Sunday, June 9, 2019

Unexpected

Yesterday something happened that I'm not exactly proud of—but first, I think I need to provide a bit of context.

A few years ago, my best friend introduced me to an old friend of his from high school.  She's lived an interesting life; while I don't think it's best for me to provide details, I can say with certainty that she is well-travelled, creative, insightful, and an interesting person.  We hit it off pretty well, and though we were never close, we did become friends.  She joined the community choir that my best friend and I sing with, and the three of us went out to dinner together from time to time.  I was even part of a small writing group that she coordinated for a time before it fell apart, mostly due to scheduling issues.  Along with our in-person association, we were Facebook friends and followed each other on Twitter (using my other account).

Then, rather suddenly, about two and a half months ago, she abruptly unfriended me on Facebook and blocked me on Twitter.  I still don't know why, and at this point I'm not actually curious, but it baffled, confused, and hurt me for quite some time.  Maybe it was because I made a comment about disliking "cancel culture" and the way that it tends to inadvertently cover up wrongdoings rather than actually hold people accountable for their actions.  Maybe it was because I first "liked," and then subsequently unliked, a meme that she shared that listed a number of reminders for guests of people with pets that seem pretty reasonable at first reading, but at a closer look reveal a surprising amount of hostility and lack of respect for people's boundaries.  I'm sure you've seen similar ones; they list things like "they love me, they're only friends with you" and "I will lick you, so if you don't like it you can leave" and "I live here, you are just a guest".

Anyway, those are the only possible reasons for friction that I can think of; as far as I knew, we had been on good terms before mid-March.  She'd even recently invited me to go to dinner with her and another woman from the defunct writing group at some time to be determined in the near future.  But whatever the reason, before I realized that I'd been unfriended and blocked, I tried to say hello to her at a choir rehearsal, and she just ignored me.  At that point, I realized that something was probably up, and I soon discovered that she'd disappeared from my followers/following lists on Twitter—looking her up while I was logged in revealed that she had blocked me—and she'd also disappeared from my friends list on Facebook.

I was angry and hurt, which is reasonable, considering the circumstances.  I didn't lash out at the time; I just avoided her at choir practice and let our mutual friend know that she had cut me out of her life, though she'd maintained her ties with him, and that I was fine with him maintaining the friendship between them if he wanted to.  And I still am; after all, it's not my place to dictate who anybody should be friends with, regardless of our relationship.  And it's not like the abrupt termination of my friendship with her has anything whatsoever to do with him.  I don't really want to hear anything about her, but it's okay with me if he sees her (though as I said, I am well aware that it is not my place to dictate who he can and can't be friends with).

So.  Fast-forward to yesterday morning, when I was running errands with M., a close friend of mine.  Before we did anything else I had to stop to put gas in the car because it was getting a little closer to the 1/4 tank mark than I'm comfortable with.  While I was refuelling the car, I saw her pull into the same gas station (her vehicle is somewhat distinctive).  I shrugged it off; I didn't think I'd care if we ran into each other when I went in to pay.  After all, I reasoned, she's the one who acted inappropriately.

M. tells me that after I went into the store to pay for the gas, my ex-friend looked over at the car for a moment and then followed me in.  After I'd paid and I was on my way back out, she walked up to me and said my name in a tone of rather obviously fake surprise.

Things have happened in the past year that have made me somewhat less willing to tolerate bullshit than I used to be.  The response was automatic; I was furious!  I turned around and glared at her and said as coldly and calmly as I could manage, "You cut me out of your life without even bothering to tell me you were upset with me.  I do NOT want to talk to you."  Then I left.  I don't know how she reacted to what I said; I just wanted to get the hell out of there.  And I'm very glad that M. was with me; she already knew what had happened back in March, and it didn't take long to explain to her why I was so upset.  She's always been good at making me laugh, and soon I had regained a certain amount of my mental equilibrium.

