Now this is a picture…
This picture was taken on the afternoon of Sunday, November 26, 1995. Erin and I had met, face to face, for the first time just two days previous. We had arranged to meet in Chicago, as a halfway point between Kitchener, where I lived, and Minneapolis, where Erin lived. We had hoped to meet up in the great hall at Chicago’s Union Station, but I couldn’t spy her, and she couldn’t spy me, so my friend Martin and I went down a level to the information desk and asked the attendant to page her.
I remember seeing her coming to the glass door, wearing a long coat, and we had a connection of recognition right there. We’d seen each other’s pictures, of course, but it was still a thrill to finally meet up in the flesh, as it were, to know that the pictures were true, and that this was real.
I described how I met Erin online and how our relationship developed in the summer of 1995 as Erin coped with a possible cancer diagnosis. We had fallen in love after having met on the Internet, in 1995, a time when only serial killers met up online. Our relationship was shocking enough that we were interviewed by the Kitchener-Waterloo Record a couple of years later, after we’d moved into our first apartment. Our pictures graced the front page of the Lifestyles section, with a beige computer between us symbolizing this bold new way for people to connect.
But we had met in Chicago as it was neutral ground. As impulsively as we might have been acting, we were moving cautiously. We’d built our relationship over a year of e-mails, like pen pals used to do in Victorian times. In Chicago, we attended a Doctor Who convention, to give us something to do for the weekend if we didn’t click.
But we clicked. The photographic evidence is above.
It is amazing how fast twenty years can pass.
I'm hearing a lot of people rag on the fact that Justin Trudeau has acknowledged that his plan to settle 25,000 Syrian refugees by year's end is too ambitious, and that number will be reached by February instead. He's getting a surprising amount of heat for it, with some calling it "his first broken promise", with the clear implication that they expect it to be the first of many.
Cynically speaking, there's probably nothing false about that statement. Show me a politician that didn't break a single promise, and I'll show you a politician that did not run on a discernable platform.
I admit I am disappointed that we won't be able to help 25,000 people by the end of the year. I'll also admit that, three weeks ago, I looked at the calendar and wondered if Trudeau's commitment was achievable. But people with axes to grind jumped all over that worry, blowing security concerns out of proportion, in some cases denegrating desperate and innocent people, and building a narrative that Trudeau was attempting the impossible. Now that it has been acknowledged that the December 31st deadline is indeed impossible, it seems a little disingenuous for some to keep ragging on him for admitting what they thought to be obvious, unless people are starved for saying "I told you so, nyah!" to a Liberal government.
And it ignores the bigger human picture: that we will still settle 25,000 people within the next three months. That's not nothing. Sure, Trudeau may have been overly ambitious, but by God, at least he tried to do the right thing. And, at least he is still trying to do the right thing, albeit giving himself eight extra weeks to do it. As broken promises go, it's worlds apart from, say, signing a pledge to not raise taxes, and then imposing health care premiums instead, or promising not to tax income trusts and then doing precisely that.
Moreover, I think Trudeau's ambitious schedule created a sense of urgency that will ultimately help Canada better handle the settlement of 25,000 Syrian refugees. Community groups, charities, church groups, are all gearing up to work. The issue is dominating the news, and making people -- my own family included -- search through their storage bins for old clothes, spare diapers, anything that can help.
Trudeau helped bring that out in Canadians. That sense was not at the fore before the October 19 election. I think the country is the better for it, and broken promise or not, I'll give him credit for it.
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