How we mourn divisive figures

 

There’s an old saying: You don’t speak ill of the dead.

Of course, people use this phrase as an absolute, but it never is. There were no think pieces about Bin Laden painting him as a man devoted to his cause – even if we disagreed with that cause. There were no think pieces about the men responsible for Brussels and Paris. When a criminal gang shoots up another criminal gang, there is no outcry asking to be civil and speak well of them.

It’s interesting how we judge others so harshly for their personal feelings about the loss of a life based exclusively on our own personal feelings. The worst of it tends to fall on those that don’t abide by the niceties of speaking well of the dead.

We’ve seen this become especially relevant as divisive figures pass on in a time when more and more people have the freedom and ability to share their feelings, whatever they may be. The deaths of people like Rob Ford and Antonin Scalia, who lived their lives zealously supporting a way of life that does not benefit everyone equally, especially trigger enthusiastic and often uncivilized discourse between people saddened by his passing and those that are relieved.

People are not two dimensional, though. They have different facets and they show those facets when and where they choose. There is no one in the world that we know completely, maybe not even ourselves. We see what people want us to see and depending on who we are to that person, we will see a vastly different side of them than someone else.

 

So invariably we all mourn differently and for different things. We may well be mourning different people entirely without knowing it. Some see no reason to mourn the deaths of people like Ford and Scalia, citing the harmful political and legal decisions as well as rhetoric that has made their lives more difficult. Some know a kinder side, funnier side, or whatever else to the same person and mourn the loss of that. In an equal society, both of these feelings absolutely must be okay. A free society depends on our ability to differentiate between our personal feelings and a matter of public policy.

The thing that connects us more than anything else in this world is the love we feel for the people closest to us, so though I can’t bring myself to mourn the men themselves, I can empathize with those around them that saw a person they loved suffer, who will carry fond memories and what ifs for as long as they live. That is a difficult thing to do, no matter who you’re mourning.

But a free society must allow people to feel what they feel, and share those feelings in however way they see fit (so long as it is legal, of course). You can’t force someone to be sad for your loved ones just as they can’t force you to be sad for theirs. Personal memories of someone do not make the whole of that person. To mandate that people only speak well of the dead is to do a disservice to the complexity of that person, to the people left behind to deal with and understand that person’s legacy, and to history, which must remember things as they truly happened, rather than the sanitized way it is often recorded.

Our future relies on our ability to walk that fine line because our freedoms only matter if they’re present across the board, not just when we like it.

 

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I’m racist, but I’m working on it

When I moved to Canada, some 14 years ago, it was the first time I heard racism as a word. Growing up in Israel, I had plenty of black friends and never thought of them as even remotely different, so I was pleased that I could check racism off as a non-issue for me.

Then I met an Arab student and was stunned that he wasn’t throwing rocks at me and my family. So, you know, probably not a non-issue after all. As a spent more time in Canada, something else started happening. I could feel it, but I couldn’t quite work out what it was. I would feel guarded if a black man walked by, watch my stuff more closely, even cross the street. It wasn’t even conscious. I definitely didn’t think I was being racist. I was being pragmatic.

Fast forward to today, I’ve attended a #blacklivesmatter protest, I’ve spent literally hours trying to undo the racist knot in the minds of even people close to me, and looking out for institutional racism has become almost second nature to me.

As I think about how to move forward though, I think back to that 13 year old girl. That girl who believed that the only solution to the conflict in the middle east was the elimination of all Arabs (I grew into my sense of irony). That girl, who was changed one day, by the realization that she was a work in progress.

So now, as I try to be a better ally, I realize that it starts with taking a page out of 13 year-old-me’s notebook and calling myself out.

I’m a racist, still. It’s probably mostly in the stuff I don’t notice. Crap I see today as pragmatic that in yet another dozen years will seem completely idiotic. I learn every day of things I thought nothing of that are hurtful to people of colour.

We are born into a world that infects us with this condition and lever lets up, but all it takes is for us to be brave enough to seek out the treatment. It might involve invasive surgery into your psyche, daily doses of brain food, and external help, but it can be beaten.

All of that though, has to start with an honest conversation about who we are.

My name is Tali, and I am a racist, but I am trying really hard to be a bit less so every day.

 

If you have some time, this article walks you through the evolution of racism and its place in history through the lens of a diagnosis and it’s a terrific read.

If you’d like to learn about the history of the N word and how it has come to carry the meaning it does, this is an excellent (and heartbreaking) essay to read. It helps to know why words matter.

If you’re interested in becoming active in combating white supremacy, check out some information about what the community is seeking in their allies. This is a decent place to start, but there is lots out there. Then find a local group, and ask them specifically what they’d like from you.

Why everyone should live in a “poor” neighbourhood

They say money is the greatest equalizer. I think that’s barely even half right. Unfortunately, being rich really doesn’t insulate marginalized communities from discrimination. Really, even poverty isn’t a total equalizer, but it’s about as close as you’re going to get.

That’s why I think everyone should, even if you can afford a “nicer” place, spend some time living in a neighbourhood that people cringe about.

Continue reading “Why everyone should live in a “poor” neighbourhood”

Milestone Partnership between Ontario and Quebec to address Energy Needs Sensibly

Today’s good news story is actually already a week old. Unfortunately, other stuff has dominated the news and Premier Wynne’s remarkable achievement has flown under the radar.

ClŽment Allard / CP
ClŽment Allard / CP

Can I just take yet another moment and bask in this one politician’s effort to restore my faith in politics? Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has joined hands with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard to sign a milestone deal, likely as a way of sticking it to Harper for being a dangerously incompetent Prime Minister who actively avoids the provincial leaders because he doesn’t like them.

The deal eliminates the need for Ontario to build yet another massive, costly, inefficient, and environmentally disastrous power plant. It will allow the funds that were going to go towards building that to be reallocated to real infrastructure needs within the province. It creates a stronger economic tie between the two provinces. It places higher priority on renewable sources of energy. It helps Quebec gain income in ways other than equalization payments and does not put any additional strain on their production as our needs are beautifully complimentary. It allows Ontario to pay significantly less for energy. It puts us a step closer to a national energy plan, even if Harper refuses to join in.

Is more work needed? Of course. Is this a tremendous first step? Absolutely.

Goddamn this is exciting.

More than just victims

There are so many excellent articles out there about the significance of the murder of young Michael Brown and how his case was handled by the authorities.

Here is a very thorough and impartial summary of the court’s findings provided by the CBC. Warning, it’s still pretty infuriating.

The BBC featured some very interesting reactions to the shooting and protests from other nations Here.

The Globe and Mail featured a hopeful article discussing ways in which people have come together to get momentum building to cause meaningful change here.

Even Cracked has done a bit of investigative journalism on the matter, and their results are also pretty infuriating.

There are many many more and now with Tamir Rice things continue to escalate, but that isn’t actually what I’d like to talk about, because black people are much much more than their involvement with police.

What I’d like to talk about is the awesome stuff black people have done when they weren’t being shot dead in the street for the crime of having built in SPF15. Continue reading “More than just victims”