The mood is dour, not the elegant spirit that precedes Christmas
By Opiyo Oloya
You would have thought that the lightening victory of the Northern Alliance over the retreating Taliban forces in Afghanistan is a cause for celebration in North America. But you would be dead wrong. Everywhere, there is a quiet sense of unease in the air, not exactly spelled out as fear. But it is there, lurking behind every furtive glance, every whispered conversation.
Even the children sense there is something out there, something they cannot quite put their little fingers on. Yesterday, for example, we had our Remembrance Day celebration-this is a very important day in the lives of Canadians as they remember men and women who fought in the two world wars. Celebrated annually on the eleventh of November, Canadians honour this day by wearing red poppies on their lapels.
When we gathered the students in the large gymnasium, the usually feisty chattering of excited children was absent. Their eyes were glued on the two Second World War veterans seated at the front. When the Canadian anthem was played, they sang at the top of their voices as if their lives depended on it. You could hear a pin drop as the 80-year old Ms. Ackroyd recounted her war experiences in Europe. Not a single cough when Mr. Howard stood up and laid the wreath under the cross while the Last Post played on the loudspeakers. Afterwards, those children who did not have them flooded the office to get red poppies.
The mood outside is equally dour, not the elegant spirit that precedes the Christmas holidays. In downtown Toronto, Christmas lights have already gone up and most stores dressed into the holiday colours. But, everywhere one goes there is tentativeness in the air. There is no bounce in the way people walk. Think of a soccer match at Lugogo where the opposing teams go through the motion of playing, but are not really playing. Nobody is cheering from the sidelines.
Worse, the plane crash in New York on Monday has only deepened the sense of uncertainty. Was it an accident, and act of God? Or was it the long arm of terrorism striking another bloody blow? Calls to radio talk shows and newspaper columnists all point to the unresolved sense that this is just the tip of something more sinister. But ask what it is, and nobody can spell it.
Perhaps it is that generations of North Americans have never actually experienced wars. A war was something that happened to other people in other countries like Iraq, Iran, Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. North America was a safe place where you could chart your future from the moment of conception until death. It was a place where you knew what two years from now would look like. It was a place where the most serious worries were getting too fat for lack of activities and gaining weight.
But, after the events of the last two months, certitude is the one thing missing on the continent. Many jobs are disappearing because nobody is buying because nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. Just yesterday, Canada 3000, a major airline with a spotless twenty-five year record, folded and five thousand people instantly thrown out of work.
And, worse, as the airline industry teeters on the brink of disaster, the hospitality industry-hotels, restaurants, car-rentals-are all falling by the wayside like car carcasses in a junkyard.
There is fear everywhere, but people carry on woodenly because you donâ€™t want to be seen as the coward.
Those who speak on television do so bravely saying that fear means the terrorists have won. But, you know that deep down somewhere, they have that nagging suspicion that this thing is not going to end tomorrow with the overthrow of the Taliban or the capture of Osama bin Laden.
You get the feeling that North Americans are slowly beginning to wake up to the stomach churning feeling that many in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe have experienced for decades. Life could never be the same again.
Canadians daunted by lifeâ€™s uncertainty