Friday, June 17, 2011

Once Upon a Riot

The hockey season is over and the rioting has ceased.

The day after.  On Thursday I walked the girls to school and congregated with the community on the playground.  People looked weary and worn.  The same conversations were taking place in little pods of two or three in front of every classroom door. 

As soon as we approached the Kindergarten class, our friend Marc rushed up to me with a look of concern and sadness on his face.  "I'm so sorry" he said - as though apologizing to the newbies for the transgressions of the destructive few.  Marc has always been that to us - a bit of a welcoming committee to Vancouver from the very start.  He loves his adopted city - having moved here from Ontario many moons ago.  He came here for business, fell in love, and never wanted to leave.  His love affair with Vancouver continues on through thick or thin.

As I watched the news footage during the riot on Wednesday night I was overwhelmed.  I've loved downtown Vancouver from the first week I visited - when me and the girls explored and perused the streets without fear - all on our own.  It's a downtown like I've never experienced before - especially not in Winnipeg.  Vancouver's downtown is clean, pristine and beautifully adorned.  It's vibrant and alive with life and people  during the day and the night.  It never seems to really shut down at 6pm on weeknights like so many  city's downtowns do.   It even smells good - with cherry blossoms and hydrangeas, palm trees and manicured flower gardens.

On Wednesday night, it looked different.  So dark and danger-filled, dirty and desperate.

No one knows exactly why the riot transpired on Wednesday night.  This is what I know...  It had nothing to do with a hockey score and everything to do with a society which breeds violence, entitlement, over-consumption and consumerism into a generation of (mostly) young men and a handful of women.  If there were anarchists who began the riot, surely it was perpetuated by throngs of middle-class kids from the suburbs masquerading around as tyrants, inflated from the power surge they received from the thrill of it all.

We let our girls stay up late on Wednesday night.  They watched the over-turned police cars burn and young men drunkenly inflict violence on each other.  We didn't press the mute button or censor the images.  Real life doesn't have a mute button, does it? 

I still love downtown Vancouver and the people who bring life to its streets.  Maybe more today than before the riot.  The marker-scripted messages on plywood boards tell a different story than the one played out for a nation with accelerant and smoke.  The rubber-gloved hands who picked up shards of glass and swept up debris are the ones I'm choosing to remember from this week. 

This is a beautiful city. 
It'll take more than a riot to change that.


  1. Oh Karla. So beautifully written. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you. Val

  2. I love reading your writing, and this is probably my favorite entry so far. So impressed with how you let your kids watch on Wednesday night the footage. You're so right - life doesn't have a mute button. I admire parents that are confident enough in the lessons they can teach their kids through the bad things in life more than parents who shield everything possible from their kids thinking this will help them more in the future. Good work.