Show me the victim!

Posted: October 1, 2015 in rants
Show me the victim!

Show me the victim!

Warning: this long rant expresses how deeply I am saddened by the cynical niqab issue being used to enrage Canadians. Here’s why. I am truly old-stock Canadian. Parts of my family have been here at least 15,000 years or so. Here’s what we’ve seen:

Every year since Europeans arrived, new boatloads of people came. In every boat there were a few who thought they should be the last, and that the next boat contained lesser folk who should be turned away, because they “aren’t like us”, “have funny ideas”, “eat smelly food”, “are uncultured”, “act like peasants”, “will try and take over”, and so on, and on, and on. Most people just tried to get on with making this a better place for themselves and their children, but there were always a few whose sense of superiority rested on bashing the new folk.

In the long history of this place, the opinions of these few have caused much trouble, and more than a few deaths. A small portion of newcomers who have suffered from this include runaway slaves from the US, Irish, Doukhobors, Poles, Chinese, Ukrainians, Japanese, Jamaicans, Pakistanis, Italians, and so on. Jews and Sikhs share the history of having boatloads of people turned from our shores to uncertain fates and/or certain death.

The bigots of the day and the politicians who used them said all these people would ruin the country. They were wrong. Every time. The new people brought new ideas, new energies, and together we built this place. All of us. The culture changed and grew with every arrival. And the children of the newcomers generally never took up the archaic and backward practices of their parents. But they took the good ideas, and spread them to everyone else. There has never been a stable Canadian identity, and that has been one of the true strengths of the nation. Among our few abiding values have been tolerance (often practiced in the breach) and openness to change.

Canadians don’t like to admit it, but we have a rich history of intolerance, racism and bigotry. I shudder to think of the names my peers in elementary school hurled at each other, most of whose parents washed here from various parts of Europe after WW2. Ask anyone of non-European descent how alive that still is today, especially in rural mono-cultural areas. Ask any First Nations person on the Prairies.

It is human nature to be afraid of “the stranger”, and too many Canadians have not outgrown that. Mostly they are shamed into public silence, reduced to grumbling into their coffee cups at home and with family and friends. But, from time to time, a politician thinks it is in his interest to stoke these fears and make people angry. All fearful angry people are less rational and more open to suggestion. If you can make them angry, they are more likely to believe your suggestion. That’s been a mainstay in politics forever. It’s cynical and manipulative, but it works.

We are in one of those times. Stephen Harper has dishonoured himself and is in the process of disgracing the nation by pretending that a newly-arrived woman wearing a piece of cloth is an abomination and a threat to everything we hold dear. As if Canada were so weak. The idea is preposterous, and is arguably hate speech. But it resonates with those who think their boat should have been the last.

Canada has survived far worse racist outbursts, and this will fade fast. Immediately after the election, I imagine, when there are no more votes to be had from it. But it gives those of us who oppose bigotry a chance to surround this hate, and perhaps force it to surrender, in at least a few people. That would be a great victory.

Please – ask anyone you think is getting worked up about this:
If this is a crime, who is harmed?
Where is the name of the victim?
How are they harmed?

But be prepared for a lot of xenophobic and racist rubbish about Islam. Stay calm, and keep asking – why should this be a crime? Who is harmed? How, exactly? Name one person?

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