Carsie Blanton’s ongoing determination to find joy, regardless of the circumstances, has inspired me – not for the first time — to try to follow in her footsteps. I thought writing about joy might help me not think about the sure to be not joyful outcome of the provincial election and the certainly unjoyful inquest into the murders of Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk and Nathalie Warmerdam in which I will be immersed for much of June.
As Carsie wrote in her recent newsletter:
“Joy is the point of living, the point of working, the point of struggling for a better world. . . . If we don’t take breaks for joy, we start to forget.”
LEAFing for joy
I took a break for joy earlier this week by attending the equality day gala for LEAF (Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund). LEAF and its supporters celebrated the organization’s decades of work for the realization of substantive equality for women, girls, trans and non-binary people in Canada.
Before the event, two friends — neither of whom I had seen in person for more than two years — joined me in my hotel room for a glass of wine and some serious catching up of the kind that just can’t be done on zoom or by email. Sheer joy!
Raising money for LEAF aside – and lots was raised — for many of us it was the first opportunity in more than two years to get dressed up and to see colleagues and friends. There were a lot of joyful feminist smiles on the faces of the 400 or so people in attendance as we enjoyed one another’s in-person company and anticipated the possibility of more such gatherings in the months to come.
What to do?
To paraphrase Carsie, I want to find ways to demonstrate that joy exists, that we can bring it to each other and – most important — that the world is still worth saving. That all felt a bit daunting last night, as I watched the provincial election results pour in.
I, like most of us I suspect, was reconciled to another four years of Doug Ford’s ruination of this province, but I had not expected him to gain seven seats, at the expense of nine lost by the NDP, and I had harboured a now obviously foolish hope that the Liberals might pick up enough seats to regain official party status. As my friend in Yukon texted me during the evening: “Ontario – wtf?”
Weeks ago, I decided not to vote at all in this election. I’m tired of voting for political parties whose platforms are really just shades of the same grey, that promise and don’t deliver, that don’t acknowledge how essentially flawed our electoral system is.
But that decision did not sit entirely well with me, and it certainly didn’t bring me any joy. I believe in the notion of voting, and it seemed more than a bit arrogant for me to decide not to vote when so many people have fought and died for the right to do it.
Enter Sebastian Vaillancourt: a 22-year-old student, worker and community activist running for the Communist Party of Canada in my Kingston riding, who had this to say in an interview a few days before the election:
“You don’t need to vote for the least of evils. . . . There are parties like us out there who are fighting for the people.”
Obviously, Sebastian was not going to win the Kingston riding, with or without my vote, and there are many who would say that I had wasted my vote by supporting him.
I don’t agree. I voted for Sebastian because he is a young person who cares enough about his community to put his name forward in this election. I want Sebastian and other young people to engage in activism of all kinds to make our communities, province, country and planet a better place for everyone. We have to turn electoral politics on its head or we are going to be looking at the same old/same old for the rest of my life and, more importantly, the rest of Sebastian’s life.
When I walked out of the polling station after putting a large, clear X next to Simon Vaillancourt’s name, I felt some of Carsie’s joy. I hope that the 123 votes he received are enough for him to feel that the world is still worth saving
Beginning on Monday, participants in and observers of the Renfrew County Inquest will experience many emotions –pain, sadness, frustration and anger, to name a few — as the jury hears from witnesses about the events leading up to and after September 22, 2015.
Joy will not likely be among those emotions, but I have decided to remain optimistic that the jury will craft recommendations for change that will make the world a better place for victims and survivors of intimate partner abuse.
“I do it for the joy it brings/’Cause I’m a joyful girl/’Cause the world owes me nothing/And we owe each other the world.”