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Pickle Me This

April 16, 2019

For This Moment

After listening to a discussion on Metro Morning about a new poll showing that 42% of Canadians “think there are too many non-white immigrants” coming to this country, we left the house today having a conversation about how baffled we are by people’s attraction to this kind of right-wing populist thinking.

I mean, on one hand I get it—here, there is certainty, as well as apparently enticing conspiracy theories on YouTube. It’s about something to belong to, someone else to blame for our disappointments, easy solutions to difficult problems, and it’s easier to just lock the door altogether rather than do the painstaking work of community. Scapegoating an “other” is a great shortcut to community really, or at least its illusion, keeping people from worrying about the problem of how to get along with the neighbours you’ve already got, the ones whose skin tones are the same as yours. I thought about this a lot when Kellie Leitch was going on about “Canadian values” during her failed run for the PC leadership, and considered how far apart her ideas are from mine about so many things, and yet this country has room for both of us. This, I’ve always figured, is kind of the point of this country.

So I get it, but I still don’t get it, how it might be possible to fall under the spell of this kind of dangerous rhetoric.

“I feel like everything important I’ve ever been schooled in was actually training for this moment,” I told my husband this morning on our walk, who said he felt the same.

And it’s not that either of us grew up with deeply progressive values in our families, or in places that were remotely cultural diverse. But it was in the stories I was raised on about my grandfathers fighting against tyranny in World War Two, and lessons learned from the Holocaust, and even Hiroshima. About the brutality and waste of war, the horrors of genocide, of human beings’ capacity to do evil things others. The dangers of nationalism, Japanese internment camps and an immigration policy that was, “None is too many.” (It would have been Indian Residential Schools too, if we had learned about them in schools, which we didn’t, but now kids do.) It was in “Never Again” and Remembrance Day ceremonies, and the wreaths I watched my grandfather lay at cenotaphs to honour fallen soldiers and freedom and democracy. It was in the Underground Railroad, and the words of Martin Luther King Jr., and the books I read, from The Diary of Anne Frank to The Cat Ate My Gymsuit and Iggie’s House. It was what I learned about the atrocities of history, and the necessity to be our better selves, to stand up against injustice, and the fact that one day we might be called upon to choose one side or another.

Didn’t you also imagine Germany in 1933, what side you would have been on? Didn’t you also say, “I’d never have let that happen”? Do you also look around at this moment and see circles where racism has become acceptable, people with dangerous ideas being elected into office, leaders undermining democratic values and institutions just because they can—and they’re even supported? Abortion bans as a harbinger—honestly, did none of these people read their Paula Danziger? We’ve got to stand up now, simply because we can’t do it any sooner.

4 thoughts on “For This Moment”

    1. Kerry says:

      Thanks, Dora.

  1. Drew says:

    This is everything that’s been cycling & circling in my mind! (Well, I hadn’t made the connection to “The Cat Ate My Jumpsuit” — but I did love that book, and had forgotten about it ’til now).

    Thanks for articulating what I’m feeling.

    1. Kerry says:

      Glad I’m not alone in this.

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