Saturday, November 07, 2015

On going viral and feeling hope: My letter to the prime minister

Update Nov. 10: My Facebook post has now been shared 9,879 times and garnered 13,577 likes. My son's original post was shared 285 times, and a separate post of my post on the wall of Meanwhile in Canada got 7,331 shares and 7,751. Wow.

I have a Facebook post that is in the midst of going viral. You know, like that '70s commercial for Breck shampoo, where one woman tells two friends, and they tell two friends, and next thing you know the TV screen is full-up with people telling each other about shampoo.

I have often fantasized of going viral for some of my posts around sex work, but this wasn't one of them. This was a post in which I shared my son's post about his feelings as a federal fisheries biologist at the news from his supervisors on Thursday that he was now free to talk to the media or anyone else, because the muzzle order silencing Canada's scientists that the Harper government had imposed had just been lifted.

His post made me feel warm and fuzzy, so I shared it thinking that my own Facebook friends would like a chance to feel warm and fuzzy, too. And then everything went crazy.

I knew something very strange was going on when, within the first hour of posting it, it had been shared 400 times. The left bottom corner of my screen was flickering and flickering with one notification after another of the post being shared and liked. (It kind of felt like the time I ate a piece of marijuana-butter cake and started feeling the effects within 15 minutes, which is really fast. My initial thoughts of "Hey, cool!" quickly shifted to "Oh, shit..." as the implications of where things would be going from there sunk in.)

As I write this, it's been 23 hours since I wrote the post, and it has now been shared 4,823 times. Four different media outlets have contacted me trying to track down my son. The Toronto Star even managed to find his home phone number, and never mind that even his own mother doesn't know the damn number.

What I have come to see through the popularity of that post is just how oppressed, bitter and sorrowful Canadians had become under the Harper government, and how hungry they were for optimism and hope again. I wonder if we even knew how dejected we felt until the day of the election, when even apolitical types like me felt our hearts lift at the prospect that maybe, just maybe, the Dark Lord had been vanquished and hope was possible again.

The events of the day inspired me to do another thing I'd never done: Write a letter to the prime minister. It just seemed like the right thing to do, to let him know that a simple post about a fisheries biologist being able to talk again about what he knew had struck such a chord that thousands of Canadians felt moved to share the joyful news. In its own small way, it was like the fall of our own little Berlin Wall. I could practically feel everyone running into the streets and calling from the rooftops: "The scientists are unmuzzled! We're free! We're free!" If I were the prime minister, I would want to know that something my government had done had triggered such an outpouring of relief and giddy emotion.

Here's the letter I wrote. The number of shares/likes has grown exponentially since I wrote it last night; in the 20 minutes it has taken for me to write this post, in fact, the number of shares has increased to 4,967, and the likes are at 6,591. People, we were so desperate for change.

Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. Thank you, Canadians, for turning out to the polls and voting against a repressive, authoritarian, anti-democratic, fear-mongering and just plain awful government. So good to remember what hope feels like.

Hi, Mr. Prime Minister. I thought I'd share this little story from my day today as heartening evidence of just how happy Canadians are to feel the winds of change blowing across our country. 

I'm an old journalist turned communications consultant, and I've got around 1,900 Facebook friends. I generally set Public as my privacy settings for my posts because it seems to me that information wants to be free. While I am accustomed to a decent number of Facebook "likes" and shares, on a really good day with the cutest photo of my new granddaughter, I would still only expect maybe 200 likes.

But today, that all changed. Today, I shared the post of my son, a federal fisheries biologist, and added a few comments of my own. Here's what I posted:

My son is a fisheries biologist with Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Here's his spirit-lifting post from yesterday. "It is official. At an all staff meeting today with some of the best scientists in the world, certainly the ones who know our coast better than anyone (and I am lucky enough to work for some of them), we were told that it's ok to talk to the media or anyone about what we do without permission. That's how surreal it was. That's how things changed over night."
I feel like I'm in one of those post-apocalyptic movies where there's nothing but darkness and sorrow and hard times, and then right at the end of the movie there's a scene of the sun rising over a new world and it's like everything just might turn out OK. People, we must never again let our government plunge us into such a fearful, secretive, divisive state.

And the Facebook world went crazy. I posted that 10 hours ago, and it has been shared 2,568 times. It has 2,984 likes. People are completely ecstatic about that post, and I have come to see that the unmuzzling of scientists is like a metaphor for the dark days ending for so many of us. Thank you for that. 

I'm sure there will be many tough days to come, and days after the honeymoon is over and everyone is crabbing at you. But I will remember this day, and that I realized for the first time today just how deeply my fellow Canadians and I had sunk into despair and hopelessness after 10 years of an oppressive, fear-mongering, arrogant and hateful government. 

Thank you for doing what you said you'd do. Thank you for your gender-equal cabinet, and your respect for smart people who care deeply about Canada. Thank you as well for reconsidering Bill C-36, another issue I feel so passionate about. Thank you for giving us back hope that we no longer have to be ashamed to be Canadians - ashamed to have a government that had descended to the depths of hatred to try to stay elected. It's like we have been living our own version of being behind the Berlin Wall, and it feels so good to see that ugly, divisive wall falling. 


Billyt said...

