Tuesday, November 27, 2012

{lessons on racism and not yelling at strangers}

I was standing in front of that statue in Vic Park, the one that birds poop on and no one looks at. I mean, I was looking at it and I'm sure other people have, but most people don't go on walks to look at things; they go on walks to get places. They go on walks with their heads down and their shoulders rounded and their eyes straight ahead and their hands curled over their purses. And in winter, they just don't go on walks at all.

And anyways, I was only looking at it that day because I was trying to think of a word. I'd been walking and thinking and then I'd realized that I'd forgotten a word, a very good word that I'd like to use in conversation someday, and now I was standing there in the park looking at the statue and trying desperately to think of it. What had it meant? Where had I heard it? Synonyms? Antonyms? I squinted my eyes at the stoney figure until he blurred and blended into his surroundings. That word. That good word. Climacteric? No. Skungy? No. Apodictic? No.

"THAT! Is Sir John Alexander Macdonald!"

I jumped and spun. The voice was harsh and old and loud and seemed to come from my left shoulder. It was an old man. Plaid shirt, pack of cigarettes in the chest pocket, frowny face, big, thick glasses, bald. One of his arms extended in the direction of the statue and it waved around seemingly of its own volition as he spoke.

"HE!" {The old man shouted the first word of every sentence he spoke. For emphasis, probably.} "HE! Was the first prime minister of Canada! HE! Served nineteen years as our prime minister!"

I studied the old man. I smiled politely. I tried to think of that word. What was that word? Catachresis?


The man was not finished. "HE! Was born in Scotland! AND! HE! WAS! NOT! BLACK!"

Now he was finished. He had to be; he was completely out of breath. A woman walking by eyed the red-faced senior citizen who was at this point all but jumping up and down, arm still flailing like a pool noodle. She looked concerned for me. I probably looked concerned for myself. I was confused. I forgot about forgetting the word.

"Why does it matter what colour he was?" I asked.

He softened a bit. "It doesn't," He said. "But if he had been a black man, they'd never have made a white statue of him. This statue is black. And Sir John A. Macdonald was NOT! BLACK!"

He went on his way then, before we could really get into a good discussion about the characteristics of bronze and historical inaccuracy. There's got to be a good life lesson in here for us somewhere though. Something about racism or just straight up not yelling at strangers in parks.

Oh. That's probably why people don't go on walks to look at things.