The Cavalry Rolled In
On Aligning for a Common Purpose
The big thing that has become crystal clear these last two years is that our prison here in Canada is in many ways self inflicted. We are the wardens of our own speech. And when we share our fears and our joy and especially our hope, we are giving others permission to speak and to be free.
These are the words of Dan, whose full name is proudly included at the bottom of the letter you are about to read. I received his letter midday on January 29, 2022, after discussing the Canadian Truckers Convoy on DarkHorse, and posting about it here, both on January 28. I thank Dan for his words, his honesty, and his courage. The letter speaks for itself.
First, thank you for covering the convoy.
In my rural northern Ontario city of barely over 50,000, 7,000 people spontaneously showed up on the side of the road yesterday. It was a blistering -38°C (with windchill).
This happened simultaneously and without any central planning, everywhere across the country. The national press was stupefied. A friend of mine who reports for one of the big two TV networks popped out of the Facebook shadows the day before, to accuse me of attacking her personally for posting about the truckers. The Freedom Convoy and all, it's no good, very bad deeds, it’s “everything wrong with Canada.”
This thing has struck a nerve here. Literally overnight millions of people are talking about real things again. But in such an abrupt way, it's odd, like they were suddenly turned on after having been flash frozen for the last two years.
If I had to pick a tipping point that led to this moment, I would have to say it was three weeks ago when the Premiere of Quebec threatened to tax the unvaccinated. I think this seemed like a strange solution to many people. Especially in context. In the previous month Quebecers had to simultaneously accept a number of conflicting ideas: they had to defend their own vaccine privileges being revoked; they had to choke on the bizarre narrative “breakthrough infections give you immune superpowers”; they had to accept that a runny nose was an actual threat; and they had to convince themselves that it was normal to require an additional highly effective vaccine in order to regain access to "privileges", that were just taken away after their last highly effective vaccine. All over the Christmas holidays.
My most ardent covidian friends began to privately convulse over the letdown. It was cathartic. I am not even sure how many people put it all together, it just seemed to be too much nonsense in too small a time span. It sparked a collective short circuit. People started getting mad, including at the Premiere and Prime Minister. It was scary at first, because there was no hope at the time. You could feel the magnetic needle of public opinion trying to orient around something resembling a reason or a fault. And many of us felt like we didn't want the narrative to find us first. We were already barred from public life and every new restriction felt closer to home. Stories of the unvaccinated Quebecers shopping from plexiglass cages were circulating in social media. We hoped the data that showed the vaccines weren’t very effective would be amplified sooner and louder to outweigh the Prime Minister's and Premiere's increasing vilification of our class.
This fear turned to resolve. Many people cranked up the data amplification: the online debates, the email lists, the parallel conversations. The moment I heard of the Trucker's Freedom Convoy I focused all my attention there. This was something we could believe in. The amorphous hope train was coming to town. In a matter of hours the story started building an unbelievable following online. Six hundred thousand people joined just one Facebook group.
The narrative of the truckers was beautiful and tragic. The same people who we all believed had taken an enormous risk to their lives in early 2020 to feed the country during peak Covid hysteria, were now being fired for doing exactly what they were called heroes for last year. It made no sense.
Now they, the forlorn heroes—the western Canadian cowboys—were going to ride into town and slay the dragon, and all for us. It was almost too good to be true. But they were exactly the heroes we needed and not a moment too early. I still can't believe how close we were just last week to collapsing under the weight of our own despair.
And just like that the media turned its attention from the "resister next door" onto them. They were vilified.
This was the second galvanizing moment. The stories went: They weren't heroes after all; they were every "ist" you could imagine; there were only 12 of them - no maybe a hundred, tops; they weren't coming - the highways were closed; they were dragoons and thieves coming to rape your daughters in the night (no, seriously this was written). At every twist and turn we secretly questioned their resolve in the face of this ruthless onslaught.
Until, yesterday, just like you would expect in a movie, the crowds emerged at our highways and byways, and it became clear that despite the best efforts of the naysayers and mainstream press, Canadians would ignore the strange stories and cast their lot with the convoy, betting against the narrative. We waited for hours, our toes freezing, sharing gloves and stories of friends and family members being ridiculed, silenced and pushed out of society. The vaxxed and unvaxxed, working and unemployed, families and single people popped up with homemade posters and Canadian flags. Fear had given way to hope. We were not alone.
And after five hours of delays, the cavalry appeared down the highway, with flashing lights and blasting fog horns. They rolled in. And rolled and rolled. Literally thousands of trucks and truckers and vans and cars with flags and wagons and messages of hope from across the country, with bible verses of Jericho, and "Truck Trudeau” flags.
For nine hours straight we immersed ourselves in the electric and timeless moment. It kept on rolling. We were transported into the biggest, cheerleading, flag waving, poster shaking party you could ever want to be at. We shared moment after moment with our heroes and with each other. The names melted away, we were all very, very real. We screamed and cried and hugged strangers. We filled each other’s cups and promised without words that we will not go gently into the night. It was understood implicitly that we had each other’s backs and we were completely aligned for our common purpose, our freedom.
This is only the beginning of this moment and it is not nearly over, but there is no going back. I feel deeply that Canadians—led by our cavalry—were dragged across the Rubicon today.
And I also need to say something important. All my friends who have worked so hard at this thing and at creating a touchtone of truth, and resistance to fear, pushing back against the hysteria, spreading reasonableness during the last two years of othering, every single one of them listens to your podcast. You are our Radio Free Europe. Know that you have given us reason and hope and something real to hold on to when we were in our darkest hour. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Yours truly, Dan Arcand, Ontario, Canada