Tuesday, June 23, 2009

caledonians to crazy militia: we don't like it and we don't want to put a ring on it

(GUEST BLOGGER: my good friend and colleague, elle, gives us a behind the scenes look at the caledonia/militia/occupation!)

I rarely tell anyone where I’m from when they ask but, today, I’ll share a little secret – I’m from Caledonia.

Most of the time when I spill the beans – outside of groups where my politics are not already known – the assumption is that, since I am white and from Caledonia, I am a racist. This, in turn, leads people to do one of two things a) proceed to talk about land rights and colonialism, assuming that because I am a racist, I need to be educated. Of course, even though the person speaking to me may share my white privilege, they clearly are better than those “Caledonia folk” and do not share the responsibility for a history of colonialism in the same way that I do. b) The person becomes thrilled that I am obviously a racist and that they can then talk to me about the “lazy”, “greedy” natives. Usually when this happens, I get to hear lots of comments about how the army should be called into Caledonia.

Well, lucky me, now my town has something even better - its very own militia! More reasons for me to go around bragging about my childhood home!

This recent development speaks to the complexity of the situation. What’s complicated about a militia you ask? You are either for it or against it right?

Right. But the complicated part about it is the local politics involved. I think (hope) most people are against this recent development, including the landowner (Ernie Palmer) whose property was recently occupied by Aboriginal protesters. In an interview with the Hamilton Spectator he said, “I drank a lot of coffee with the natives and we came to an agreement that they move off my land in a few days”. So peaceful negotiations, in an incredibly tense situation, are possible! While this gives me hope, it is not something that local racists like to hear and so they form a militia to create further fear and anger (which is discussed here: caledonia wake up call).

This is the same group that has been using people’s confusion and frustration for their own purposes for the last few years. In short, they’ve been stirring up shit.

I am certainly not here to dismiss nor deny that racism is alive and well in Caledonia. I do not have some idyllic vision of the town that I grew up in. In fact, the minute I graduated high school, I got the hell out of there. I guess all I want to share today is that you are not alone in your anger about the Caledonia militia. Many people with roots there, including Ernie and me, are pissed off too.


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