As much as it sounds like hyperbole, this is how I felt too. "In its own small way, it was like the fall of our own little Berlin Wall."

Faydeo said...

Reading most of your posts is like learning a bit of YOUR life or the lives of those beautiful kids you have done so much to help. Your viral post was a tangible affirmation of our OWN lives changing for the better. Thank you so much for sharing your astute observations.

Faydeo said...

Reading most of your posts is like learning a bit of YOUR life or the lives of those beautiful kids you have done so much to help. Your viral post was a tangible affirmation of our OWN lives changing for the better. Thank you so much for sharing your astute observations.

Unknown said...

Thanks Jody. For me it has been as if I can breath again. Having lived in Berlin, I know with that wall coming down there will also be challenges, but hey, that's ok, at least I am proud to wear the Canadian flag again when traveling.

Unknown said...

Sorry, that last one was not unknown, Christine Willow ;)

Ian Lidster said...

Brilliant, my dear Jody. I share your sentiment and this deserved to go viral..

Vickio said...

I am proud that I was one of the first to share your wonderful, hopeful post. You beautifully articulated what we all, well most of us, feel. Hope your son survived the media onslaught. These are desperate news times now that the election is over. CBC is still having debates on the concept of gender equity. You can relax and enjoy your time away from Canada now that you know it is finally in good hands!

Missing and Murdered Women said...

Great post Jody Paterson. You nailed it! I was always concerned about the Harper government and the erosion of our civil liberties and I spent a lot of time trying to inform friends and acquaintances. Unfortunately most didn't seem to be concerned and I wondered if it was because they didn't see this government as dangerous, or they were just too scared to think about it. All the bills they passed were troubling, but for me the two that really made me angry were Bills C-36 and C-51.

If anything, the government of Stephen Harper should serve as a wakeup call to all Canadians who value their freedoms.

Cairine Green said...

Jodie, thank you for sharing your son's piece and for sharing your own feelings about our new government. You always have important things to say to us and your powers of observation are as strong and sharp as ever. It's exciting to have a friend who went viral for all the right and wonderful reasons. Congrats my friend and keep on keeping on, as they say.

Hugs, Cairine and Him

Anonymous said...

Shared here too...

Ted Riecken said...

Jody you have captured it perfectly. The day after the election it felt like we could breathe again, as a country. The downward spiral that the Harper government had taken us on for 10 long years had made the country almost unrecognizable for those of us born in the 50`s and 60's. It's scary how insidious it was, and how powerless we all seemed in the face of an emerging dictatorship hell bent on their own agenda.

Ted Riecken
Victoria BC

arrow42pei said...

As an avid promoter of I also was delighted with the election results. It would not have mattered to me if it was the Liberals, NDP, or for that matter even the Bloc, Harper just had to go. Hopefully we will see more of this outpouring of hope and optimism. The decade of darkness must be forever put behind us, but we should remember it always so as not to repeat the mistake.

Mitchell Beer said...

THANK YOU for this, Jody. More tears from here. And one more Facebook share, coming right up.

Jan Crowe said...

Thank you Jody! You are an amazing writer and I read almost everything you post on Facebook. But I must say, you really struck a chord with your posting that has gone viral, as well as your letter to Justin Trudeau. Back in December, 2013, I had my picture taken with Justin when he was in Victoria (BC). In the picture, he is holding my hand and looking straight into my eyes...and he did so through out our whole conversation (2-3 minutes). I was so pleased to be able to meet Justin and have a very meaningful conversation with him about mental illness...a subject close to my heart, and to his as well. So, I posted that picture on Facebook as soon as it was official that the Liberals had won the election, and I got more "likes" on that posting than anything else I have ever posted. The day after the election, everywhere I went (shopping, the gym, meetings, walking my dog) and every person I encountered along the way, instead of saying "hello", I said "We have our Canada back! Hope is in the air!" This is truly an exciting time and I am filled with hope for a much better Canada.

KM Frye said...

Hi Jodie- Nice to see confirmation of the unmuzzle! Of course, the previous government always claimed there was no muzzle, that almost everything was approved. But wasn't is odd that said approval almost always managed to come forward just after the journalists' deadline? Hmmm...

It was nice to hear the new PM lift that problematic "permissions" issue so quickly after the election.

Thanx for the information, and it's nice to hear from you again. I miss your old columns, and I also miss the times we met at the Rib Joint....

Paul Mulholland said...

YOU GO GIRL! Have always admired the things you do and stand for.

Jenn Jilks said...

It's a bright new dawn!

Merely Academic said...

This is exactly how I felt!

Monkey Sandy said...

The Berlin Wall comparison crossed my mind, too!

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Anonymous said...

Writing letters to President, you must need to develop some good attitude and then everything comes to level of your working experience and also through your professional. professional complaint letter

Anonymous said...

Such a hopeful post! I was looking for cover letter assistance and accidently found your blog. It’s truly great that you shared your son's piece of writing and your feelings towards the government. You’re so strong and fearless. It’s amazing that your post got viral and so many people had an opportunity to read your impressive words and share them with the rest of the world. The election of a new government allowed people breathe freely. Instead of insidious and not effective previous government there is a new one with progressive ideas and caring people. I truly like your post. Keep it up!

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