Terry Fox And The Desecration of Iconic Statues

This Monday, CBC TV will air “Terry Fox: The Power Of One”, a one-hour special commemorating a true Canadian hero on the 40th anniversary of his death. This brave kid was just 22 when he died on June 28, 1981 after attempting to run across Canada on one good leg and a prosthetic to raise money for the cure of the disease that eventually killed him. Cancer.
“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” So said Christopher Reeve who at the time may have been looking in the mirror, legitimately so, or gazing reverently at a photo of the young man with the bushy red head and the Maple Leaf flag on his T-shirt. (Typical of this Liberal government which would lose a road race to rout of snails, by the time Terry Fox’s face appears on our $5 bill, it will only be worth $3.40 US.)
Terry Fox and Rick Hansen — so few national champions of great causes yet so many celebrities elevated to the status of ‘hero’. Wayne Gretzky and Roberta Bondar are not heroes. They are people who excelled at what they did and welcomed the celebrity that came with their accomplishments. A hero is someone who avoids fame even after he or she has earned the right to flaunt it.
We are now in the summer of toppling iconic statues which history will look back on as an era of national rogue rage, a rush to judgement based on knee-jerk decisions and raw emotions.
The name of Dundas Street in Toronto should not be changed. Historians are still questioning whether Henry Dundas was a legitimate abolitionist of the slave trade or an abuser of it. Simply put a BLM logo on every Dundas Street sign to remind everyone in that city that indeed, Black Lives Matter.
The statues of perhaps Canada’s greatest prime minister and the country’s founding father should not be splattered with paint or pulled down in acts of mob violence. If a referendum confirms the majority of people in the community want John A. removed, do so. Otherwise construct a plaque that details his role in our horrid Canadian residential school scandal without erasing the good that this man did.
Rename sports teams and schools like the Edmonton Eskimos and Ryerson University. Absolutely, and in the re-naming process look at the list of great First Nations warriors who have been historically wronged by their conquerors from Tom Longboat and Chief Dan George to Brantford’s Pauline Johnson.
To rip down the statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth is to deny colonialism existed instead of revealing the harm it has done to Indigenous Peoples with an accompanying tablet of facts.
So I’m watching the Tokyo Olympics that should never have been held except for the loss of corporate revenue and the telling moment was the opening ceremony in a stadium void of fans where it was so quiet you could hear a protest sign drop… outside on the street.
The Olympic motto “Faster, Higher, Stronger — Together” could also be used to describe how unchecked and uncontrolled technology that has enabled billionaires to joyride in space.
You know who should have carried our Canadian flag into those opening ceremonies and who would make a fine poster boy for the purity of sports and the true meaning of international competition? Canadian Lawrence Lemieux. While in second place in a one-man sailing race at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Lemieux spotted a competitor from Singapore on the adjacent course who was clearly drowning. Lemieux promptly abandoned his race to sail over rough waters and save his fellow Olympian’s life. Why don’t they erect a statue to Lawrence Lemieux with the new Olympic motto: “We Really Are In This Together?” (Who’s the Canadian the world remembers from the Seoul Olympics? Ben Johnson.)
This illegal trashing and bashing of public statues of historical figures, with or without good reason, is really starting to wear on me. Then again, maybe I’m somewhat gun-shy.
Terry Fox’s ‘Marathon of Hope’ ended on September 1, 1980 after he had run – one foot in front of the other one made of wood — for 143 days, covering 5,400 km from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Thunder Bay, Ontario. Two years later the Terry Fox Monument was unveiled near the spot where this brave heart took his last roadside lurch. Not long after that, while in Thunder Bay for a speaking engagement, I made it a point to visit the statue of Terry Fox, a young man I believed, then and now, to be a genuine hero in every sense of that word.
What I took away from that visit was the certitude that every human being has the capacity to kill someone in a sudden fit of rage. Previously, there had been horrible acts of vandalism on the statue in which hands were cut off and an attempt to decapitate the bronze likeness of Fox had failed. The night before my visit… it pains me even now to revisit these details… vandals had defecated on the base of the statue, stolen the cash out of the cancer donation box and in the cruelest, sickest cut of all — had stuck a cigarette in Terry’s mouth!!!
My hands were still shaking when I got back into the car of my host.
The haters have always been in our midst but given the growing numbers and semi-official groups — they’ve now become well organized.

For a comment or a signed copy of The Dog Rules – Damn Near Everything email: williamjthomas@gmail.com

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