Was that the right course of action to take?  I don't actually think so, especially given that the values that I try to live my life by are love, compassion, and forgiveness.  I am also aware that my ex-friend has a history of depression, so perhaps I should have been gentler.  Still, it was a very authentic reaction, and the outright hostility with which I reacted to her was a surprise even to me, but I suppose it shouldn't have been.  Regardless of anything that I believe, I am still human and I fail to live up to my own ideals at times.  And while I believe in the importance of forgiveness, I don't believe that "I forgive you" means "it's okay that you hurt me."  Because it isn't okay.

So...I'm not actually proud of how I acted yesterday.  It was petty and rude.  I'm not sure that I would at this time be capable of saying or doing anything else, though, if that exact situation were to happen again.  The hurt is just too recent.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Reclaiming my voice

This post has been a long time coming, I know.  It was never my intention to abandon this blog; but for a time, I believe I lost my voice. 

Not my physical one, of course.  But written?  Absolutely.  It was a gradual process, and one that I think I believed I deserved in some twisted way.  Several years ago, I became involved with a feminist group on Facebook (I know, I know...) that was, at the time, a vibrant and active community, as supportive of all of its members as it could be, and one in which people new to various feminist concepts could learn and ask questions and make mistakes.  It wasn't perfect, because the people involved weren't perfect, but it didn't need it to be.

And then, as progressive communities so often do these days, it went toxic.  I'm not going to go into the details here, but suffice it to say that the group's creator and a number of the moderators left, a new crowd took over, and suddenly things weren't so good anymore.

The group's death throes were painful to witness, particularly when I saw people who I knew to be kind and gentle being called out as toxic trash because they'd accidentally misused words that were new to them or had simply stepped on the wrong nerve at the wrong time.  People who had every right to be mad were summarily kicked out of the group for pointing out that more than one marginalized group of people in the group had been hurt.  Apologies were blasted as "making somebody else's pain all about you" and those who made them were also heavily encouraged to leave.  If someone in the "in crowd" called out someone who wasn't as educated/informed about the group's new focus as they were, and that person responded with confusion and expressions of hurt, that person would be told to sit down and shut up and listen while the real marginalized people had their say.

I learned, gradually, that voices like mine were not wanted or needed, even in attempts to encourage people and especially in attempts to learn anything at all.  (It always came down to "shut up, too many people like you are talking already and marginalized people are not your educational opportunity.")  I learned that because of certain demographics that I fall into, I need to just sit down and shut up and let the important people do the talking.  Doing otherwise meant that I was being a hateful oppressor and I was allowing my voice to drown out the ones that really needed to be heard.

Eventually, as these things do, application of that lesson gradually ceased to be exclusive to that Facebook group.  It bled through to this blog and my (friend-locked and under another name) LiveJournal as well.  I stopped writing fan fiction.  I stopped writing original fiction.  I stopped writing poetry.  I stopped writing, period.

And so I lost my voice.

Reclaiming it isn't going to be easy.  I still halfway believe that I don't deserve to be heard.  That the colour of my skin means that I need to sit down and shut up because the world is already too full of white women with opinions.  I've been complicit in my own silencing for so long that it feels as comforting as it is restrictive.  But there are things that I need to say, and this is my own space; who am I oppressing if I speak here?  I don't get many pageviews anymore, it's been years since I regularly updated, and anyway, I'm not exactly forcing anybody to read what I'm writing here.

So here I am.  I'm still alive, still bisexual (though that is still a serious oversimplification of terms), still Christo-Pagan, still a little bit silly, still perhaps more than a little bit smart, and still perpetually surprised by life and all the wonderful, horrible, and downright bizarre things that it has to offer.  And as I go through the process of reclaiming and refining my voice, I hope that I can offer anyone who reads this something to think about, even if you don't necessarily agree with me.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Canada Day Musings

I have a confession to make: my best friend and I went to see a fireworks display tonight, which is probably pretty damn problematic, because it was in honour of the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

