SARcasm











{November 24, 2015}   These Are My Children

I am in the process of reading “Between the World and Me”, by Ta-Nehisi Coates and guys – I am struggling really hard. Which I think is the point.

I have always tried to be a good ally to any marginalized community, largely because I’ve been raised to be compassionate, my faith teaches me compassion and hey! It’s just the right thing to do with privilege, is to use it to make sure it gets spread around. Hey, I’ve even gotten the memo that a part of good ally-ship is realizing that it is, by definition, imperfect, and not to assume I have all the answers up here in my (very) ivory tower.

Intellectually, I have understood for a long time that as a society we see coloured lives as cheaper than white lives, and nothing has brought this more firmly home to me than the realization that I am raising young black men – and that I sit there watching them sleep as we see the murderers of Trayvon Martin … Michael Brown … Eric Garner … dear God, Tamir Rice and intellectually I understand “These could be my kids”. Ari and I have had the conversation and have known – if perhaps not understood – that they are going to face some realities that we never have. They will – simply by the fact of being born the colour they are – have racial slurs thrown at them someday. It is not an ‘if’, it is a ‘when’.

And, if they’re lucky – that’s the worst they’ll experience. That doesn’t speak to the police who I had always been taught were there to protect me, but will probably look at my sons with more suspicion than their white brethren in just a decade’s time. That doesn’t speak to the unspoken slights … the dates or jobs or friends they might not get, of course for other reasons on paper but ostensibly for being ‘other’. And the choice between “play nice and be twice as good, or risk violence at the hands of … peers … police … reactionary racists …” – well, I mean …

How do we have that conversation with them? Honestly, in some ways, how dare we presume to have that conversation with them as comfortable, middle class white people who, quite honestly, have been incredibly blessed and privileged – right down to the ability to, quite frankly, adopt our two beautiful boys – by the system that puts them at risk?

This isn’t a new worry or a new conversation – but, only halfway into Coates’ book, I think a new level of personal-ness has crept into this for me. It’s not statistics – X number of young black men shot by police, X number of young black kids being funnelled out of schools and into jails – it’s real people, living their lives scared, every day. Coates’ son is lucky in one sense, to have a dad whose lived those experiences and can talk to him about them honestly, with wisdom and clear eyes. He can look out for his son – in conversation, in example, in brutal awareness of his experiences of the same world.

But how can we truthfully do that when the “world’s” rules – go to school, behave yourself, learn, do well, get a job, get married, buy a house, blah blah blah – seem to have done pretty well by us? But on the other hand … not to  do so could ultimately put our sons’ very lives at risk. We’re not talking hurt feelings and bullying here – rites of passage that everyone seems to experience. We are talking membership in a clan, a tribe, that Ari and I can work our butts off to understand but never be a part of, and as such, never adequately prepare them for.

At the end of the day, I guess, like any parent, I guess for now, we hope our best is good enough. We continue to educate ourselves – honestly, sometimes painfully, even when we don’t want to hear it or think about it.

We continue to challenge racism – whether it is the blatant beating (endorsed by the Republican presidential front-runner, by the way) of a Black Lives Matter protester at a political rally this weekend, or even as seemingly minor as casual, good-natured “jokes” from dear friends and family. We make sure the kids grow up in diverse neighbourhoods, go to diverse schools, are surrounded by a world where they fit in … make sure to introduce them to black culture without appropriating it or tokenizing it … making ourselves available for conversations when they have their first experiences of bigotry, and acknowledging when we aren’t enough, and seeking wise counsel and help. Being aware that, as nice as #AllLivesMatter sounds, it is “White Power” wrapped up with a nice little bow, because if all lives truly DID matter, #BlackLivesMatter wouldn’t need to be justified as a statement or a movement.

