The joy of bigotry

Posted on November 8, 2007
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            Being an internet junkie with a fair number of pen pals, I get many forwarded messages every week.

            Of those, at least one a week enjoins us all to show our patriotism in reaction to some insult or abuse by immigrants, Muslims, even (gasp) liberals.

            I’ve seen a message from the man whose Canadian soldier son, in a Canadian supermarket, was upbraided by an Iraqi checkout clerk who wanted to know why he was bombing her people.

            No one seemed to notice that Canada isn’t bombing anyone, even in Afghanistan where we actually have a combat role. Someone just took an American message and rewrote it to make Canadians angry at Muslims.

            I’ve seen a message decrying the Canadian government paying far more money to immigrants every month than to senior citizens. It too is pure fiction. A news item about refugees getting a one-time set up grant of almost $2,000 got turned into a rant saying they got that every month plus welfare.

            That one started in Canada, was rewritten and mushroomed across the U.S.

            There are regular messages about how Christians aren’t allowed to pray in school.

            The simple fact is that no one can prevent anyone from praying anywhere. All school administrations can prevent is organized group prayer to one religion’s idea of God. I’m good with that.

            The latest one has to do with a BC music producer, Bruce Allen, ranting on two radio programs about Hindus wanting the Canadian National Anthem sung in Hindi, in addition to English and French, at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Allen is part of the committee organizing the music for the opening and closing ceremonies.

            I’m unable to determine if any Hindu actually asked that that happen. What I am sure of is that Canadian Hindus and immigrant Hindus issued no such collective demand. It is, I suppose possible that some individual or small group did.

            I wish people were not so eager to believe the worst about anyone different than themselves. Nor should people be so quick to believe one fool speaks for all members of that person’s race, culture, religion, or gender.

            Should I believe that all Irish are lazy, shiftless, dishonest, murderous sponsors of the IRA? Should I believe all Irish Protestants supported screaming insults and throwing stones at little Irish Catholic girls walking to grade one?

            Are all Francophones lazy, dishonest, cowardly, welfare-loving bums who won’t do anything for anyone but themselves?

            Oh, and let’s not forget those lazy, shiftless, drunken, Indians who won’t work at all while, at the very same time, are tirelessly killing all the moose and fish and trees in the province.

            Oh, I almost forgot, how about those black folk? What can they do except dance?

            Have I left anyone out. I hope you don’t feel too offended if I did. I’m sure someone had something nasty to say about your heritage.

            Oh, wait a minute! How about Americans? Even the most liberal folk know it’s okay to lump them all together as gun-crazed psychotic bullies.

            The two young Americans from San Diego and the retired lady teacher from San Francisco we met on a train from Venice seemed to hurt just as much as real humans when they were insulted and mistreated by some nasty Italians. The Italians may have been communists. Did you catch me there? Is it possible there could be a decent person who believes in communism? Surely not!

            Let’s not let facts of any kind interfere with our exuberant boarding of the bigotry bandwagon.

            I’m the second generation of my father’s family born in Canada. His older sister was not. We’re of Welsh and Anzac heritage on my dad’s side,  Irish on my mother’s. That helps me see how funny it is when I hear how some whiteys challenge Chinese descendants of men who built our transcontinental railroad to go back where they came from.

            At my age, I’ve heard wave after wave of Canadian immigrants slandered — Dutch, Italians, Hungarians, Indians, East Indians, Pakistanis, Africans, Arabs, Caribbean people and all.

            Here’s a beauty I heard about a Lebanese man in Nova Scotia. “All them Jews are crooked!” a young man told me.

            And that’s about as intelligent as bigotry gets.

            I hate it.

            A Gregory Peck movie, “A Gentlemen’s Agreement” made a big impression on me when I was young. Peck played a reporter who pretended to be Jewish to learn what that was like. It wasn’t pretty.

            However, at one point, Peck’s character says something that has stuck with me ever since. He says that if someone tells a racist joke or expresses a racist idea, and you say nothing, you are part of the problem.

            No race, culture or nationality is inherently evil. All races, cultures, nations and creeds are perverted by evil people.

            No race, culture or creed has a monopoly on decency, generosity, wisdom or courage. No race culture or creed has a monopoly on exploitation, cheating, violence, treachery or idiocy.

            Lest I seem to be just a naïve bleeding heart, let me say I have very firm ideas about Canadian values.

            I am even a monarchist. I believe every Canadian, old and new, should pay respect to the heritage that is mostly responsible for democracy and a system of justice that respects the rights of the individual.

            The U.K, the U.S., Canada and all the countries of the British Commonwealth owe the modern idea of democracy and justice to the Magna Carta and due process. I even believe that it matters that is was accomplished without a massacre of the royal family at any point.

            And, yes, I know it evolved through some horrible behaviour. It is still evolving. That’s the point.

            If you believe in democracy and justice and are willing to respect where it came from, welcome. You don’t have to be a monarchist although I think you should be.

            If you feel you can come here and blow up your home country’s enemies, promote hatred and violence against other races, cultures and creeds and abuse and mutilate your women and children in the name of some insane sect of your religion, I am your new enemy.

            As for you earlier immigrants, please don’t ask me to support and pass on foolish, bigoted, dishonest, chain letters. I’ll do what I can to shoot them down.

            Please remember to treat each individual as you find him or her. Please try very hard to be sure you are the solution, not the problem.

            In conclusion, immigrants are responsible for the wealth and growth of this wonderful country. Their children always seem to adopt values much like my own. I’m very optimistic.



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