Reflections after my journey through Québec, june 2017, part II
That thing about travel, changing countries and distancing yourself from your own hometown, the change of perspective it entails. More clearly seeing a certain structure, or in this case, a subtle shifting of a mood back home, a shift you had noticed before, but now seems so much more apparent and comprehensible.
We were talking humorously about the stories and old photos of an Indian fellow traveler, our big hostel group returning from a trip to the falls among the Québecois leaving work for the day, him proudly showing the one with dreads, the other shaven, then another one taken somewhere in the Middle East where he would easily pass as one of the locals with his features, covered with a growing beard. The discussion continued and nuanced and detoured and all the while kept the laughing quality. There was no malicious tone in any of the comments, more than anything maybe the admiration of all the lives that he had lived. The moment still came when it paused and rested our smiling jerks for a while. It was here something so on point hit me, when an American girl said: ”I don’t think we could as easily talk and laugh about it across the border in the U.S., not on a public bus, without some sort of edgy response in the air …” Just because certain nationalities were mentioned? Soon, the feeling of nostalgia encompassed us, or at least me and her. ”I still remember those days when we could, though, I’m happy I got to live them, that I know it wasn’t always so, that this was what America was all about.”
You could ask why the feeling of nostalgia grabbed me, too. The last time I visited America was almost 20 years ago and since then TV shows and news are all I know of it. Maybe, that would suffice. However, my feeling came because America isn’t alone in it, because Europe, and France in particular, are sharing the process. Because I remember Paris before the attacks, not perfect and harmonic even back then, true, yet her comment clarified how dramatically, but subtly, the atmosphere changed for us, too. If a society continually moves on a line between openness and enclosed-ness, we are bit by bit approaching the latter, giving it more space, so to speak. (If I got to see that in Canada, it’s because its preoccupations differ, not because there aren’t any. I’m sure it has its own taboos and disturbances that might for someone make its receptivity fake. For me, it showed our own.)
Why do we let it happen? Scream ”Not afraid” just to let fear entrance our everyday lives in a more indirect way, exchange basic human trust and joy and inter-connectivity for anxiety and more or less symbolic walls. Seeing victims and criminals, only knowing how to judge and pity. Yet, I don’t want to theorize too much about it, because the more I do, the more negatives I use. I prefer to continue to smile and shake hands and share stories and listen and hug and laugh some more, with whoever crosses my way, rather exchange some sort of false political correctness, need for attention and shameless blaming for a solid inter-respect and an open ear.