It was the annual spring tradition. We would dress up in our traditional Greek clothing and freeze our little butts off walking down Jean-Talon. The Greek independence day parade in Montreal was a staple of my childhood. The event was the celebration of the country and also served as a reminder of our roots for those living in the diaspora. This past week marked the 200th anniversary of Greek independence, something I’m proud of.
I grew up in Montreal but raised as someone living in the south of Europe. I was forced to go to Greek school on weekends until the end of high school. Despite it being shitty waking up early on Saturdays, I’m grateful for that experience. Besides the language and culture, it’s a good reminder of where I came from. It also helps me avoid getting taken for a ride by greek taxi drivers when I go back to the motherland on vacation.
Scent of fear
Looking back on those classes, we were taught Greek history and the 400 year occupation from the Ottoman empire. The lesson was pretty clear, the Turks were bad people. They oppressed the Greek people and even stole the children. The lessons were about history but also as a reminder, we can’t let our guard down.
I always wondered why after so many years the level of animosity remains so present. The fear of oppression remained visceral even after the passing of time.
Growing up as a Quebecer in a winter wonderland, this was all kinda strange to me.
Why do we hate the Turks again? It wasn’t really clear to me. We live in Canada, I like this place and I don’t see any bad people.
Now as an adult and proud Quebecer, I see this pattern of fear play out in our province. I say this without prejudice. The Quebec people were oppressed for a long time and this leaves deep scars. Scars that don’t heal quickly or easily. This fear plays out in organized institutional ways like Bill 21. Or with the scapegoating of immigrants or aboriginal groups. Or seemingly unjustified attacks on the english language.
I’m not trying to cast blame on anyone or believe there is something malevolent happening on a large scale. It seems to me that we as a province have not been able to come to grips with the past. The same is true by the way of Greece today that discriminates against minorities.
I’m just disappointed that there isn’t more debate on how to resolve these issues. The insults and accusations are petty and will only foster greater resentment. Instead, there should be greater leadership on addressing the issues at their core. The first step should be admitting that there is an actual issue rather than debating topics of much less importance. I wish I had better ideas here so this might ring quite hollow. For now, I can only hope that things will change for the better and for a quick end to the pandemic. Maybe if people see more people it will curtail the feeling of isolation and pointless attacks on social media.
I’m also looking forward to next year’s parade. It sucks to miss it again this year. I want to watch the kids walk down Jean-Talon, hopefully not suffering from the cold. While watching, I’ll try to remember to not be afraid.