Spring Cleaning

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Spring Cleaning

Spring is mostly depressing in the north. First you get that technical “first day of Spring” in the middle of March, when you look out the window at four feet of grey compacted snow with more falling. Then there is the peer pressure. All your friends in more southerly climes are posting photos of their first crocuses, daffodils, or barbeques on Facebook. Your calender has some cheery green picture for the month. You have been cooped up indoors for six months of winter already and the vitamin D deficiency is making your brain either suicidal or murderous. When actual spring finally arrives in May, the melting snow turns everything into a brown mud wallow. The warmer weather is no consolation, because by then your southern friends are already fussing about summer.

The news media is never full of positive stuff, but I think it no coincidence that it can get really negative in Canada around the end of March. This “spring” began with the blooming of the Wildrose Party in Alberta. The Wildrose Party is basically Tea Party north, with a bit of NOM thrown in for good measure. Like their American counterparts, they are bigoted, incompetent, and they appropriate patriotic cultural symbols of freedom (the wild rose of Alberta) to promote their agenda of oppression for minorities. This week their Edmonton candidate publicly assured us gays that we will suffer the rest of eternity in hell and stated that accepting people the way they are is cruel.

Their agenda receives unspoken support on a national level also. The beginning of this month was the 30 year anniversary of the creation of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is the part of our constitution that guarantees minorities (like gays and lesbians) equal civil rights. Naturally Harper's government refuses to hold any anniversary celebration. (Though partying happened at the Toronto Gay and Lesbian Archives.) The Conservative government claim they aren't celebrating because Quebec never approved the Charter, and they don't want to offend the separatists.  However, they are currently spending millions of dollars on celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, which I am sure separatists are not thrilled about either. They are spending millions more on remembering the bicentennial of the War of 1812, because apparently nobody cares about offending America. And that has nothing to do with that African-American Liberal President either. I'm sure.

To cap all of this off, last Tuesday, Raymond Taavel, a leader in the Halifax LGBT community, was beaten to death.  Taavel had previously chaired Halifax Pride Parade and been editor of Wayves, the local LGBT magazine. 


He was attacked as he left Menz and Mollyz gay bar, possibly whilst trying to intervene in another fight. His attacker, Andre Noel Denny, was reported to have used explicit homophobic insults and has been charged with second degree murder.  However, Denny is a paranoid schizophrenic who was AWOL from his mental hospital when the attack occurred.  He has a history of violence, including aggravated sexual assault and cutting a puppy's throat. So it is possible he will be declared unfit to stand trial.

Taavel's murder is a lot like the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords. The insanity of the attacker feeding off of a hatred in society, thereby highlighting the existence of that hate. Not a hate crime committed by an individual, but a hate crime caused by a nation. Here it is, the unhappy spring of our hope for national cultural change.

So how do we usually handle this northern spring depression? Spring cleaning.

Now by “spring cleaning,” I don't mean the desultory little bit of dusting and vacuuming under sofas that term usually implies. Among northern folk this is a much more desperate and serious endeavour. The long wait for spring causes a new wave of cabin fever that drives people to compulsively clean and tidy their cabin in a way that would turn OCD sufferers green with envy. Self-sufficient northerners too isolated to hold regular garage sales become terrible pack rats. The garbage tidied out in spring from one home easily fills a dumpster. That's not counting the broken down tractor or truck that gets hauled for scrap metal.

So how about a national spring cleaning? What if we had an intervention where someone pointed out that all these prejudices that we have quietly been hanging onto in the dusty attic of our patriotic soul really need to go? How about we scrub down our filthily ugly political discourse with the same enthusiasm a Yukon resident shows in scrubbing their cabin? Could we all just take a collective cleansing breath and gently reassure ourselves that summer will (eventually) come?