I generally avoid commenting on anything political because I am usually willfully uninformed. I don’t watch the news every day. Or even every week. I have whole-heartedly embraced the slogan, Ignorance is Bliss. And while I say this lightly, it is essentially true. I honestly don’t know how people can watch the news several times a day. My spirit would be dragging behind me like a bag full of dirt.
Part of my discomfort with listening to the news is the format in which most information moves in this day and age. I remember a time when hearing both sides of an issue was considered a good thing. I remember when people like me could comfortably approach a discussion and ask to be updated, by people with opposing opinions. Anyone else remember that?
I really don’t feel equipped to discuss politics with most people because the new format is a mystery to me. I guess I shouldn’t have tuned out for so long. Anyhow, it would appear that in order to “engage in discussion” in the current climate, you must have already made up your mind, be passionate about it, and try to refute everything said by people who disagree with you. Listening seems to be frowned upon, and admitting that someone else’s point has given you something to think about seems to be as shameful as yelling “uncle” when your brother sat on you as a kid. And the more sarcastic you can be, the better. The only good news I can see is that you don’t have to come up with any ideas of your own to participate in one of these discussions, you just have to have the sharpest tongue in criticizing others in order to win.
So, I am late, and ignorant on a lot of points, but I can’t stop thinking about my country. Even a turtle like me can see we are at a turning point in our history. But I’m not the one to fill you in on the facts. You must do that for yourself. In the meantime, as always, I will resort to a story:
This week I was invited to read to the local school children for I Read Canadian Day.
It was a sweet event and a good time was had by all.
On the surface.
Inside my Canada jersey, beneath my pale skin, in my second-generation immigrant heart, a storm was raging. I looked out at the faces of our future, in a variety of skin tones, and felt the joy and hope I always feel when I look at my students. Even when we are facing such challenges as our climate crisis. But this time, I also felt conflict.
Just before going to the school, I watched a video posted by a young woman from Winnipeg who was verbally abused on a city bus for no other reason than the colour of her skin. I was sick listening to her tell her story. Sick at the incident and sick at the idea that no one on that bus told the abusers to stop. Twenty minutes of verbal abuse and no one said a word.
I am seeing more and more disturbing things in the news and on social media. As if the news isn’t disturbing enough on its own, now I am sitting here listening to coverage of an “economic crisis” caused by the “unlawful actions of a few terrorists.”
Oh Canada! No one was talking about this years ago when I first started following the work of Freda Huson of the Wet'suwet'en. No one was talking when we were dealing with an environmental issue; a call to attention about the ramifications of the pipeline construction tearing through wilderness, let alone the potential dangers of the pipeline itself. No one was talking about it when it was becoming a land title and sovereignty issue. No one was talking about it when a notable portion of our FN countrymen/women started saying that Reconciliation is Dead.
But now that our wallets are involved, look at us all spring into action! I had to go looking for information about this crisis in the earlier stages. But now that businesses are losing money, this story is about the only thing getting coverage.
Oh Canada, I think I can imagine the fear that some of us are facing because of the impact of the demonstrations on various aspects of the economy. Some of us are most definitely in a crisis situation and my heart goes out to all. I can understand why we are focused on getting the railway moving or one of the other specific side-effects of what the nation is suffering. Although, I wonder why the National Farmers Union’s unequivocal support of the Wet'suwet'en was over-looked in the mainstream news.
I’m trying to keep the big picture in my head. When I reroute around a demonstration, I’m grateful to live in a country with free speech. I hope everyone manages to feel heard by the end of this. Funny how some of us can just say our piece and others of us have to erect blockades and camp in the snow to be heard.
That’s my bigger picture. For everyone to be heard, so we can move forward together. Reconciliation received a standing ovation until it got uncomfortable. Some people stopped clapping and sat down on their hands as soon as they found out that the first part of the plan was for non-indigenous Canadians to listen.
Well, we’ve hit the first really uncomfortable and inconvenient growth spurt. We have just begun taking our early baby steps together in this new path, like a couple of wobbly toddlers, and the first time we are required to climb an obstacle, we have stumbled. Of course we have. But what now?
Change hurts. Not just for those trying to hold onto their power, or for those trying to get some power, but for all of us. Change usually costs us something and it is almost always uncomfortable. Even scary.
But when I look back at my life, every change, no matter how painful at the time, has led to growth.
When we look back at our collective past, we have tried to make the changes necessary to ensure all Canadians feel heard. Right back to the Suffragettes, we have made change after change. Often late, but we get there eventually. And we recognize that we have many more changes to make in areas of race, gender, and all the other things that we use to separate ourselves from one another.
Except for when it comes to our racist history. We tend to take a long time to own up to our national mistakes. And apparently, when we say sorry for those mistakes, we mean the kind of sorry that little kids say to get the babysitter off their backs. We don’t apologize, because that means turning away from the behaviour you apologized for. A true apology denotes a desire to change the offending behaviour.
It’s going to be uncomfortable, but somewhere up ahead, we are going to look back and say, Thank god we finally made that change. It was a tough time, but things are so much better now.
If we are serious about Reconciliation, and many millions of us are, then let’s try to support each other. Let’s find some compassion for all those affected by the blockades in all the many ways Canadians are being affected. Let’s commit ourselves to getting through this painful stage without causing more pain than is absolutely necessary. But methinks, some pain is necessary. Maybe this time, the pain doesn’t all land on the First Nations.
Oh Canada, I have always been so proud to wear my maple leaf. But this week, I pulled that jersey over my head with tears in my eyes. For Ms. Baptiste from Winnipeg. For a nation so scarred and blinded by Colonialism, it sometimes feels we will never heal. But I believe in us. I believe we can do better.
I want a government that chooses people over dollars every time. Believe, me I know how naïve that sounds. But I’m okay with you pointing out the weakness of my argument. I welcome it. You can even mock me and ridicule me, if that helps ease your anxiety. But I will hang on to my ridiculous idealism. I will stay here away from the front lines of the blockades or the halls of government while others braver and smarter than I try to deal with the discomfort of the details. I, with nothing but the big picture in my nearly-empty head, will pray for everyone’s safety. I will send my respect and support to all involved and hope that the big picture stays present in every minute negotiation: Who are we as a Nation? Do we really want Reconciliation or don’t we? How do we move forward side by side?
One day, when I am up at my school, I want to be able to look out at those small faces and say to them, that we managed, in the end, to get on the right side of history. That even though it was hard, we put them and their future first.
Monica Nawrocki -