“We cannot walk alone. We are all taking the same route, headed in the same direction, and there is space for us all. Remember that picture of the earth as a globe. It once helped us realise our oneness, kinship and our fragilities. Now, not so gentle reminders shout: ‘We are all on the same boat, fill the holes! Don’t let us sink!’” ~Hossam Fazulla, a film-maker who has made Britain his home because he cannot return to his country for fear of his safety.
How do you even begin to explain to a young child how adults have repeatedly to this day perpetrated exclusion and racism, commited torture, war and genocide on each other throughout human history?
Humans hate other humans. Ugh! Just saying it bluntly like that, well at least to me, is embarrassing. This destructive hatred is a shameful indictment on our species. We hate other humans.
I received a message this week about a little boy who had been poisoned in one of the refugee camps in Uganda. He was given arsenic because his mother had been in a heated conflict with another woman. Now he fights for his life. Hatred’s claws gouging our human story. How do we reconcile these too often occurring actions in our minds? In order to combat hatred some countries have added a category in their criminal codes now called hate crimes. In Canada these are crimes based on a bias, prejudice or hate against people of another race, nationality, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, disability or any other similar factor. Judges now have the added authority to give harsher sentences when crimes committed are motivated by hate.
I realize that I am writing on a topic that will be read by a mostly Canadian audience. It might catch some off guard. After all, Canadians are some of the kindest people on earth, right? That’s the story we’ve told ourselves, we are the sweetest, politest, kindest nation on earth. Perhaps we are. Just avoid reading the news. Last week a twenty year old Canadian man made headlines across the globe when he purposely targeted a Muslim family on a Sunday. He took his newly purchased Dodge Ram truck and rammed it into a family taking a leisurely walk , brutally killing the father, mother, daughter and grandmother. The only survivor of this vicious attack was Fayaz, a boy of nine years, now maimed, orphaned and likely traumatized for life. This crime was perpetrated because of the hatred that he formed and nurtured against those who followed the religion of Islam.
And another recent story….
This time it’s headlines about the discovery of a mass grave of 215 First Nations children near a residential school run by a Christian Institution in B.C . Once more we were in shock, this is our history? Likely there are more graves filled with indigenous children that never made it home to their fathers, mothers and family. Why bring something that happened long ago up now? Well, I for one never heard the stories of what we did to the First Nations growing up in my Canadian education. I need to think about what our history means to those who were forced to give up their cultures, language, way of life, and religious beliefs, not to mention the devastating loss of life, especially all those young children, all in the name of the dominant power. Clearly a deep bias prevailed in Canada among the colonizers, blinding them to the beauty of diverse cultures. Treaties were created and signed that forced a once-proudly-nomadic-people into reserves. They were on the wrong side of intolerance and discrimination and bias.
Over a hundred years of segregation have allowed the seeds of distrust, disrespect and disillusionment to grow among us and especially among the First Nations people. What should concern us today are the lingering intergenerational effects of treaties and policies that can be traced to the late 1800’s. It is common knowledge that disproportionate rates of depression, addictions and suicides exist in their communities when compared to the rest of the population of Canada. The hopelessness is that strong.
It is hard to make the word hatred fit into a precise definition. It is subversive, it can hide respectfully under the guise of patriotism, it can also be extreme and obvious. Perhaps it’s easier to describe it by what we see in front of us today, that all-too-pervasive anti-this and anti-that, anti-colour, anti-gay/queer/trans/bi, anti-Muslim, anti-Jew, anti-Christian, and the list could go on and on. It has become acceptable behavior to be anti-something. I wonder though, where are the voices that say this is not cool! The only ‘anti’ we should be is anti-hate.
Finding workable answers to the healing of hatred admittedly is no easy chore. Moralizing has done precious little. Some say we need to forgive and forget the past. I get that, but before forgiveness is granted, a little anger may be called for. We should give permission to people who have been discriminated against for so long to express their anger. In fact if all good people everywhere voiced their anger over a world prone to hate and violence we might begin to see change. Barbara Holmes, author of Race and the Cosmos: An Invitation to View the World Differently, says that a theology of anger is needed to wake us up from the lull of denial we have lapsed into. She confidently affirms that anger is the correct and healthy response to injustice and that it is irresponsible to forgive quickly “without any acknowledgement of wrongdoing or any attempt to heal the wounds?” Thus she concludes that the first step to creating healing and safe boundaries between the haters and the hated begins with this public and peaceful anger.
Why I care….
The cynics say to care is wasted energy that cannot change a thing. But I am a person of hope, and I have a personal stake in this conversation, my family. I have a grandson who will be well aware of his Jewish heritage. Anti-Semitism is once more on the rise. My granddaughter has Tunisian grandparents. Islamophobia is growing. I have an Asian adopted daughter. People of Asian descent have been of late pushed, hit, kicked and slurred as the cause of the Coronavirus. I also have a gay son. I need not say much about the awful treatment of the LGTBQ community in our world, truly it’s sad. That’s why it’s hard for me to not think about hatred’s harm directed towards their futures, whether subtly or overtly.
Humanity’s new story should be full of diversity. A celebration of diversity might begin with empathy. Empathy happens when we walk in the shoes of another. It begs the question relating to our indigenous brothers and sisters as to how many Canadians have walked in their moccasins? How can we be sympathetic to their plight without any meaningful contact, connection or relationship? The same could be said for our relationships to Muslims, Jews, or LGBTQ communities. Don’t separate yourself from their voices and suffering. Use your imagination and try to understand what they may be going through. It sounds pretty basic, but how many will take that step?
Truthfully, diversity is us! And proper understanding of healing anger with the willingness to engage respectfully with those different from you will go a long way to celebrating our future of diversity. The onus is on us the change the old story of hate into a new story of appreciation, respect and love for our neighbor. There is room and space enough for us all.