A recent conversation with my 88-year-old mother leads me to ask my fellow Canadians, isn't it time we all lifted the veil?
Our exchange began innocently enough with mum stating that she wished she knew how to forward an email. It turned out that the reason for her wish was that she had received a "really good" email itemizing the reasons Canada should not accept any Syrian refugees.
From there she launched into a verbal tirade on the women covering their faces and how they don't want to learn to speak English. That they expect us to take care of them and give, give, give and how our ancestors came here and no one gave them anything. They had to make their own way. She was on fire.
So I asked her, "Have you seen pictures of the people in the refugee camps?"
"Do any of the women in those pictures have their faces covered?"
"Have people come to this country not knowing how to speak English in the past?"
I went on to point out that we have taken people in from Croatia, Vietnam, Poland, Kuwait, Pakistan, India along with numerous other non-English speaking countries.
"Are you saying that we still take care of all those people and they contribute nothing to this country?"
Then: "Well those Filipinos come and take all the 'caregiving' and nanny jobs."
I had cause to pause but not because I was looking for another angle of attack. I paused because the venom dripping from my mother's lips was a result of such poisoned thinking.
"Nobody gave our ancestors anything, they had to make their own way."
"Mum, people were given land." (I didn't even go into whose land they were "given" -- after all I did want the conversation to end at some point.) "And many people who come here from the Philippines are separated from their families, work long, hard hours and are often treated very badly. Nobody is giving them anything, they are in fact highly motivated to improve their own lot in life and that of their family."
I then pointed out that when she in her holding that viewpoint she was included (named names) people that she knew. Another long pause...
Then it was the way Muslim men treat Muslim women. Ignoring the sweeping generalization and knowing of more than a few non-Muslim men that could learn a thing or two about how to treat a woman, I asked, "Is it not true that not even a century ago women in this country were considered property?"
Then I put her attention on to the family of a young man from a Muslim family that my eldest daughter went to school with. They had come from Kuwait after the first Gulf War. Both parents were university educated and each successful in their own right, in their chosen profession in their own country.
My mother was actually shocked that a Muslim woman would hold a university degree.
Those parents had to abandon all that to come here so that their children would be safe. At one point, the Iraqi soldiers came into their home looking for a Kuwaiti flag. Had they found it, the entire family would have been shot right then and there.
It was folded up in a cupboard in the laundry room and the soldiers missed it.
"Mum, those people in those refugee camps had careers, homes, and a way of life that have been stripped from them and their children are not safe."
That was the end of that discussion. The only reason the conversation came to an end is because her false perceptions had blown off. The purpose of it was to get her to look at what she had gone into agreement with. I didn't even have to point out to her that our ancestors that she claimed were "given nothing" came from wealthy families.
It is interesting to me that she went so far as to "re-write" my family history, both maternal and paternal, in order to justify her attitudes towards people she knows nothing about.
The truth is that her grandfather was a founding member of the Vancouver Yacht Club, owned a hotel that had the Vancouver's first elevator, and she was born in a manor house that stands to this day as a heritage building. That was one side. The other -- indentured Irish!
While we cannot rewrite history as my mother attempted to do, we have a chance to create history in this upcoming election.
Today I was listening to a radio conversation about two schools of thought that were held in the past. One was the philosophy that the body's nervous system is centred in the heart; the other school of thought was that the the brain was the centre. In order to demonstrate to a person who held the "heart" view that the nervous system was indeed centred in the brain, a human body was dissected and the entire nervous system, including the brain, was exposed.
Even with the physical evidence right before the observer's eyes, their response was that they still believed that the nervous system originated in the heart because that was what Aristotle had said.
There goes the "seeing is believing" theory. People will cling to adopted beliefs in spite of strong evidence to the contrary -- unless the door to their mind is opened with well-placed and intelligent questions.
Fellow Canadians, our underbelly is showing and it's not pretty. Ignorance begets hatred and in this day and age with so much knowledge available to us there is no longer any excuse for it.
All of us have experienced times in our lives when we were hastily and unfairly judged. And we have also visited it on our fellows. Who are you? What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of Canada do you want to live in?
Is it one infested with ignorance and intolerance or do you have something much better in mind? For yourself? For your children? For your country? Are you ready to lift the veil?
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