Drive around South Dundas since late February and at various homes and businesses you will see the yellow and blue standard of Ukraine flying in support of that country’s battle against the illegal invasion by Russia. The municipality opts to fly this country’s flag as a gesture of solidarity. It is a simple thing anyone can do from far away. Yet on a couple of properties, and on at least one vehicle, Russian flags are on display, usually paired with another flag, the “F-Trudeau” flag. That flag became prominent with the so-called “Freedom Convoys” illegal occupation of downtown Ottawa and several border crossings around that same time. Both are symbols of hate – but seemingly normalized in our community.
Frequently in Eastern Ontario there are vehicles seen with “F-Trudeau” symbols emblazoned or stuck on the side or rear. Often those symbols are paired on those vehicles with the Canadian flag, a symbol which is internationally recognized as being one of the “good guys”. Yet those with symbols of hate are allowed to co-opt and corrupt that symbol with little responsibility. It is offensive for many to see swear words flying “proudly” from a vehicle – not because they are fans of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – but because of the office he holds. One can be respectful of a political office without having to like or support the individual who serves in that position.
There are those who scoff at the idea that they should not be able to fly the “F-Trudeau” flag, claiming it is their right to freedom of speech. We at The Leader, like many in the world, take the right to freedom of speech to heart. It is an inalienable right in free and democratic countries to have the freedom to say and believe what you wish. But freedom of speech is not freedom from responsibility. Responsibility means owning up to the words that are said, the symbols that are used, and accepting the consequences of that offence.
The common use of this offensive language and symbolism is concerning because it normalizes hate and profanity. What a poor example for our society! What does this say to children who walk down the Morrisburg or Iroquois Village Plazas or around Brinston and see “F Trudeau” from a car or building? What example does it set in our community to drive by a house with a Russian flag flying? Are those symbols of a welcoming community? Do they teach children to become better humans?
In the next week, South Dundas will welcome a refugee family from Ukraine. Imagine leaving a war-torn country and travelling half-a-world away to see a Russian flag flying. Would that be a welcoming gesture?
We teach our children in schools, in sports leagues, and other activities that hate is not acceptable, yet normalize visual noise like profanity and vulgarity on the street. These do not make a welcoming community. Do better.