Welcome Canadian readers.
This, the fifth issue of Square Lake, is the first to be distributed in the
largest country in North America, and we find it pleasurable to imagine you
reading its contents on Spadina Avenue, or maybe Robson Street, or somewhere
in Kitchener-Waterloo. Drop us a line to let us know where you are and what
you think. Better yet, send us your poems and fiction. In this issue, you’ll
find such Canadian content as poetry by Todd Swift. We hope that in Square
Lake Number 6 you find more.
It is easy for a citizen of the United States to idealize Canada in 2004. Up
close the Canadian government probably has its share of problems, and
good-hearted Canadians undoubtedly need to struggle for social justice. But
from down here it looks so much like a sane country. Making some attempt to
provide healthcare, to devise drug policies that at least have some goals,
doing its best to provide equal rights to all citizens regardless of their
sexual orientation, and blessedly reluctant to join military adventures
When people find out I object to the practice of institutionalized violence,
some feel the need to confront me with cases they think might demonstrate
the occasional necessity of bloodshed. “Aren’t you glad Americans before you
were willing to give up their lives?” (They always say “give up their
lives,” rather than “kill other human beings.”) “What if patriots during the
Revolution had not been willing to lay down their lives for freedom?”
I don’t know. Is it too much to imagine that without the internecine
bloodshed, cousins killing cousins and informing on uncles, burning down
their neighbors’ houses, we might have ended up a little more like Canada?
Meanwhile, down here, democratic institutions are having a hard time.
Perhaps they have been failing for decades, but at present there is
definitely a crisis of legitimacy. High-tech gerrymandering has created a
“representative” assembly in which only a minuscule percentage of seats are
truly up for election. Everyone knows that all branches of government are
openly bought and sold; the dollar amounts are published in the newspapers.
The much vaunted checks and balances we learned about in civics class lose
efficacy when all the checks come from the same donors. Courts declare that
“money is speech,” and corporations have been given all the rights of human
beings, then quite a few more humans don’t get. The world-famous Bill of
Rights shrinks each day, and now the people’s right to assemble in the
streets has been construed as their right to assemble behind barbed wire out
of sight of cameras several miles away, so long as they do not communicate
with the press.
I don’t have a plan to solve these problems. But I know what I feel impelled
to do in 2004. I want to get people to vote. Perhaps it is true that the
structural weight of the antidemocratic powers is so entrenched and fierce
that it cannot be overturned even at the polls. But I’d like to see it
If each of us could just get one person who does not usually vote to the
polls this time . . . well, at least there’d be twice as many of us to have
to work to ignore. And there is always the possibility things might change.
Copyright © 2004 Square
Lake. All rights reserved.