This year has been a gut punch. If we're being honest, it started with the presidential inauguration and has veered steadily downhill since. One can't help but feel like the world has become more sinister with a constant air of unease and anxiety. Truthfully, this has all largely been fuelled by the constant maelstrom that is our 24-hour news cycle. As 2017 limps towards the finish line, we are left with an important unanswered question: where has our decency gone?
Not long ago, optimism and hope were central parts of the international discourse, from the "Yes We Can" attitude in Barack Obama's United States, to our very own "Sunny Ways" in Canada. However, as certain countries begin to look inwards with an eye to isolation, while dark clouds gather on the horizons of others, it seems that the only predictable situation is that of uncertainty. This new normal is becoming increasingly unsettling, in spite of having the luxury of living in an incredibly stable country. Canada's proximity to one of the most potentially destabilizing forces in the world comes at a personal and psychological cost.
It feels like we are collectively hellbent on tearing each other apart.
Importantly, mine and future generations will be greatly affected by the decisions of today. We will be tasked with negotiating the fallout and consequences of actions taken by our current global leaders. Whether this is the disruption of global geopolitics, the rise of fake news, the sexual harassment by men in powerful positions, or the growing inequity between the haves and have-nots, it feels like we are collectively hellbent on tearing each other apart. It also appears that things will have to get worse before they get better, with an international community that is unsure on how to proceed with defusing escalation.
Even Canada, known for its careful diplomacy and soft power, has been forced to tip toe in recent times in order to avoid economic retribution, created by a culture of fear and bullying, by its neighbour and largest trading partner. Domestically, the situation isn't rosier. Sadly, this has been a banner year for hate crime in this country, with the Jewish, Muslim and LGBTQ communities being specifically targeted.
This correlates with a rise in alt-right organization efforts including the Canadian Nationalist Party, the PEGIDA (Patriots of Canada Against the Islamization of the West) group, as well as a member of Parliament — with a penchant for xenophobic populism — receiving endorsements from these divisive entities. Michael Bach, the CEO of the Canadian Center for Diversity and Inclusion, remarked, "We like to believe as Canadians this does not happen here, but the pendulum is swinging."
This is not the Canada I recognize from my youth. However, just like all pendulums, perhaps 2018 will prove to be a year where it swings back towards rationality, inclusion and respect for all people. There are reasons to be optimistic.
The importance of Jagmeet Singh's landmark victory to become the first visible minority leader of a national Canadian political party cannot be overstated. It serves the incredibly important function of educating other citizens that minorities too have the audacity of equality and can contribute in significant leadership capacities to move this country forward.
There is a sense, too, that the tide may be turning in the United States. The election of Democrat Doug Jones to the U.S Senate — in the deepest of ruby red states — is a game changer that narrows the Republican Senate majority, and suddenly puts both the House and Senate in play in 2018. This upcoming year, therefore, has the potential to significantly alter the power dynamics in Washington.
Critically, this recent political Alabama earthquake was made possible by black voters, who have long been ignored by major political parties, especially in the Deep South. These black voters have sent a loud and strong message to the rest of the U.S., and indeed to the rest of the world, that bigoted rhetoric can be extinguished by a collective stand against hate. The math is simple: it all has to do with enough votes. Minorities need to realize that the only way to eliminate the creep against their rights and their futures will be to vote and get involved politically.
We need to focus on the commonalities that unite us instead of divide.
It's time that we say enough is enough, which is why I have begun to write. My first article was a response to a racist rant at a clinic in Mississauga. That experience, along with the outpouring of support and similar stories I received, has taught me that not only do we need to stand up for ourselves and for others, but that this type of situation is more common than we would like to admit.
Ultimately, we need to focus on the commonalities that unite us instead of divide. We need to recognize that there is more that makes us similar than make us different. We need to believe that we are stronger together than apart.
2017 was a crappy year. We have the power to make 2018 better.
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