Wednesday, March 8, 2017
UPDATED: What The Racists Ignore
I realize that it is essentially pointless to try to argue against those Canadians who harbour fear or hatred of 'the other.' The latest iteration of that debased mental and moral condition is, of course, reflected in demonstrations and hate crimes against the Muslim community, with some pretty vile declarations being made suggesting that they should either die or 'go back to their own country.'
Were I so inclined and the opportunity arose, here is what I would say to those who live in fear that things like sharia law will soon be imposed on all of us, and that they are 'taking over our country.'
I would start with two anecdotes drawn from my teaching career. One, which involved a Christian, occurred many years ago, vivid still in my memory because it was a Parents' Night on the evening following the birth of my son. The other happened many years later, and involved a Muslim.
The Chrisian, who I shall refer to as Mrs. J., was the wife of a Baptist minister, and she came to the meeting in high dudgeon over the fact that her daughter was reading a novel by Robertson Davies entitled Fifth Business. The book was part of an independent reading project in which students made their selection from a wide range of titles. Mrs. J. told me her brother-in-law had given her the book as a gift, something, she said, he should have known better than to do since it dealt with what she felt was a disrespectful depiction of a Baptist's minister's wife.
What was that disrespectful treatment? At the novels's beginning, a boy who turns out to be the protagonist sets into motion a series of events when a snowball he throws hits the minister's wife, the shock of which affects her mentally and induces premature labour.
Mrs. J. then went on to declare that no students should be permitted to read such books, at which point I told her that while she had every right as a parent to request a change of book for her daughter, no one has the right to dictate what others may or may not read.
Fast forward many years to another school, and a phone call from an aggrieved parent. The book in question this time was Flowers For Algernon, upon which the movie Charly was based. There is one small part in the novel that has rather subtle sexual content. The same scenario played out, with a Muslim father objecting to his daughter reading the book (again, it was her own independent selection from a long list of titles). He went on, as had the Baptist Mrs. J.,to declare that no students should have access to such material, and I told him exactly the same thing I had told Mrs. J. all those years before.
What is my point here? In both cases, the children of these strict parents had no problem with the material they had selected. It was, I believe, largely the result of living in a healthy, dynamic, pluralistic society, a society that is bound to exert far more influence and moderation on next generation people than it does on an older generation with more entrenched and often inflexible notions. It is a fact that those who rail against newcomers either choose to ignore or whose profound ignorance prevents them from understanding.
So please spare me the hysteria. I have no patience with those who think of Canada as a society whose values (whatever they may be) and institutions will be overtaken by a particular group or ideology. It is that fear, of course, that propels political opportunists like Kellie Leitch to blow her dog whistle, and it is a fear that, when given voice, is an insult to all of us, whether native born or new Canadians.
UPDATE: In today's Star, Azeezah Kanji writes about people's unfounded fear of sharia law.