It takes a village, and – only halfway through this book, I’m so thankful for mine, and hope to continue expanding it. Let’s all be aware of this – be aware that it isn’t a theory, but a very real, corporeal, literally painful reality – and one we can only hope to navigate … as parents, as a family, and a society … as best we can. I am afraid, but I also agree with President Obama, who said “There’s never bee anything false about hope”. So let’s be that hope, let’s always be willing to call out hate, let’s be open to being called out ourselves, and hopefully we can at least make our little corner of this messy world of ours a bit more loving, a bit more open, a bit more diverse … and a whole lot richer for it. Nothing but love.

 

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Since the events surrounding the shooting of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, MO (details on the incident can be found here and here), I have wanted to write a piece about the realities of raising young black men in today’s world – the world where Brown’s death, and the death of Trayvon Martin remind us that racism still exists, that it is still far more dangerous to be black today than white. But for a number of reasons, I haven’t really felt able to. For one, I have just felt too strongly about it to really be able to string my thoughts together into some narrative whole – it’s been easier to share others’ perceptions that I have found right on.

But perhaps on a deeper level, ultimately, what it has come down to thus far has been this: while our (adopted) boys are mixed-race (born to a white mother and a mixed-race father, is our best understanding), my husband and I are white, and can’t even begin to comprehend the realities they might have to face. While we can make vague claims to having been bullied or mistreated in our youth, in light of recent events in particular this feels woefully inadequate – the reality is, neither of us have ever had racial epithets flung at us. We will never know what it is like for people to assume we must be up to no good, simply because we are (a) young and (b) … well, Not White. Sure, as a woman, some of the bullying I’ve experienced has taken on a sexist/sexual connotation at times, and Ari has had some systemic issues and assumptions to deal with in terms of being Jewish, but let’s be honest – this is a whole different ball game.

That said, today my friend Anne Theriault (who is a phenomenal feminist blogger who writes over at http://www.bellejar.ca) had this piece, on teaching young children about racism, published at the Washington Post today, and in the ensuing discussion she mentioned that she would be interested in my husband’s and/or my perspective on raising children of colour. And while I can’t say I have any more of a cohesive perspective or message than I did beforehand, I thought I would accept her invitation as a challenge, and at least put to proverbial paper the (admittedly jumbled) thoughts in my head on this issue. This isn’t going to be the most eloquent piece I’ve ever written, but roughly:

  • First, I want to second just about everything Anne says in her piece. We are blessed to live in a neighbourhood that isn’t colour-blind, but diverse, and where our boys are ‘different just like everyone else’. Being “brown” can mean you are native, Arab, mixed-race, Indian, or any other number of things – there are a variety of cultures, religions, languages, and just about everything else in the rainbow that is their school, and just that exposure, in their lives, in the media they absorb, in the world they inhabit, is an important step to teaching the ways in which we are all both the same and different, and wonderfully so. In terms of the ramifications of these things – both privilege and marginalization – frank, age appropriate discussions of the ways in which they, we, and others are sometimes lucky, unlucky, and the struggles people can face for being different, can happen as needed and appropriate.
  • Recognizing my own privilege without becoming overly cynical or jaded. I grew up privileged to be able to trust the police. I was always taught that if I was in trouble or lost or scared or needed help, that the police were helpers and I could turn to them. And don’t get me wrong – I know there are good cops out there and it is a difficult and important job, and there are few people I respect more than a good cop who takes their job seriously and does it well. I want my children to be able to believe in those police officers, and trust in them to serve and protect. But the reality is also plain – perhaps plainer now than it has been in years – that this isn’t always the case, and especially for young men of colour. The reality is, someday our cute little brown boys will become brown teenage boys (although this unbiased mother assumes they will still be adorable), and this in itself can create distrust, fear, and yes, let’s call it what it is, hate. Racism. It might not even be conscious, but it’s there. So who do I teach them to trust, to look to for help? At the same time – I don’t want to raise them to inherently DIS-trust police either, or to be belligerent should a situation arise where a police officer might legitimately just be doing their job. But then, just being able to say that feels like it smacks of naivete, and brings home more than ever how I have never and will never live the experiences my sons might.
  • I take some comfort that we live in one of the most diverse areas of one of the most diverse cities in Canada, whose racism at least feels less dangerous, less charged, somehow than that which exists in the United States. But again … I don’t want to be naive about just how far that gets us. Even in Canada, black males are still disproportionately stopped by police in comparison to other members of the population. And even outside of the realities of law enforcement, boneheads exist here too. FACT: someday, somewhere, our boys will experience being called the N-word. Neither Ari nor I ever have, and there in some ways is nothing we can do to prepare them for that day other than breeding a strong sense of self in them, and keeping the lines of communication open – that we are there for them, and that we recognize we will never fully understand their experience, but we will ALWAYS fully try, and we will always support them.
  • And I guess that last is the ultimate thing I would add to Anne’s list. Expose the boys to multicultural and multiracial media, for sure, and ensure that they have friends from all walks of life, not just racially but economically, religiously, ability-wise etc. – but recognizing in the case of our family in particular education won’t be a one-way street. There will be a point where THEY communicate to US their own experiences of race – their experiences of being black children, and eventually, black adolescents and black adults. And it is our job to listen, to understand, to believe and accept the experiences they share, and not allow our privilege – the privilege of our skin colour, of our age, or what have you – to colour our perceptions of their realities. And on that score – the willingness to have our privilege and assumptions challenged – I think we’re on the right track. At least if the gut punch that Ferguson was to me is any indication – both in terms of disappointment in an institution (law enforcement) I’d always been brought up to respect, and more especially in terms of bringing home very potently that it can be dangerous, even fatal, to be a black man not that much older than my very own babies
My boys, ages 4 and 5.

