Activist Raymond Taavel, who was killed on Monday outside of a Halifax gay bar, was a man of sincerity, compassion, urgency and persistence. If he had been at his own vigil, held April 17 on a closed-off block of Gottingen Street in Halifax at the site of his death, he would have been full of energy, emotion and hope.
He likely would not have delivered a speech, but he would have been pulling strings in the background, coaxing would-be speakers and anyone else in the crowd with key messages. He would have done it all with his trademark combination of sincerity, compassion, urgency and persistence.
Taavel had a passion for positive influence. After the vigil, he would have provided anyone in his presence with his wrap-up; soliciting points of view and offering mandates as next steps. Taavel would have tempered the vitriol and anger in each of us spurred by his cruel death with words of compassion, caring, and understanding.
He would have shown a path to hope and demonstrated a determination to ensure such a tragedy would never happen again. He would not have accepted anything less than agreement to join a peaceful path. Each of us would be subjected to his trademark combination of sincerity, compassion, urgency and persistence.
Taavel would have been the first to broaden the conversation to be more than a polarization of hate vs. gay. He would argue that decades -- even centuries -- of systematic oppression of women, races, the mentally ill, the poor and others are as much to blame for his death as homophobia. Taavel knew it will take generations to fix oppression but he would not be deterred thanks to his trademark combination of sincerity, compassion, urgency and persistence.
Taavel would carry the torch for the commemoration of this tragedy. He would very humbly and quietly make sure it stood for something. He would make a courageous leap of faith that it could somehow be a symbol of some kind of positive progress.
He would exploit it to broker new conversations with key decision makers. He would target "the system" not with criticism, but with critical thinking and dialogue. He would not hold people accountable. Instead, he would show them how they could be an instrument of positive, systematic change.
Taavel would show us that the 32 years of his killer's life were, in all probability, as painful as the moment his head hit the concrete. Taavel would argue that chances are very good that the very things he fought against were the sources of this pain. He would be angry at those sources, not his killer, not the mental health system. He would do all of this with his trademark combination of sincerity, compassion, urgency and persistence.
There is so much to really, carefully, understand in Taavel's tragic death, and because it's what Taavel would have wanted, we must. The greatest way we can honour his lifetime of amazing dedication and accomplishments is to live in and abide by his spirit, and forever exhibit his trademark combination of sincerity, compassion, urgency and persistence.
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