As I write this, it's a little after midnight.  I am sitting in my room, and I hear occasional bangs from other fireworks, which are probably being set off by people in their own backyards.  The display earlier tonight was surprisingly lovely: all bright colours and loud pops and booms.  The local Canada Day committee really outdid themselves tonight.  I have to admit, though, that the commentary provided by the children who were playing close to where my friend and I were sitting was what really made the night for me.  There was just so much joy, and so much fun, in the way that they were perceiving the fireworks display and frequently they made my friend and I laugh with their observations (and, it must be said, their slightly skewed perception of the way fireworks happen in the first place).  It was a good evening, even if Paul & Storm's song about the fireworks-obsessed man named Johnny who accidentally blew himself up was crooning "Way-hey, boom!  And UP SHE GOES!" through my mind for much of it.  :)

The way people have been talking lately, it seems like celebrating Canada is celebrating genocide, and there can be no other valid way to look at it, or else you are a genocidal maniac who dances on the graves of murdered Indigenous children who were victims of the residential school system.  There's a lot of black and white thinking out there; if you celebrate Canada's 150th birthday, they say, you are celebrating genocide (both cultural and literal) and the colonial theft of land from Indigenous people.  You are celebrating an oppressive and uncaring and illegitimate government that doesn't care that Indigenous people have no access to fresh water or health care or quality education.  You are celebrating the oppression of a people and the attempted destruction of their traditions, their cultures, and their very lives.

To be Canadian, then, is to be nothing but a settler and a thief and a murderer.  Certainly nothing to celebrate unless you're a greedy, murderous asshole.

Does it make me a bad person, that I don't really see it that way?

We have racism here.  We have done poorly by the Indigenous peoples whose people were here first.  We have inequality.  We are not perfect.

But we are trying to do better, and I believe that even if we're not there in my lifetime, we carry the potential to be better than we are now.  I believe that even if the government is not sincere in the promises that they have made, many of the ordinary people of Canada are willing to at least try to make things more equitable for those who do not currently benefit from the things that so many of us take for granted.

My experience of Canada is bound to be very different from that of an Indigenous person living on a remote reserve.  Because some parts of my family have been here since at least the eighteenth century (my family name comes from a family who were among the "Foreign Protestants" who settled in what is now Nova Scotia in the middle of the 1700s), and even the most recent immigrants in my direct ancestral line came over about 105 years ago, my experience of Canada will also be very different from that of a Syrian refugee or a recent immigrant who originally came from anywhere else in the world.  Is my perspective any less valid for that?

Can I not be grateful for what I have and what I grew up with while still doing my best to promote a better world for people who have not had my advantages?  Am I harming Indigenous students, colleagues, and relatives (yes, relatives, thanks to some cousins on my mother's side) just by being me and not thinking that I'm a colonialist piece of shit who needs to fuck off and die (or at least permanently fuck off to Europe, though I don't qualify for citizenship anywhere there)?

Is it possible to be Canadian and not have to be totally ashamed of living here?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Potpourri

Last night, when I was talking with my Anglican-born best friend, who is now the music director at a Roman Catholic church (I consider it amusing that we've ended up doing music at churches in each other's denominations of origin), he mentioned that he thinks it's odd that the priest there doesn't believe that God specifically sent Jesus to die.  I laughed and told him, "Welcome to the Catholic mindset."  This might have been a bit of an overstatement, but not necessarily by much.  While what it officially says in the Catechism might be different—and I can't say for sure, since it's been a while since I read it—every bit of what I learned about being Catholic when I was growing up really does seem to include his sacrificial moment as a sort of afterthought.

Sin and hell and all of that were, of course, a part of my religious education as a child and adolescent, but they were never the focus of it.  Neither was what we're told happened at Calvary.  (Well, except for around Lent and Easter Sunday, but that's kind of different.)  The focus was always on what Jesus is supposed to have taught in life—and within that focus, the message was always, "This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you" (as a hymn we used to sing put it).  Even the form of the service seemed to put its emphasis on this: come in singing, hear a few scripture readings (and take part in the responsorial psalm), hear the weekly lecture about whatever the priest had decided was an appropriate topic, pray a bit, sing again, celebrate the Eucharist, sing a bit more, pray again, and go out singing. Even the celebration of the Eucharist seemed to be more of a memorial—"do this in memory of me"—than hammering in the idea of "CHRIST DIED FOR YOU, YOU HORRIBLE ROTTEN SINNER!!!!!"

