One woman stood out, unique from the throng of a thousand exuberant celebrants lining the main street of our little town one year ago. With one arm outstretched, like a stately statue she held a beautiful red and white maple leaf pennant high and proud.
It wasn’t her clothes; she blended right in with the other ordinary folk who crowded the curb and sidewalks. She didn’t clamor for attention or even cheer loudly like everyone surrounding her. Neither was it her size; she was of average build, not big, not small. It wasn’t even the flag of Canada she held in her hand — it was one of hundreds waving in joyful celebration of the local convoy — a line of trucks, farm tractors, pickups and minivans that stretched further than the eye could see.
What distinguished her in that jubilant crowd were the tears flowing down her cheeks, freely, unashamedly. The expression on her face was neither happy nor pained; the lines of her mouth were straight and firm. If anything, her countenance was one of quiet determination, washed by the release of long-pent-up frustration and suffering.
The dissimilarity between the festive atmosphere of the celebrants and this one woman’s tears caused that image to be stamped indelible in my memory. The scene also impelled the question — why the tears? On this beautiful day of good spirits and smiling faces, why was one woman crying, openly and unabashed?
We can only speculate. But if we reflect on our personal experiences throughout those two years of unparalleled trampling of our natural, human rights and needs, we might understand.
Canadians were at that time frightened and reeling under soul-crushing dictates from our governments and health authorities, those who were forbidding most of that which makes us human. By varying degrees we are all social creatures who thrive in open and free human interaction. Yet, we were forbidden to visit in the homes of others. Social events were cancelled and churches shut their doors, an action unprecedented in modern times of the Christian west.
By and large, ordinary living was deemed to be too hazardous for everyone’s health. Or so they said, on the premise of staving off what they called a pandemic (recently redefined). They decreed that it was best for grandparents to languish and even die alone in their home confines or hospital beds.
Subsequently, life as we knew it before COVID was over. No family dinners, no coffee shops or restaurants, no ball or hockey games. Stay six feet apart, “STAY BEHIND THE LINE!” maximum number allowed … just two weeks to flatten the curve became two years.
Weddings? Only a few allowed. Funerals? Postpone the event, mourn alone. Christmas dinner? Birthday parties? No! Just stay home, stay safe.
The severing of almost all normal social interaction proved to be insidiously damaging and traumatic for Canadians. We endured some of the harshest lockdown conditions of almost any nation on earth.
So need we even ask “Why the tears”?
After two years of destructive repression, Canadians wanted hope. And the convoy represented that hope as thousands of people turned out in solidarity with strangers and friends to say, “We’ve had enough.” Cheers of joyful celebration were backed by the blare of horns as the convoy slowly rolled through town and ended up staging at the community center or wherever there was space to park.
The town couldn’t contain all the vehicles and neither could the people hold in their feelings any longer — there was laughter, animated groups — GROUPS! — of people talking. And for at least one woman, tears of relief as she felt the liberating power of hope infuse her being.
However, as one might expect, some were threatened by the convoy’s mission of hope and the government reacted in extreme measure with the Emergencies Act. It was as Thomas Jefferson said — “They prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty.”
But even Trudeau’s (not Cupid’s) arrow through the heart of hope on February 14, 2022 could not extinguish the spark that was lit by the sight of hundreds of trucks rolling across our country, supported by thousands who waved them on from bridges and roadsides.
On this first anniversary of the convoy that sprang spontaneously from Canadian soil, we do well to remember what that globally-witnessed event meant to millions. Hope — is it not one of the greatest forces on earth?
John Schwartzentruber is a Brussel’s area farmer in Huron County.