Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 11.10.06
Stanstead, Quebec


No hugs for you, or you either

I nearly made an enemy last week when I attacked the Free Hugs guy. I didn't literally attack him. That would have been wrong and would have meant I had been to his home country of Australia. But I haven't been to Australia, thus my alibi is foolproof.

Instead, I attacked the concept of the Free Hugs guy - Juan Mann (get it? "one man"?), this dude from Down Under who a year ago started walking around carrying a sign that reads "Free Hugs."

The YouTube music video chronicling this guy's street-hugging adventures has recently spread like crazy. As a result, there are Free Hugs movements popping up everywhere, even China. My friend thought the video was beautiful and inspiring.

I responded by saying the Free Hug guy was just another example of instant modern celebrity. The guy's found an angle. No matter how pure your intentions, you don't walk down the street carrying a sign unless you're interested in gaining attention.

I base this theory solely on my experience carrying that sign reading "Radioactive for Jesus."

The Free Hug guy has even been on Oprah; nuf said.

Plus, Juan Mann is a pretty good-looking guy. Or at very least he's clean. Hand that homeless person the sign and see how many hugs he gets.

Besides, the whole concept seems to be an empty gesture. Go ahead and hug someone, feel good about what a swell person you are, then go home and yell at your goldfish for soiling his bowl again!

All of this is an admittedly cynical reaction to a grassroots "all you need is love" campaign for universal goodwill. But really, this feels less like "Give Peace a Chance" than "Happiness is a Warm Puppy."

But that's not my real problem.

I don't want random hugs.

I'm not a naturally hugging person, nor am I huggable - all bones and pointy bits. I'm a true-blue white Anglo-Saxon Protestant. I come from Scottish stock that was opposed to premarital sex because it might lead to dancing.

My greatest hardship after seventeen years in Quebec is not the language but all the embracing.

I'm the guy who when it's time to say goodbye to guests conveniently finds himself up to his elbows in dishwater or diapers.

I'll never be a true environmentalist because I'm too embarrassed to hug a tree.

Hugging is just not for me.

Wait a minute, you say. No one's forcing you to hug someone. It's an offer of "free hugs," not "Look out, I'm going to hug you whether you like it or not."

Ah, you say that now but just you wait. This Free Hugs movement is catching on. Soon, guerilla hugging will be the social norm. There'll be a hugging industry. (You can already buy Free Hugs T-shirts.) Non-huggers will be shunned.

Don't believe me?

Remember the red ribbons for AIDS? For a while back in the nineties, a celebrity dared not appear in public (AKA televised awards show) without a red ribbon on his lapel. And if some celebrity, say Sean Connery, opted for his own reasons not to wear a red ribbon (perhaps it clashed with his kilt), he was chastised.

Headlines would scream "Bond Homophobic!" or "Shame Connery!" You really had no choice but to conform to this political correctness.

Of course, like all superficial gestures/fashion statements, the red ribbon craze died. Unfortunately the scourge of AIDS hasn't. Sean Connery's still around too, but that's another story.

So I've decided to reserve my hugs for where they'll make a difference, where they'll mean something, namely with people I actually love. I'm sorry, but I don't love you, Juan Mann, though I think your goatee is just groovy.