I am Canadian.
I'm half German, some Swede, some Welsh . . . you know. A typical non-aboriginal descendant-of-immigrants Canadian.
And I'm not speaking for anyone but myself when I say that I have struggled with being proud and ashamed as a Canadian.
I grew up in an atmosphere of subtle and sometimes not so subtle racism.
It took a long time to realize it, because what you grow up with is your normal and it doesn't occur to you to question any of it until you are a certain age. Plus, I grew up with good people who would be horrified to think of themselves as racist. But in every social construct of my world, racism was a basic tenet. I slowly became aware of the reality of what other people were experiencing in Canada.
For me, it wasn't enough to understand and acknowledge my white privilege. Something inside me still felt like I was lying. I had to acknowledge that I am racist. That felt more truthful. And it made me work harder. It was not enough for me to say, "Yes, I have white privilege." When I admit to myself that I have been infected by the ambient racism floating around me, I am vigilant about watching for it in me. About expunging it.
Last Thursday, I watched the Prime Minister of Canada admit to the United Nations Assembly - and the world - that our country was/is racist. And I felt relieved. Like someone had finally shouted, "Hey, there is a big ugly elephant in the living room and we are just now deciding to get off the couch and do something about it." I felt hope.
I don’t pretend to know what it feels like to be First Nations, Metis or Inuit. I see only that this country needs to rethink everything. And the more we talk, the better. Not that there isn't a time for action, but madly off in all directions comes to mind when I think about this huge country trying to move somewhere together.
So I turn to the Truth and Reconciliation movement. For me, the Truth has been me educating myself about Residential Schools and the ongoing fallout of it all. I hesitate to talk about it because you can't encapsulate this in a few words and it feels so disrespectful to try. I sat and listened to a member of my community tell his story about Residential School and it was a profound experience. I was humbled by this man's generosity to even share his story with a circle of non-aboriginal neighbours.
But there is also Reconciliation. Moving forward together. We really do have to rethink everything and that is going to take a lot of talking.
But I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know how to declare my simple desire for change and justice for all of us without getting caught up in the maelstrom of shouting, name-calling, and finger-pointing that has become the norm in this country.
After I listened to the Prime Minister's address yesterday, it took all of thirty minutes for me to feel deflated again. His delivery is too polished, there was no real content, he ignored everything else, he is a hypocrite, he was only pushing his secondary agenda . . .
I did not vote Liberal, but this is my Prime Minister and since I sure don’t want the job, I’m behind him because he's willing to try - mistakes and all. I don’t always agree with my friends and family, either, but I don’t go on the internet and write diatribes about how evil they are.
I know that I'm not smart. I am not cerebral and eloquent, but I don’t see the constant criticism of others as a measure of intelligence, as many people seem to.
I also know that I am not an expert in any field and that people are passionate about their particular causes and in this moment, other causes were put aside. But we can't ignore this issue any more. I wonder what would happen if we could stop criticizing for a moment and just lean toward the light, together.
Thursday, I felt a flicker of hope. And I'm determined to keep that little flame alive in my heart. Maybe just choosing to believe the best once in a while is the start of change.
Maybe that's where reconciliation begins.