I’m going to be frank here: there’s a lot of scary stuff going on in the world right now. There has been hatred and violence and oppression in the world for quite some time, perhaps even for the entirety of human existence. But never in my lifetime have I ever felt it so close as I do now.
I have always trusted in the power of good to win out over the power of evil. Those I looked up to were moral, and the teachings that I heard in class, at home, through my country’s ideals, and in Church were of acceptance, tolerance and love.
I’ve always been an emotional person. Hearing about hatred and extreme acts of violence and evil in far away lands made me very upset. It was wrong for anyone to be treated in such a way. But it was easier to distance myself because I couldn’t see it directly and that was “how things are over there.”
In the Western world, whether or not you or I have always agreed with our political leaders, those in power have always seemed to stand for justice and overall equitable treatment of individuals. There is a common thread among us all, linking us through our humanity. That thread was widely accepted regardless of partisan stances and differences of opinion. Now there seems to be an alarmingly large group of people who don’t believe it is necessary to respect this commonality. “Us before them” is spreading. And the people in power of our neighbours to the South are propagating this. It is frightening for me to see, and I am not in any form of danger. To look at me, I would be part of the “us.” I am not a threat, therefore I am not threatened. But “they” are not a threat either, and yet “they” are threatened. Earlier this week, I was horrified to hear of the Executive Order banning people from Muslim countries from entering the United States. I have continued to be horrified hearing of the chaos it has caused in airports around the world, and in the homes of innocent families that were immediately affected. This is not the first policy this week to degrade a widely diverse group of people to objects in the name of some “moral” political code. But this is the one directly playing on fear to advance an agenda filled with hate.
The response from American citizens (as well as many voices across the world) has been swift, speaking up for the rights of immigrants, refugees, and Muslims and denouncing hateful rhetoric. The American Civil Liberties Union and numerous federal judges have taken action against the EO. Those fighting the hate are not stopping. That is one thing that has helped me stay sane: I know there are people standing up for love and standing against hate. I know that those people outnumber those spewing hate. I am proud of them and still proud to be part of this world, knowing there are so many people who value the humanity of others.
But it is still scary. Today, it seems as though the hateful rhetoric spilled into Canada (not to say it was never here at all, I am not naive). There was an attack at a mosque in Quebec City. At least six innocent people were killed while taking part in prayers. As hate crimes in the US skyrocketed in the days after the election of a discriminatory, xenophobic, sexist, hateful dictator, hate crimes against Muslims and vandalism of mosques came with the “Muslim Ban”. No matter how many are fighting on the side of good, if the people in power are saying hateful things and ordering discriminatory action, those with prejudice and evil in the hearts are enabled and emboldened. “If the President says it…”
Maybe the next four years are just going to keep resisters on their toes. Maybe the hateful policies and rhetoric will be matched with protest after protest and a strengthening of the bonds we all share as human beings to oppose hate. I try to be optimistic. The phrase “things will get worse before they get better” comes to mind. I hate thinking about it, because people should not be used as pawns to help the rest of the world learn a lesson. But if we do band together to actively fight injustice arm in arm for the next four years, we may well come out a more loving and tolerant society.
In moments of tragedy like we witnessed in Canada tonight, there tends to be an outpouring of “thoughts and prayers.” People publicly make note that they have acknowledged the tragedy, and they move on, feeling like they have done their part. But this does not fight injustice. This barely makes an impact. When I say “actively fight” of course I don’t mean to literally pick up arms and battle. What I mean is that we can’t sit idly by while we watch our neighbours be victims of hate. We have to be ready to stand up to injustice and say “this is wrong. This is not what we stand for.” We have to love so fiercely that there is no room for hate. We have to go back to that elementary school Ghandi lesson: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
You wish for a loving world? Be a loving person. You wish for a tolerant world? Be tolerant. You wish for a safe world? Help to make the world safe for those around you. You wish for a cause to be acknowledged? Advocate for it. You wish for change in policy? Call your local government representative. You wish for grassroots action to be taken? Take it.
I believe we can get through this. Together.
(And maybe every once in a while, we should turn off twitter. It won’t help anyone if we all lose our minds. 😉 )