Yesterday I was out and about doing some shopping both here in South Etobicoke and into Mississauga to the west. Twice I saw the same angry character driving around with upside-down Canadian flags in his car windows. I saw plenty of those upside-down flags, along with Confederate flags and swastikas, not very long ago during the ugly occupation of Ottawa and the Ambassador Bridge at Windsor. This guy was alone in the car, scowling and smoking as he barrelled around the burbs. I guess he was looking for a fight, trying to cause some trouble. The scene reminded me of The Edge of Town, the 1969 Philip Guston painting, featuring his “hoods” driving around town, a car full of hate, cartoonish conspirators on the move. Maybe this guy was lonely, with nobody to conspire with since the convoy of crybabies dispersed. I’m sure he has some sad and twisted idea he is a “freedom fighter”. I wonder if he helped fund the truckload of guns and ammo seized in Alberta? Maybe he’s part of the group of convoy people who wrote the manifesto about suspending democracy and taking over all levels of government? In any case, he’s making sure he’s going to show us just how much hate he has in his soul.
While I was out (same afternoon), masked up, shopping in a local grocery store, I saw 4 middle aged men wandering the store without masks. Like the guy with the upside-down flags, they were scowling, their anger with the universe apparent to all. Here in our part of the world, the provincial government has announced an upcoming end to mask mandates later this month, but these guys decided to hurry things along a little. I don’t think they were even shopping. What they were doing was getting close to people. The scowls on their faces sent a clear message. Just say something. You wanna start somthing? As I was waiting for service at a food counter, one of them sidled up right beside me. I backed away a few feet. He moved closer. I backed away. He moved closer. He was clearly trying to provoke conflict. I was not going to give this asshole what he wanted. I abandoned the counter and moved to another part of the store and cleared out of there as quickly as I could. I have to admit, I was freaked out by the behavior of these men.
Between the pandemic, the Trumpers, the haters, the racists, and the senseless killing in Ukraine, it seems the wheel is in spin. I guess I naively thought we here in Toronto the Good were somehow insulated from extremism. I feel like I’m hanging on tight, hoping the roof stays on.