Tag Archives: politics

Not my Canada

More often than not I put pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard) to air my grievances in a humorous manner. I do this to remind myself that my problems are small and the best way to let them go is to laugh at them. After all, I have a roof over my head, food on my plate, my health, my sanity (for the most part), great friends and family, a beautiful child with another on the way and so much more. The problems that I have can’t take any of this away from me, and so at the end of the day I can consider myself among the lucky ones on this earth.

Today I can’t laugh. Yesterday many individuals in Québec City likely woke up feeling as I do: Grateful for life, love, happiness, community etc. By nightfall much of this had been stripped away from them, as their family members and friends were gunned down during evening prayer just because they were Muslim. These families are experiencing an unimaginable loss. I can’t even type this without tears spilling from my eyes. A community targeted for what? This was without a doubt an act of terrorism. This is not my Canada.

All Canadians are immigrants. Well, all Canadians are immigrants except the First Nations from whom we expropriated the lands upon which our cities sit, but that’s another story. This country’s immigration policy is the reason that I am here today. On my mother’s side I am a first generation Canadian, as were and are my paternal grandparents. I can’t know exactly why my family left Europe when they did, but I can only assume they were in search of a better life here in Canada.

My father’s family emigrated from Poland during the early 1920s. We are Jewish. As a child I was always acutely aware that I was ‘different’ from my Christian friends, but I was never singled out or targeted for that difference. I distinctly remember thinking that I was proud to live in a time and a country where race and religion didn’t matter. I remember being annoyed at my grandparents’ discomfort that my best friends were German. It wasn’t until I was 13 and did a class project on Anne Frank that I understood why they were uncomfortable, though they never told me I couldn’t or shouldn’t socialize with Germans.

My grandparents’ immediate families were the only ones who made it out of Poland before the Nazis invaded. They were living in Canada with the full knowledge that their loved ones were back in the old country, living in conditions that we Canadians can’t really even fathom. They rarely spoke about it, but I do remember my Papa telling me that he was responsible for fetching the mail for his mother from the post office during WWII. He was a teenager at the time. His mother would correspond with her sister in Poland quite frequently, and he diligently brought home her sister’s letters until one day there were no more. I can’t even imagine what that must have been like for him. To know why the letters had stopped. To have to tell his mother yet again that there was no news. To know that it meant death and loss. To know that his empty hands were breaking his mother’s heart.

My family lost their loved ones during a war that persecuted innocent people simply because they were Jewish. How is this any different from walking into a mosque and shooting up a room full of people simply because they are Muslim? Our differences are what make this world beautiful. I have travelled around this world and back again and marvelled at these differences. What are people so afraid of? I share a lot more in common with my welcoming, generous Muslim neighbours than I do with a white skinned bigot. I am an invisible minority and I admit that sometimes I hide within that identity. You can’t deduce my religion or cultural background from looking at me. My skin is so white it’s almost translucent. My native tongue is English. My son is baptised into his father’s family’s faith. Yet had I been born in a different time in a different land I would have shared the same fate as my Jewish brothers and sisters, as would my children. Hate doesn’t care who you are, only what it can label you.

Many Muslims don’t have the luxury of being ‘invisible’, nor should they want to be. If you can’t tell the difference between someone spouting the hateful ideology of a radical offshoot of Islam and a Muslim family fleeing their war torn homeland where they have lost everything to that same radical offshoot, then you are the one with the problem. I will never condone hateful words or actions, no matter the colour of the skin or religious beliefs of the owner of those words and actions.

Despite the discourse of hatred and fear that has permeated present day politics and infiltrated many aspects of life in the western world as of late, I am pleased to see that there is push back. My greatest fear today is not ISIS or Al Qaeda or the average Muslim Canadian. My greatest fear is complacency. At least here, despite many other failings, we have a government that speaks out against this hatred even if we have citizens who would idealize what is happening south of the border and live out that hatred here. The sad truth is that those citizens are no different than the ones they truly fear and hate. The more you hate, the more they hate and so on and so on. It’s the worst kind of positive feedback loop or vicious circle. Although it is scary to learn that the number of people contributing to this dangerous discourse is far greater than I ever believed it could be, I am grateful for the many more voices I hear speaking out against it.

To the community of the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec, I am truly sorry for your losses. This hateful Canada is not my Canada, nor is it the Canada of the vast majority of Canadians. We stand with you today and I hope we will prevail, God willing/b’ezrat HaShem/insha’Allah.

jack-layton

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Hey MacLean’s, I have a request

Yesterday a wonderful blogging friend of mine posted a link to an article in MacLean’s Magazine on Facebook, along with her expression of disgust at the author’s opinions. She wrote her response this morning, as have many others. I feel like writing about this now may be redundant, but as I have gone about my day with my son, feeding, playing and planning for his upcoming baptism (yes, I know I wrote about Passover yesterday… let’s just say we’re religiously confused, ok?), I haven’t been able to get this filth out of my mind. I don’t want my son to grow up in a world where there isn’t a public outcry in response to such sensationalistic attempts at journalism.

