It was an evening I’ll remember for a long time. First, randomly, in one of those lovely unwrapped little surprises the universe just drops in our laps, the man of the evening walked up to us in the lineup (we arrived very early), grinned, allowed me to swoon ecstatically for a second, and snap a photo. He then asked directions and moved on. Young again for a moment, that’s how I felt coming unexpectedly face-to-face with someone who has so often profoundly inspired and moved me.
It was an Edmonton Public Library event held at the University of Alberta, to kick off Freedom to Read Week—many, many thanks to them!!–and our guest was Chris Hedges.
At the podium, he stood and spoke to us, apparently not in need of any notes, just spoke. Brilliantly, about dark things like working class hopelessness and the erosion of civil liberties, about our broken electoral politics and our slide into totalitarian capitalism—but he did it with hope and clarity and passion, and a dash of defiance.
He knows what he knows, and he knows it well. He knows what we need to do to protect what is truest and best about human beings. He knows about the ways good returns good, about the futility of violence and greed, about what he witnessed for decades as a New York Times journalist covering conflicts and rebellions and uprisings the world over, about the inaccurate picture of events we come to believe as true when we stop reading and rely instead on television sound-bites, about the decisions made far from the eye of the public, about the unwritten rule of the corporate media not to alienate too deeply the hand that feeds.
Though he has been criticized for being angry in his writings, I saw no anger, only sorrow alongside the hope, and the soul of an honest human being.
When he was finished, we stood and applauded and some of us wept: the ovation had the flavour of ovations we give the rock stars of our youth. There was simply something about his words and being that had the most powerful ring of truth, something that resonated deeply and made us feel infinitely more alive than we did coming in a few hours earlier.