My boys, ages 4 and 5.



Canada-and-the-United-States

 

This past weekend, it was Canada Day here in the Great White North (except, you know, not so white and snow-covered in July, believe it or not! Our igloos have melted!). This is when we celebrate Confederation, the coming together of the first few of our Canadian provinces under a Federal system. It might not be as exciting or sexy a story as our American brothers and sisters to the south are celebrating today – Independence Day – as they fought for their freedom in an outright Revolution, but it still represents our first steps towards our own decision-making as a country, which … while still nominally a member of the British Commonwealth, really, we do to this day.

Meanwhile, today, as mentioned, my American family and friends are celebrating Independence Day, the day they declared independence from the British, and fought long and hard to do so. While freedom is always imperfect, and both the US and Canada continue to struggle towards “a more perfect union”, towards “peace, order and good government”, I still can’t help but think we North Americans have gotten at least a few things right over the years … including the right to point it out, criticize, and elect new representation when we DON’T get it right!

Happy Canada Day! Happy Independence Day!



{June 24, 2013}   Mick Foley on the Daily Show

Mixing wrestling, politics, and an awesome You Tube clip from the Daily Show? These are a few of my favourite things! 🙂 Have to post this on both of my blogs:



Despite being woefully late to this dance I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the last 10 days or so; as this blogging absence has not been the typical ‘busy and distracted’ absence. As I’m sure we all know, last Monday, there was a terror attack in Boston at their annual Marathon. The week that unfolded, as three people died in the initial attack, a police officer was later killed, and a 24-hour+, city wide manhunt resulting in gunfire and explosives Thursday/Friday kept the city, the nation, and the world riveted, frightened, and confused. You could not write a week like Boston just had. And I wanted to write about it – to write about anything else would seem trite and inappropriate – but I had absolutely nothing novel or creative or original to offer. How awful? What monsters? This is surreal? A warning against condemning all Muslims, to not jump to conclusions and assumptions? Lamenting the woefully inaccurate coverage on CNN? It had all been written.

