An open letter to Vladimir Putin.

Mr. President.

Your Duma is about to present you with a bill to ban homosexual propaganda. Or, as it’s rather more euphemistically termed in the bill, ‘non-traditional sexual relations.’

88 percent of your public supports this bill. An unheard of number. Even in the west, I wouldn’t bet the farm on a politician to stand up to those kinds of odds. It would require a bravery I suspect you probably lack.

Of course, you know that number already. You’ve massaged it into being. You own the television stations, you own the radio, you own the social networks. People increasingly think what you want them to think.

Indeed, you probably had a hand in the drafting of this legislation, didn’t you? I can’t help but suspect that you at least know what it contains.

You don’t know me, and will probably never read this. But on the off-chance you ever do, from the bottom of my heart, I want you to know something.

You will never be rid of us.

The people whose very existence you are on the edge of criminalizing with this legislation? The people you’ve denied the right even to be spoken of? The right to be acknowledged in conversation?

We”ll always be there.

You can kill us all, sure. You can take every single one of the wonderful, courageous people who disrupted today’s proceedings outside your pathetic excuse for a parliament and kill them yourself, if you like. You can trawl through the internet for us and find us, one by one, and kill us all. You can kill everyone we’ve ever loved, and millions more who we’ll never meet. Camps, shootings, whatever you like.

We will still be there. We’ll be all around you.

We’ll be your friends, your neighbors, your staff, your ministers, your flunkeys, your supporters, even your tame priests. We’ll be smiling seraphically at you from the front row of every throng of adoring fans. We’ll be glaring at you with hatred from the protests outside your walls.

You will never escape us. Not you, nor any of your supporters who genuinely think this is an excellent law, and want you to pass it, will ever escape us.

We’ll haunt you from behind the eyes of your children.

But we’ll do it in silence. We’ll retreat into ourselves. You’ll never know what we’re thinking, or how we feel. We’ll live in a realm of unspoken longings and secrets. We’ll have our dreams, our hopes, our friends. Some of us may even get to love.

But we’ll know our dreams can never come true. We’ll see all our hopes crumble to ashes. We’ll never truly know if we’ve ever had a real friend. And most of us will never know love as anything other than a bitter charade. And those lucky few who learn differently will live in fear and persecution until the end of their days. We’ll never get to hold someone’s hand and walk down a street. We’ll never get to introduce anyone to our parents. We’ll never get married. Not for real, anyway.

And we’ll be your children. And there’ll be nothing you can do to help us, no way to ease the hell of our lives. Because we’ll live in such fear of you that you’ll never once even know who we really were.

This is all by way of warning. You could still not sign the law.

But by the time you read this, I suspect it will be too late.

Yours,

Nicholas Pullen

The Red Wedding and other harsh realities.

The Red WeddingMaybe this is all just part of growing up.

Maybe this is just our generation’s way of discovering that life isn’t fair, and that the bad guys can win. There’s nothing, in the end, to stop them except other people. And other people have failed before.

It’s not like that many of us have known true despair or loss. Some of us undoubtedly have, and are stronger for it. And I imagine if you have, you’ll know who you are.

But if you, like me, have had the good fortune to grow up safe and affluent in the Western world, sheltered, secure, and alive at the end of one of the longest periods of peace in our history, you, like me, probably don’t know what real despair means yet.

Odds are you, like me, have to confess that something like the death of Robb and Catelyn Stark can cut like a knife.

Other generations had essentially anecdotal evidence for their fixations and collective experiences. They were real, and are easily remembered, but It was hard to tell what the collective mood on any given subject was with any certainty. Not in the detail we can now.

But Game of Thrones has wounded the collective psyche. We have empirical evidence that it has. Real data documenting the visceral gut reactions of people across the world to a fictional event.

And it would seem that we don’t know what to think of a world where that kind of brutality, savagery, and cruelty is possible. There is a worry at HBO that the series will suffer in the ratings from this. That people will simply withdraw from the series to take away the emotional pain it seems to have genuinely caused.

Because there are no certainties now. No way out of the despair and bleak cruelty of the world Martin has created. (One that is powerful because it is devoid of all traces of the sentiment that cloys a lot of fantasy, and fearlessly holds a distorted mirror to our broken world.)  As it was succinctly put by Tasha Robinson, “Robb and Catelyn were the last appeal to adult authority, the last illusion that someone sensible and severe could come in and take charge.” It’s as though Jack butchered Ralph, and the naval officer never came because the world outside had descended into nuclear war.

I remembered that feeling last night. That sinking, vertigo feeling I’d had before Golding’s Deus ex Machina in Grade 10, the suspicion that Ralph was a goner, and that there was a beast at the heart of human nature, waiting to claim us all. And I remembered how it had lingered for days afterwards. The suspicion that I had learned something fundamental and cruel about human nature, that no amount of authority was going to dispel. Then, it faded from my mind, and life went on.

Now, I’m not so sure it will, or that I even want it to. Not in the same way, anyway.

Because that beast IS out there. Tearing at the eviscerated streets of Aleppo and Qusair, stalking the mountains of Afghanistan, patrolling the halls at Guantanamo Bay or staring balefully out over Tienanmen Square. Mao, Stalin, Franco, Kim-Il Sung, Kissinger, Assad, Putin, Chavez or Cheney; sometimes we forget that some despots die in their beds, and that some evil goes unpunished, and even celebrated.

Adulthood so far seems to consist of hard truths learned. Harsh, brutal truths that no one can possibly tell you, because no one can explain them to you in a way that you’ll understand.

This particular entry is as much for me as it is for you. It’s a call to future me to realize that life isn’t going to get any easier, and problems infinitely bigger than the death of the Stark family are coming, and there’s no certainty at all that any of them are going to end well.

Because in the end, there’s no one to save us from ourselves except ourselves. And we should probably get on with it.

The Surreal Survival of Rob Ford

Can this really be happening?

Not the mayor smoking crack. I accept that. He clearly lacks even basic amounts of self-control, and would smoke whatever was put in front of his fat face if he knew it would earn him a vote. (It’s the second-to-last quote, but read them all. And know that this man still holds high public office.)

Not the insane international attention Toronto has been receiving. Insanity, crude farce, and spectacular governmental collapse are intrinsically interesting everywhere, and we shouldn’t be surprised that the world is smugly laughing behind their hands at us.

Not the fact that His Worship Rob Ford’s response to the circus he’s inflicted on all of us is some sort of wounded spite, as though we’re the ones responsible for this situation.

No, none of this fazes me. Let alone shocks me.

What shocks me is that we’re moving on from this. Without his resignation. Hell, screw his resignation. Without his immediate removal from office.

Admittedly, I’ve been watching this whole spectacle unfold from across the ocean in London. Which in some ways makes it a doubly surreal experience. (Total strangers, who have no reason on earth to know who the Mayor of Toronto is, laugh at me when I say I’m from Toronto, and ask me if I want some crack.)

But now inertia seems to have finally set in. The media attention has gradually drained away as nothing new emerges, and even the Toronto Star have been forced to move on to other things. The pundits, the public, and the world at large have gradually ceased to care.

And Rob Ford remains.

Toronto will linger on in a state of inertia and despair. And there’s not a damn thing we’ll be able to do about it until next year, when after he’s trounced in the election, I suspect that he’ll have to be physically dragged from his office.

Guess I’d better find some crack. It would appear to be a wonderfully effective way to kill my sense of shame.