We were taught to pray, to be kind, to give to the poor, to feed the hungry, to love God and each other, and to live a Christ-like life.  Whether we (or the Roman Catholic Church in general, for that matter) ever really managed to live up to those ideals is up for debate, of course, but that was what we were taught, and I still carry some of those lessons with me.

For all that it's a traditional Catholic belief that the bread and the wine literally become Jesus' body and blood through the miracle of transubstantiation, the sacrificial lamb aspect of the story of Jesus never really seemed to be as front-and-centre as I perceive it as being in many Protestant denominations.  Though admittedly, I could be wrong about the emphasis on Jesus' death.  Still, so much of my childhood religious education was focused on his life that I find the belief that the only reason for his life was to die a horrible death to be...difficult to understand, to say the least.

I guess that part of me will always be, for good or ill, ever-so-slightly Roman Catholic.

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Lately the Norse gods have been calling me.  I don't think that they will ever take me away from my beloved Celtic pantheon, but despite all the negative publicity that the Sons of Odin have been giving the Norse pantheon in recent years, I do believe that there is wisdom and knowledge to be gained there.  While the deity-focused part of my spiritual life is a bit difficult to pin down (to put it as simply as possible, I'm a bit agnostic; I believe that the Gods, if they do exist, reveal themselves to us in the ways that we're most able to understand and accept, and that even if they don't, their stories can still lead us to various real insights and truths), I am always drawn to Goddesses and Gods who are associated with the values of compassion, wisdom, and insight.  And as much as I have heritage that ties me to various Celtic deities and mythological figures, I also have Scandinavian ancestry that links me to the Norse pantheon.  I think that maybe it's time to learn a few things from and about them as well.

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I've also been thinking about the reasons why I turned to Paganism in the first place.

I first heard what I can only describe as the call of the Goddess when I was about thirteen years old, which confused me to no end because at the time I was a pretty devout Catholic.  But (as kids often do, which many adults seem to forget) I had a pretty good bullshit detector, and I couldn't stand hypocrisy.  At about that time, a local Catholic teacher was the defendant in a rather well-publicized trial relating to the sexual abuse of his students.  I had also read several news stories about Catholic priests who had committed similar offenses, and it led to

At about that time, my mother had bought a copy of The 21 Lessons of Merlyn (I know...Llewellyn hasn't got the best reputation as a publisher, and I understand why, but this book did in the end send me down an interesting and challenging path, so I'm thankful for that).  And I had always loved spending time outdoors; I grew up next to a surprisingly large forested area, and I took frequent walks out there, singing so that I wouldn't inadvertently surprise any wildlife that might, er, take exception to being startled by a human.  When I started reading about a kind of spirituality that was more Earth-centred, one that didn't tell me that people were supposed to "subdue the Earth" but instead respect it and be thankful for it...something clicked.  In time, I sought out information about spiritualities that weren't so male-centric and that affirmed that women weren't the vehicle through which sin had entered the world, but that we were every bit as worthy as men to be called by the Divine.

I think I needed that.  And I knew from pretty early on—though for a few years I would deny it—that my path didn't lie solely in Christianity or Paganism, but in some strange mix of both.  It's been more difficult than choosing one or the other would have been.  I won't deny that.  And there are people on both sides of the fence upon which I walk who would say that because I am both, I'm not worthy to be a part of either group—Christians would say that because I experience the Divine as a sort of multifaceted entity (which treads pretty close to a couple of heresies relating to the Holy Trinity, actually) that is One at its centre, but shows many faces to teach many lessons, and many Pagans would say that I don't belong to them either because somehow it's okay to worship Gods from most pantheons, but that it's a HORRIBLE HORRIBLE THING HOW DARE YOU to include Jesus of Nazareth (and of course God the Father and God the Holy Ghost) in worship because Christianity automatically equals evil.