The article in question discusses the Steubenville rape convictions, sexual harassment sparked by the Sarah Thomson/Rob Ford incident, and the firing of Professor Tom Flanagan from the University of Calgary and as a guest commentator on CBC over his comments about child pornography.

I’m not going to address the Steubenville argument any further than to say that if it had been a drunk passed out football player who had been beaten nearly to death in that state, the perpetrator would surely have been convicted of assault quickly and perhaps even quietly. The noise surrounding this case is because the mere suggestion that the girl is in any way to blame and the boys’ actions can just be attributed to a ‘boys will be boys’ attitude is so morally corrupt that I can’t even wrap my brain around it. And clearly neither can many other people.

Sexual harassment… not much to say about that. There is a fine line between joking around and inappropriate conduct sometimes, and those who cross that line need to face the music. It’s about CONSENT. Do we really need to talk about this? I thought it was dealt with decades ago.

As for the firing of Prof Tom Flanagan from both the CBC and the University of Calgary over the child porn comments, I’m not sure that should have happened. I had an economics professor who argued each semester that child labour can be good for the economy. And yes, there is an economic argument for that. My professor was brilliant and made a tough subject easy for me to understand. I don’t think she was actually arguing that we all rush out and hire a bunch of kids, stick them in conditions of squalor and pay them one bowl of rice per day. She was simply arguing that there is an economic argument for it. I think this is the point that Prof. Flanagan was trying to make, though I wasn’t there and haven’t read a transcript, so I don’t know.

The problem with economics, however, is that its arguments only hold up from an economic standpoint. Economics assumes that all humans are ‘homo economicus’ or ‘rational men’ (excuse the sexist term, I didn’t coin it), and they simply aren’t. In economics this means that all people are assumed to act in such a way that maximizes utility as consumers and profits as producers. What is missing from this picture is that most of us are not motivated this way, and those that are would be considered sociopaths. We are sentient beings. We feel for one another. Morally, we know that rape, sexual harassment, and child pornography are WRONG.

Enter Barbara Amiel and MacLean’s Magazine.

We’ve been hearing both sides of the Steubenville incident for months now. We’ve been talking about sexual harassment for years. We can intelligently argue that Prof. Flanagan was not condoning the viewing of child pornography. This woman (I can’t bring myself to call her a journalist because there was simply no integrity in what she wrote), Ms. Amiel, is either one of the aforementioned sociopaths, or she has just gone way too far down the “shock and awe” path that some journalists are wont to take. It’s okay to be controversial, but it is NOT okay to trivialize the rape (and yes, even if it wasn’t the appendage that we normally associate with the term, it is rape) of a teenaged girl, incidents of sexual harassment and the viewing of child pornography. Many of her comments were callous and never in a million years would my brain have gone there. For example:

With regards to Steubenville Ms. Amiel wrote, “In a normal society, the girl’s mother would have locked her up for a week and all boys present would have been suspended from school and their beloved football team. Instead we had a trial and media circus…”

She refers to sexual harassment as a “term invented in the 1970s that ought to have been strangled at birth.”

She continues to miss Flanagan’s point and writes, “I always thought rounding up people for what they privately watch on their computers was a stomach-churning breach of civil liberties far more damaging than the private contemplation of squalid pictures.”

She further misses the point and declares that “the justification that without viewers there would be no market for child porn is accurate as far as it goes, which is about one millimetre.” Actually, there is a very good economic argument. It’s simple supply and demand. If the demand is there, supply will rise to meet it. That’s the way it goes. By making the viewing of child pornography illegal we at least appeal to some pedophiles who know that they have a sickness and know that their actions are wrong. Even if we are only deterring some of them from giving in to their illness, even if it’s out of the simple fear of getting caught and is in no way treating their mental illness, we are still reducing supply. To suggest that viewing child porn harms no one is seriously offensive. There are children being forced to commit unthinkable acts in those videos. Children, the picture of innocence. The ultimate victims.

Ms. Amiel states up front that these topics are ones that “any sensible commentator must preface with ardent assurances that nothing with the possible exception of matricide could revolt more, and only abhorrence flourishes in the breast of the commentator who now feels compelled to address these matters. You have to say that or your licence as a pundit gets withdrawn amid truly vicious attacks.” Well, no. Not exactly. As small as I am, I would like to ask MacLean’s to remove this article from its website, to fire Barbara Amiel, and to issue a formal apology to all victims of these types of crimes and pretty much just to human beings everywhere. Yes, we do need debate in the media, but there is a line that has been crossed here. These are important issues, but they need to be addressed in a way that is not so devoid of basic human decency. This is not healthy debate. This has gone too far. For shame.

Related posts:

The Best Life: No Means No

IHAVEANOPINIONIDLIKETOSHARE: An Open Letter to Perpetrators of Sexual Violece