Protest Lip Slips27 December 2023
By Amanda Boulos
When I’m chanting for justice, peace, a ceasefire, and mercy for Palestine and Palestinians at protests in Toronto, I catch myself mixing up the carefully constructed asks. I blame this on my grief—my cold body marching for hours at a time. I think about these mix-ups and how perhaps the variations on these chants, many of them over 30 years old, will help someone to finally hear what I’m saying. These mix-ups—or, as I sometimes like to call them, lip slips—allow me to take a different cognitive path to the part of my brain that keeps me living and creative, the part that works on healing.
At the protests, I have to admit, I am embarrassed marching with thousands of people and saying the wrong thing at the right time. Even confusing the folks standing next to me. My teenage cousin calls me out on my lip slips. Teens are vigilant. I try to tell him about my struggle. I tell him that we understand each other’s precise speech because we read lips as much as we hear the words. And, Cousin, that is why so many of us don’t catch every song lyric, and mess up 50% of the chorus. In a protest you can’t quite see the speaker’s mouth, you can’t read anyone’s lips; instead, we all walk and face forward to speak to those who are in our way, and to gods whose mouths are also not visible to us.
Though it seems that I’m in good company. Lip slips, mix-ups, or Freudian slips more broadly, are common when speaking of Israel or Palestine.
We see politicians Freudian slipping, and with each of these viral moments, laid out in subtitles, I find a flash of deep relief, because for a second they are saying what we want them to say. We laugh and we rejoice as their Freudian slips tell us that they at least heard us once.
I find Trudeau’s Freudian slip in particular to be beautifully poetic:
“We need to see a cease—we need to see a humanitarian pause so we can flow, we need to see a ceasing of the levels of violence that we’re seeing.”1
Then there’s Prime Minister of Sweden Ulf Kristersson’s more sinister slip:
“Israel has a right to genocide—self defense!”2
And finally, the confused Israeli Ambassador to Australia, Amir Maimon:
“We are not the victims. Sorry, we are the victims.”3
Here are some of the lip slips I’ve been repeating during protests, after protests, in the shower, and as I put myself to bed.
- “Israel-Hamas War: Justin Trudeau almost ceasefire but backtracks, internet calls out ‘Freudian slip’. Video,” Livemint. HT Digital Streams Ltd., November 4, 2023. https://www.livemint.com/news/world/israelhamas-war-justin-trudeau-almost-says-ceasefire-but-backtracks-internet-calls-out-freudian-slip-video-11699110453267.html?utm_source=ground.news&utm_medium=referral.
- Christopher Gavin, “WATCH: Swedish Prime Minister Says ‘Israel Has the Right to Genocide’ in Horrific Slip,” The Messenger News. JAF Communications Inc., November 22, 2023, https://themessenger.com/news/watch-swedish-prime-minister-says-israel-has-the-right-to-genocide-in-horrific-slip.
- “Israel envoy: ‘We are not the victims’,”Middle East Monitor. Ardi Associates Ltd., https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20231103-israel-envoy-we-are-not-the-victims/.
This project was co-commissioned by Peripheral Review and the Burnaby Art Gallery.
Feature Image: See See Palestine, 2023 by Amanda Boulos. Photo courtesy of the artist.