A lament for the land of the increasingly unfree

—The Supreme Court decision on Roe vs. Wade is just the latest example of the U.S. moving backwards in depressing, scream-inducing ways, says Craig Redmond—

About eight months into the pandemic, I came across my son lying on the couch in the early afternoon, still in his pyjamas.

“Hey buddy, aren’t you going to shower and get dressed?” I urged.

Without looking at me, his eyes fixed on the television news, he replied in a dull, monotone whisper: “The world is sick, daddy.”

He’s a special needs young man with intellectual disabilities. But as the ancient proverb proclaims, still waters run deep. Watching the news day after day, with its images of empty city streets and overflowing hospitals, left a profoundly dark and bottomless impression on the boy. He imagined a Covid apocalypse, I was guessing.

So, despite his immune vulnerability and his mom’s grave concerns, I took him out in the car to see that the world was, indeed, still alive. His mental health was equally important to his physical well-being.

The car became our bubble, and the effect was immediate. I looked in the rearview mirror to see the lad beaming, with a smile from lobe to lobe—a familiar grin I hadn’t seen in some time. It was like a rope had been tossed down into the abyss, and he was being pulled out to see the first rays of sunlight in months. So, that became our joyful routine for the next year-and-a-half. I chauffeured, while he rode in the back seat like he was in the Popemobile or, as I called it, Driving Mr. Daisy. Several times a week, we would set out for a two-hour road-trip in and around Vancouver.

Until one fateful morning.

Like my son, I had also been spellbound by the daily news. But my obsession had been with the rise of Donald Trump, his butchering of the pandemic response, and ultimately, his final election demise.

That’s when I awoke the morning of Jan. 6, 2021.

And I needed to go for a drive. On that day, however, I wouldn’t be taking my son with me. No, this was a solo mission.

After witnessing the assault on Capitol Hill and the depraved depths to which our cousins in the South had descended, I needed to do something to exorcise the angry demons rising within.

What followed was one of the funniest adventures of my life. I got in my car and travelled to the U.S. border, which of course was still closed. I drove along the country road that dissects U.S. farmland from Canada. I parked on the shoulder, got out and stood at the fence, where I started screaming at America: “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MINDS? WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO REALIZE YOUR COUNTRY IS BEING DRAGGED TO HELL?”

On and on I went until my voice failed me.

Batshit crazy? Yes. Utterly futile? Of course. Unless you count the cows I may have reached with my powerful, political rhetoric. But goddamn, it was cathartic. And I drove home giggling with a liberated sense of comic relief.

Soon after, Covid car trips were replaced by a return to coffee shops and tea breaks for my boy and me. But while I never made a return visit, the reasons to drive to the border and scream expletives at America only grew in girth and gravitas.

Republicans began denying that the Jan. 6 insurrection even happened. The U.S. Covid death toll first surpassed 900,000, and then one million. Florida introduced “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. Creeping Jim Crow electoral laws were introduced in “red” states. A gunman killed 10 in a Buffalo supermarket, and then another gunman killed 19 school children and two teachers in Texas. They were just two of 250 mass shootings recorded in 2022 so far, yet gun legislation continues to be thwarted. Meanwhile, plenty of Trump-endorsed “Big Lie” candidates could win in mid-term elections, reinforcing his political party base for another run at the Presidency in 2024.

But then the truly unthinkable happened amongst all that utterly unimaginable.

After all those outings with my son, I recently took a car trip to end all car trips—driving across Canada on my way home to a new job and a fresh start for our family in Toronto. That’s when the story came across the static-fried CBC news on the radio: “The Supreme Court of America has overturned Roe vs. Wade, reversing the freedom of reproductive rights for women that was cemented in federal law nearly 50 years ago.”

I had to stop at the side of the Trans Canada to take it in, it felt that unfathomable. No words can describe this deplorable travesty of justice, on top of all the other political atrocities committed in the U.S. these past six months.

One can only pray that all of it will compel young generations to rise, galvanize women from all corners, ignite minorities and marginalized peoples and, yes, even convert a few moderate Republicans to get out and vote to stem the scourge of right-wing revisionism devouring their country.

Otherwise, as this foreboding tale of woe brought to us by Amnesty International predicts, America is destined to become The Land of the Unfree. And the boy and I will keep our drives north of the 49th.

Craig Redmond is creative director at Grey Canada.  

Craig Redmond