“You know, the media is simply a propaganda machine for the liberal left, right?”
It was an inauspicious start to what would turn out to be an inauspicious day.
Gary, a lawyer decked out in brand new outdoor gear and clutching an oversized duffle bag, was from Nashville, Tennessee, and he was on the same bus as my family and me on our way to Pearson International Airport in Toronto. Our plan was to hit New York City for a last-minute March Break retreat so my wife could jog around Central Park and my son could see the Statue of Liberty.
I’ll admit, I was initially charmed by Gary’s accent and his friendliness in asking about our travels. He ebulliently compared the weather to his home in the mountains of Tennessee (though the Fahrenheit scale perplexed me) and he spoke passionately about Nashville being an international city. Sheepishly, I admitted to him that all I knew about his hometown was the famous, mouth-searing hot chicken.
Gary quickly transitioned to more polarizing talk: his country’s Commander-in-Chief, The Donald. I found that most folks that bring him up to me do so in an embarrassed, “I didn’t vote for him but I’m sorry anyway” kind of way. Not so with Gary. Raising his voice over the rumble of the bus engine and surely loud enough for the whole bus to hear him, Gary espoused the work that Trump had done, how well he relates to hundreds of millions of Americans, and how the left-wing would present any and all misinformation to knock Trump off of his pedestal.
After all, “it don’t matter what he do, it’s what he says he’ll do that the people believe in.”
When challenged about issues of accountability and the poor role model Trump serves for children, Gary was unphased and unwilling to hear any of it. “He’s done a-plenty. I could give you so many examples of what he’s done,” said Gary, providing no such evidence. This seemed strange to me as he presented himself as a lawyer and I wrongly assumed he would hold respect for facts and arguments.
We were still 10 minutes away from the airport and, in an effort to And so, to keep the bus ride going smoothly, I tried to steer Gary towards his time vacationing in Canada and his thoughts on our beautiful country. “Well, son, to be honest, you’re in worse shape than America.” He nervously glanced around the bus to gauge his audience and continued his rant. “Like Vancouver. There are so many Chinamen there that if China wanted to annex it, they could. And without the US nuclear [pronounced new-cue-lurr] missiles to back you up, they’ll just walk in and take it.” Gary continued his rant against “the ethnics” and then veered into how terrible Canada’s socialism was: “It’s just like communism, but at a smaller scale. Still as dangerous as ever, though.”
At this point, the 192 bus arrived at the terminal, I wished Gary a safe journey, and we parted ways to our respective check-in counters.
I had lots of time to think about my conversation with Gary as the Air Canada ticketing system was down and we were joined by hundreds of other stranded travellers unable to check in. Five hours, six lineups and two canceled flights later, we awkwardly passed back through customs without ever having left our country, boarded the bus and headed back home.
Before parting ways, Gary had said it must be awful to speak with someone with such differing views as your own. I told him that I would much rather spend some time hearing someone’s perspective that varies from the way I see things. It’s a chance to learn, to understand motivations, and, if possible, to connect with another fellow human despite polar opposite political leanings.
While my experience with Air Canada hopping from endless line to endless line was frustrating, it did provide a wonderful counter-argument to Gary’s close-minded rants about Trump, socialism and the problems with “the ethnics.”
At each point in our painful airport journey, I was surrounded by fellow travellers, all from different backgrounds, all sharing the same problem of too little information and too many lines. None of us knew what was happening or whether we’d get to our eventual destinations. However, we chatted happily about our respective travel plans, we commiserated over missed connections and impatient children, and we supported each other by holding a place in line so we could visit the washroom or grab a coffee.
Through the chaos I realized that I was existing in a microcosm of Canada's multiculturalism and, with a common challenge, I got to enjoy relating to my fellow humans as we suffered together.
Sure, we were were all focused on whether we’d get on our respective flights but, together, we were also focused on how to make the best of a crummy situation. Not just for ourselves, but for those around us.
It seems that socialism may not be that bad after all. Or perhaps this is all just “left-wing, liberal propaganda.”