It is now ten days later; it turns out two self-radicalized brothers were the perpetrators. The eldest is dead, the youngest in serious condition but in police custody and answering questions. Memorials and moments of silence have been observed. For all intents and purposes, the nightmare is over, and I have been silent. Here, anyway – as anyone in contact with me on Facebook knows, I have offered thoughts, prayers, condolences, and shared practical advice offered by others for help in a crisis. But nothing of substance here, out of some self-conscious, self-absorbed desire to produce something smart, pithy, emotional, ‘right on’. And now it feels like it would have been better to add even unoriginal words to the chorus, than to have said nothing.

On the other hand, perhaps I can put my tardiness here to good use. As so often happens, there is also the risk now that ‘The Story’ is over that people will go back to their lives while there were still – as of Monday – at least 50 victims of the bombing still in hospital. And more to the point, even as Boston recovers, there are others all over who are ill, injured, organizations which do good work, help that can be given. So I think at this point, I want to offer the following:

  • Let’s not forget the victims mentioned above, and whether or not there might be tangible things we can do to help. Donations to the American Red Cross, donations of blood, etc. are all worthy causes. ‘Thank yous’ to the men and women who kept Boston safe I’m sure would also be appreciated. Just because a week has past and the news cycle is (or shortly will be) moving on, doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there whose lives will be changed forever; they still deserve a place in our thoughts and prayers and – where appropriate – actions. And remember, there is always a glut of donations, both monetary and in terms of volunteer time, blood etc. – to organizations like the Red Cross in the process and immediate aftermath of tragedies; it is often times like this, where there are still people in need but the rest of us are moving on – that it’s most critical to donate. So please give what you can in that regard.
  • While I will by no means and in no way get on any kind of sympathy trip for the perpetrators of this crime, I am thankful that justice seems to have worked out here, that a day in court will be had. In the meantime though I want to express my condolences to the Chechnyan community in particular and the Muslim community in general who I fear might be in for a renewed hard time in light of recent events; I want to praise the many I saw on Twitter in light of this incident reminding us all not to demonize the Islamic community, and I want as well to pray for healing for those in the Tsarnaev family who were innocent – in particular Tamerlan’s 2-year-old-daughter whose life has been changed so much at such a young age by her father’s despicable choices.
  • Let’s not forget the lessons all events like this teach us – the lessons that life can change in a heartbeat, to pursue our dreams and goals, to hold our loved ones close, to spread compassion and to help one another in times of need – Boston exemplified all these things beautifully over the last ten days and have set an example for us all as a city which handled a horrible situation with class, grace and justice. Let’s all strive to be Boston Strong!

Be well. XOXO



Hi guys – it’s been awhile since posting, for a combination of the new job I may or may not have mentioned in my last post, and having been deathly ill for the last three weeks. And I promise to post a longer, more in-depth blog in the next day or two, and be a more regular poster going forward (I now have the next three weeks off, so this should be an easier promise to keep). But in the meantime, I find this video from Bill Maher this week absolutely hilarious. 😀 Please enjoy.



I can’t even begin to process my thoughts on this tragedy today, in which a gunman left 26 people – 20 grade school students – dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, CT. There’s not much I know. There’s not much I can even imagine.

I can’t imagine, first and foremost, as a parent, getting that horrific phonecall.

I can’t imagine, as a teacher, having to face that situation and remain calm, despite having participated in numerous lockdown drills over the years.

I can’t imagine those whose first priority is heading into defensive mode over the ‘gun rights’ that have gone way too far in the United States.

As un-politically correct as this might sound, I can’t fathom, when the gunman ultimately killed himself, why on Earth he had to take 26 others with him on this death spiral. I know this lacks such depths of the Christian empathy and compassion I struggle to embrace, but I have no patience for people who insist on dragging others – innocent others, completely uninvolved in their own personal tragedy – down with them. I have tried to consider and pray for compassion today -for understanding that for this person to commit such inhumane acts his own pain, his own derangement, must have been so great … I am not there. I’m not sure if the world is there.

I do, however, know a few things.

