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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

What Syrian refugees bring to the table

It's a sad fact -the bullies always get more attention than the bullied.  When we talk about oppressive regimes, or war-torn countries, the people are often the B or C story.  So when we do talk about, say, Syrian refugees, it's in the context of ISIL, or Assad, or war in general.  They are refugees, they are potential terrorists - we view them through the frame of the bully first, rather than focusing on their own narratives.

Back in 2001 while backpacking through Europe, I spent a fair bit of time in the former Yugoslavia making friends and hearing stories.  One story stands out in particular - a couple of English teachers talked about being students when war broke out, and how it slowly creeped into their lives.  They were doing their homework, thinking about the things they wanted to do, the boys that annoyed or intrigued them; the war was an over there thing until one day, a bomb exploded near their homes and blew out their windows.  

The main thing they wanted me to take away - we aren't war people, they said.  We're people.  We want good jobs, and families, and to enjoy our friends.  We didn't want the war and while it has shaped us, it doesn't define us.

It's no different where Syrian refugees are concerned.

We can choose to look at them as victims, or as representatives of a society at war, or as being somehow associated with ISIL - but is that how they define themselves?  What are we losing out if we choose not to understand these new Canadians for what they have to offer as well as what they have lost?

At its best, Canada is an incubator of ideas, solutions, culture.  At it's best, Canada represents the confluence of the best from everywhere else, a salad club of opportunity.

It's easy to forget this latent potential when we focus on what we have to lose.

Thank you to the TSO, Jeff Melanson Kinan Azmeh for reminding us that our humanity is something we have in common, and that in welcoming new Canadians we all have much to gain.

Monday 14 December 2015

Erin Kang: The Anti-Donald Trump

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Erin Kang is a powerful woman, even if she doesn't fully recognize it herself.

She's got presence - she inhabits a room in an unforced way.  Her voice is strong, it draws you in to her words which invariably speak with a raw truth we seldom experience.  Her laugh is infectious.  

Yet she knows how to listen, too.  She cares enough to ask.

Erin's got a mission, too; she wants to disrupt society's status quo, empower those people whose voices are often ignored or silenced and build bridges of humanity between all of us through the power of story telling.

With Stories of Ours, that is exactly what she's doing.

More than just a competent planner and a story-telling facilitator, Erin is a positive force of nature. She puts her mission - the breaking of our status quo by empowering others through storytelling - before all else, which is why she succeeds.

People like her make the world better for everyone.

And on the other end of the spectrum, there is Donald Trump.

Trump is a powerful man.  No, really - just ask him and he'll tell you.  Though he came from wealth and privilege, Trump feels that he's a self-made man, and therefore more worthwhile than pretty much anyone else.

The successes Trump has enjoyed stem largely from his being a bully - he cuts off, insults and works behind the scenes to destroy anyone who disagrees with him.  In Trump's vocabulary, "honest" and "fair" are synonymous with agreeing with whatever he says.

Donald Trump has one priority, and its name is Donald Trump.  He doesn't care about anyone except in what they have to offer him - and that includes the whole of the United States.  Being President isn't about "making America great again", it's about feeding his ego.

His voice is loud, obnoxious and much of what it shares is self-indulgent, petulant or blatantly bigoted.  

The only story he cares about is his own.  Understanding context isn't something he's interested in. You're either for him, or in his way.

People like Trump tend to dominate society's narrative - they have the privileged and the wealth to hog the mic, as well as the inclination to shout down everyone else.

They're the sort of people that say "you're with us or against us" and are prepared to do whatever it takes to get their way - even if it means starting a war, or cutting off heads, or treating fellow humans like vermin.

Trump sees himself as the hero of his own story.  Fair enough; most villains do.

People like Erin, however, are the people's heroes.

And lord knows we need 'em.

Don't Let This Man In

Middle-Eastern male, beard, within the age most likely to be radicalized.

Questionable parentage - where's the paperwork?  What's he trying to hide?

Some questionable associates - criminals, the poor, etc.

Clearly has some history with violence - which means he's likely to commit same here, right?

Radical ideas that clearly don't fit with the mainstream.

Clearly has an agenda - ie, he's not here for us.

Dear Immigration officials - if you see a dude like this trying to get into the country, turn him back.

We don't need his kind upsetting our perfect little applecart, do we?