For people who are supposedly free-thinking, there can be a lot of black-and-white thought where anything even remotely Christian is concerned.  I can understand it to a certain extent; I used to think I was superior, too, because I had Broken the Chains of Monotheism and Reached a Higher Consciousness and all that stuff.  I'd learned very quickly to equate Christianity with hypocrisy and hate and jealousy and all sorts of nasty things, especially after the death of Tempest Smith in 2001.

Smith, who was twelve years old when she committed suicide, was the victim of religious-based bullying; she had been bullied for years by her classmates, but eventually the bullying got worse when they learned that she was a Wiccan.  Her bullies used Christianity as a weapon, and eventually she hanged herself in her bedroom.

While I had never been subject to anything even remotely similar to that kind of bullying, I felt that this reflected very badly on Christians in general.  (I was eighteen at the time.)  And then, later that year, the infamous September 11 terrorist attacks happened, and I heard so many Christians blaming all Muslims for the actions of a hate-filled few.  Even my own father did; at the time, he was a big fan of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and other hateful conspiracy mongers of their ilk.  In my disgust, I turned even more determinedly towards Paganism, developing some rather bitter feelings towards Christianity as a whole.  It took years, and the invitation of a friend to join the Anglican church choir he directs, to really start resolving those.  And in the past year, since my best friend became the musical director at a Catholic church, I've attended Mass a handful of times and plan to do so again.  It has proven to be extremely thought-provoking.  And though I don't think I can ever completely go back, as I said earlier on, some part of me will always be Roman Catholic.

I think that in the past year, I've come closer to being the Christo-Pagan I've always claimed to be, rather than a Pagan who regularly attends Anglican church services.

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I killed a forest tent caterpillar while I was writing this.  It fell from the ceiling, narrowly missing my mug of tea.  Almost reflexively, I squished it.  I'm not sure how it even got in the house.  As much as I know that in large numbers, they're really bad for the trees (as in they can kill them if the trees are defoliated too many times in a year), I actually feel bad for having done that.

Funny, that.  I have no problem with swatting mosquitoes or blackflies, but squishing a caterpillar evokes feelings of guilt.  Maybe it's because the caterpillar, on its own, presented no danger to me or even to any of the houseplants.  Mosquitoes can spread disease, and their bites are painful and, later, painfully itchy.  Blackflies can spread disease as well, and their bites are every bit as itchy and annoying.  But caterpillars...they're relatively harmless unless they show up in long-term infestations.

And just before my mug came down on top of the caterpillar, it looked at me.  That freaks me out a little.

At least I gave it a quick death.  Still, conscience can strike at the weirdest times.  This may not exactly be a major moral quandary, but it's got me thinking all the same.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Protests and Pink Hats and Safety Pins...Oh, My!

Given the events of the past few days, I suppose that it's entirely understandable that I'm thinking about various Women's Marches and the reasons for them.  I'm also thinking a bit about something that may seem a bit frivolous at first look—those pink "pussy hats" that so many people have been creating and wearing as a form of sartorial protest.

I've been reading a fair amount of criticism directed at those hats lately, just as there was criticism directed at the wearers of safety pins a few months ago (Can it really be that long?) when they were adopted as a sign that the wearer is a safe person for people who belong to marginalized groups to be around.  The general thought seems to be that visual signs and symbols like this are useless and perhaps even a bit insulting, since there's no guarantee that the people who make use of them are sincere; also, these symbols seem to take up too much space, physically and mentally, without actually giving a direct reference to the things that they're supposed to signify (especially when the people who adopt them most widely tend to be white and therefore they put people of my race front-and-centre when perhaps we shouldn't be).  And of course there's the risk that the visual references will overshadow the very things that they're supposed to represent, which is counterproductive and also kind of horrible.

I admit that these are valid criticisms, but I also have to think...what if the safety pins and the pink hats and the more theatrical aspects of peaceful protests can also serve a useful purpose?