I do know that the discussion about guns in the United States needs to change. Period. That is not politicizing a tragedy. That is ensuring a tragedy does not occur in vain. If this is not ‘the time to discuss it’, then when? And on this day of all days, when in stark contrast to this mass murder, there was a similar mass attack at an elementary school in China. Similar numbers of casualties come up in that case – 22. However, the weapon in the China incident was a knife. The number of casualties actually dead as opposed to wounded? Zero. These are cold hard facts in regards to gun violence. Yes, “guns don’t kill people, crazy people kill people”, in the tactful and tasteful words of Richard Dawkins today. However, crazy people with guns kill more people than crazy people with knives. Those kids in China will no doubt be traumatized by their experiences; but they at least get to go home and hug their parents, have some hope of working through it. They get to live. And anyone who thinks their right to own a gun trumps a kindergartener’s right to attend school safely is themselves in some serious need of introspection in terms of their values.

I also know that I believe in the words of Fred Rogers:  “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster’, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” I look forward to the stories of those who saved lives, those who helped, those who are reaching out to these families. Through all this, may we recognize those who deserve to be recognized, and may their names stay with us long after that of the perpetrator of this evil act.

Lastly – and this might seem small in the wake of all the tragedy, but it bears remembering – let’s remember that the most vulnerable victims here are small children, most not even in the double digits of age. To see, just hours after what I am assuming is the most traumatic experience any (most) have faced in their young lives, reporters interviewing third graders about the tragedy at their school just makes my stomach turn a little. Again … I know it seems small … but please. Let’s not buy into whatever media hype and spin is about to come of this. Let’s let these kids process this and heal in peace, while we focus on the important issues here – comforting the families directly affected while taking a big picture view on issues like gun control, mental health, school security, etc., to at least ensure SOMETHING can come of this, as cold comfort as it might be. And that does not come in the form of the sensation a frightened little 8-year-old might cause with her firsthand eyewitness account of this shooting.

May God provide comfort and healing to all those affected by this tragedy, and may those mere mortals among us – particularly those who make our laws – who are actually in a position to do something about it here and now, please do so.

Hug your children close tonight. XO



{October 24, 2012}   “The R Word”

So here’s something I’m not entirely sure how to respond to.

There was a presidential debate last night, which President Barack Obama handily won. That’s not the issue here though. The issue was the conservative response to the debate.

No … no, that’s not the issue either. The issue is one particular conservative and her explanation for Mitt Romney’s debate performance, as longtime loudmouth pundit (or is that redundant?) Ann Coulter tweeted post debate that she approved of “Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.”

For those who have lived under a Politically Correct rock for years (and happily so), ‘retarded’ is an arcane word for those with special needs, disabilities, exceptionalities. It has long been out of vogue in terms of official use, and has long been seen as offensive as an insult – much like using gay or racial slurs.

Now here’s where I’m torn as to how those of us who find such things offensive should respond. My gut reaction is to respond loud and proud – demand apologies, repudiate the insulting of an entire group of (vulnerable) people to make a political point, insist we be more careful in our use of language, and not stop until Ms. Coulter understands the level of outrage her word choice has caused.

But this is a woman who thrives on the outrage. Who was so offensive to students here in Canada when she came on a speaking tour that they peacefully protested, and she – citing (unfounded) fears for her safety – cancelled her engagements and expressing her disgust at our manners and abrogation of free speech. BOTTOM LINE: she lives to stir the pot and garner attention. The more people she has pissed off (excuse my French) the better.

So what is the appropriate response – give her the attention she craves? Or repudiate her words to indicate our own disgust and disagreement? I feel on the one hand like the best way to make Ann Coulter’s ilk wither and die on the vine is to ignore them, leave them spitting their vitriol into the wind without the responsive audience they so crave. On the other hand – it goes against everything in my being to stand by silent while such hateful language is employed so casually, and even if it doesn’t change her opinion (or that of her kind), it at least establishes it’s not OK.

Perhaps this is why I end up, at times, a less effective advocate than I’d like to be, as I have over the years employed both of the above tactics, sometimes with success, sometimes not. Does anyone out there have any thoughts?



et cetera