A Big Old Ugly Beef

Regarding sexism and racism and homophobia and other things that many privileged people don’t seem to grasp: Just because you don’t (want to) see the immeasurable number of terrible things done that fall under the aforementioned categories daily doesn’t mean they aren’t happening. You know? I can deny that Canada is cold, but I’m going to get frostbite if I dress for summer in January. I find few things more infuriating than people who have obviously had the fortune not to be touched by these events denying that they exist for anyone. It blows my mind. I don’t have cystic fibrosis and I have never been beaten up, yet I believe that others do and have.

I made the mistake yesterday (WHY, WHY, WHY?!!!!) of reading the comments section under a story on the CBC website where a black Canadian was explaining that his experience of Canada has been marked by racism. Oh, the comments section – fan me lest I faint! What about life in [insert whatever country you consider barbaric here]?! If you hate Canada so much, why not leave it? My son applied for a job and didn’t get it because he is white! [this last one without any sense of irony] It seemed almost too hard for those commenting simply to hear this man’s story, which was not one of hatred against Canada but rather a deconstruction of this country’s supposed unquestioning embrace of people of all ethnicities. His mention that some things – anything! – could possibly have happened to him because of a negative response to his ethnicity seemed to trigger a need to bring out the smelling salts. All the white fragility . . . And we liberals are dubbed snowflakes?!

Look. I think we can all admit that there are times we struggle with walking in another’s shoes. I have a difficult time seeing the joyous loveliness of someone who voted for 45 in the U.S., or for Stephen Harper in Canada (I know, let it GO! :)). Or in the person in the SUV who speeds up behind me when I’m on my bike because there isn’t any other lane for me and I’m taking up my legal position in this one. An even bigger stretch for me is focusing on the humanity in incels, alt-right people, and those who believe that the only true Canadians are those whose ancestors came here between about 1600 and 1920, and that all others just like to complain for funsies.

I don’t know how much I believe deep down that reaching out is the panacea; I will never agree with some people about some things, and even more importantly, I can never condone certain actions or lines of thinking. But I do sincerely believe we need to identify things that are okay in one another and celebrate those parts. I love to imagine that someone would have a second thought about telling a racist joke because they have a tiny, finger-wagging (but fun!) version of me on their shoulder giving them pause.

I guess what I’m angling at here is that we can never lose by bringing more compassion into the world. That includes listening when someone is telling you about painful, pervasive things they’ve experienced. We don’t need to rush to tell them it isn’t happening. They already know that it actually is. What we could do is listen.