s just something we do.
  We listen. It probably even sounds better now than it did then.

Something Positive To Talk About

My team won last Sunday.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers handily defeated the Hamilton Tiger Cats 33 – 12 in the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup final. I was proud. It has been 29 years since the team could call themselves champions.

I haven’t really followed the Bombers much since I moved from Winnipeg five years ago. In fact, this was the first game I had watched on television all year. When I lived in the city I used to catch all, or most, of the team’s games on CJOB radio. I used to know the names of the offensive and defensive line. I knew the coaches, and became familiar with the team’s strengths and weakness. Occasionally I saw a glimmer of hope, but each season I would be ultimately become disappointed with the performance.

Still, I remained a fan. Blue Bombers fans are nothing, if not loyal. We call it prairie pride.

Football is an easy game to follow on the radio. I grew up listening to the games with my father. I presume the Bombers were his team as well; he grew up in that city. I was raised two hours down the highway. The Bombers were the pride of the province and, for the longest time, the only professional team.

Winnipeg is a city near and dear to my heart. I lived there almost half of my adult life. I went to university in the city of about 700,000. My daughter was born there, and I moved back and forth between Brandon and Winnipeg a couple of times. Then I moved to Toronto.

I’m still a Bombers fan, however. I still have an affinity for the province, and Sunday’s big win was good for the city of Winnipeg. They were celebrating with a parade through downtown yesterday.

But, there hasn’t been a lot of good news coming out of the Manitoba capital lately. The murder rate is sky high, just shy of the record 41 murders in 2011. There is still more than a month left in the year. A rash of violent liquor store robberies has put the city into the national news, and a mix of heroin, meth and opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil are taking a toll on the hearty prairie city. Public safety is not what I remember it to be.

I visited the city in June, and was warned by a few people not to venture out at night, as I planned. Often, in whichever city or town I happen to visit, I will head out with my camera to photograph the local landscape. This past Winnipeg visit, I was especially interested in capturing changes to a city I had not been to for a couple of years.

“The streets are not safe, especially at night,” I’d written in my journal.

It was sad, really, to see or feel the disintegration of a place I had thought of as home. Violence and drugs are now common elements in any urban environment, but I used to think it was more obvious in larger centres like Toronto. It is a reality everywhere.

I’m hopeful the football victory will help heal the damaged psyche of the city. The record of a professional sports franchise is not something you can (or should) count on, but maybe the Bomber win will give citizens something positive to talk about.

Maybe, like the Bombers, the fortunes of the city can be turned around. Let’s hope it doesn’t take as long.