Michaels: Protest is good, until it becomes ‘pointless caterwauling’

Moaning about Canada’s shortcomings has a certain je ne sais quoi.

It’s cathartic to bash the land known for its polite residents’ ability to resist cold and blindly accept higher prices for everything from escape flights to books. 

When I’m really exploring my inner malcontent I can wax on quite eloquently—disregarding assertions to the contrary—about everything from taxes to apathy.

It’s a bit like poking a baby, frankly. Not hard enough to cause it pain, so we’re clear; just enough to let it know you’re aware of what’s under that soft, squishy surface and it’s not all rainbows and puppy dogs. Sometimes it’s downright stinky, even if the majority thinks it’s impolite to say so. 

Taking this griping/pastime a step further is delighting in other’s more colourful objections to the status quo, especially when they appear in the form of public demonstrations.

Between placards and feisty bon mots shouted over loudspeakers, it’s thrilling to hear people impassioned about a particular issue get their say.

And honestly when it comes to being a reporter, nothing makes better news copy than a public demonstration. 

There are tears, jeers, gripping stories and—as we have seen in Libya and Egypt in recent weeks—before everything gets boiled down to 400 words or a three-minute segment, an opportunity for average Joes and Janes to enact change.

Like all good things, however, there are limits. So it’s not too surprising that there are occasions when what’s been cloaked as a good old cry against injustice, sounds more like pointless caterwauling.  Times when voices really shouldn’t be heard at top volume, or at all for that matter. 

That, from my view, was the case a couple of times in recent weeks.

While episodes of Mountie misconduct shouldn’t be taken lightly, some of those who chose to have their say should be. I agree it’s clear a few Mounties have made the unfortunate choice to live up to the brutish, moustachioed stereotype that dogs all police forces. I’d go so far as to say, their operations are too closed off from the public, and when complaints come to the fore there needs to be an external body sussing out every detail.

But, unlike what some protestors at a recent Kelowna rally would have you believe through their mindless shouts and placards reading Royal Canadian Mubarak Police, we don’t have Hosni Mubarak’s police force. 

Sure, there are a few officers who could likely do well in a no-holds-barred model of policing, but in more situations than not, they’re not really afforded the opportunity and drawing the comparison isn’t just stupid, it’s offensive.

It’s offensive to the men and women who have fought for real change a world away through protest, risking actual life and limb.

Worse yet, it’s offensive that one of my favourite pastimes was tainted.

Kathy Michaels covers local politics for the Capital News.