When I see someone wearing a safety pin or a pink "pussy hat," or when I see people getting involved in a march or singing songs or chanting protest slogans with or without a drum circle, I see someone whose ideology is most likely at least compatible with mine, though we may well differ on the specifics.  It's the same when I see someone wearing a pentacle or a cross (or a crucifix—I do come from a Catholic background, after all) or a seven-pointed star.  There's value in that.  Seeing people openly wear a symbol of protest or safety gives me hope.  It reminds me that there are in fact quite a lot of people who disapprove of the direction that things have been going in lately, and I can see one of them standing right in front of me.  I know that regardless of any other differences we might have, we can support each other in this particular issue, at least.

While the symbol and any accompanying protest actions should by no means take the place of the things that people are trying to say and to accomplish in the first place, I do think that they have their uses.  They energize people; they remind us that things are not all inevitably going to be horrible.  They give a bit of hope to people who may be frantically trying to tell themselves, "it's pretty scary now, but maybe it will someday be okay."  They can help to fire up people's enthusiasm, sometimes more than solemn repetitions of the reasons why Things Are Disastrously Wrong can.

As anyone who's been reading this blog for long enough knows, I have had problems with depression and anxiety in the past.  (There is a point to referencing this, I promise.)  Sometimes my mental health can still be surprisingly shaky, and I have several friends to thank for the stability I do have, especially my best friend.  And frankly, it isn't very helpful to always be hearing a ceaseless commentary about the terrifying state of the world and the great evils that everyone must be willing to fight until we have no fight left in us.  Enough of that talk, and I become too discouraged and afraid even to leave my bed, never mind the house.  Since a lot of people think that the only real way to make a difference is to lead loud public protests, shove petitions into people's faces, and generally be a pain in the ass to the Powers That Be, that's...not useful, really.

I need some of that joy, some of that hope, some of that public group enthusiasm to remind me of precisely why we need change.  I need to see that there are like-minded people out there who are willing to do things—maybe not great and extremely visible things, perhaps just "small things with great love," and I'm sure that I'm going to be writing another rant about the way that activists assume that they're the only ones who work to make changes, but that's a topic for another day—to make this world less frightening and depressing.  And I'm sure that I'm hardly alone in that.  As long as these symbolic and fun things don't take over, and as long as they're not the only things that people do to accomplish what they say they believe in, that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

They shouldn't take over, of course, but they should have some kind of place.  Not everyone is able to keep things totally serious and solemn and perfect all the time.  Nor should they have to.

As for me?  I'm not an activist; I'm a subversive.  I do small things and hope that they can help in some way.  And after I'm finished crocheting my grandmother's birthday present (a bright pink blanket to help brighten up her new home), well, perhaps I'll have enough yarn left to make a cute pink hat of my own.  It's not really my colour, but I think I can deal with that.

After all, it's not the only thing I'm doing, and who knows?  Perhaps someone needing encouragement, perhaps someone who is of a more activist bent than I, may see me and be glad to know that they are not alone.  That somebody has their back.

There's value in that.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Companions on the Journey

I've had a lot to think about lately, and this blog—half forgotten even by its authoress—seems like a decent place to start writing it out.

First, the obvious: it's been a little over a week now since my American neighbours' disastrous election, in which the outcome that I, and many others, had feared actually did come to pass: the angry, shouty jack-o-lantern with a straw hairpiece became the next in line to be one of the most obviously powerful people in the world, and it was of little consolation that he didn't seem to actually want it.  My guess is that he had actually planned to lose and then make a big stink about a rigged and corrupt system that didn't give him what he said he wanted.

He didn't figure, I suppose, on his platform of hate, suspicion, greed, and fear being enough to carry the day.

I've heard of deaths, mostly suicides, in connection with his win, because people who were already bigoted felt freer than they have in years to torment people who are part of already marginalized populations.  This is even happening up here in Canada; the bullies have always been here, of course, but they have become bolder.  I haven't heard too much of anything happening in my neck of the woods, yet, but given the relatively high levels of racism here, it's probably only a matter of time.

It's been difficult to see what's been happening practically right on my doorstep, knowing that there was very little I could do (since it's not my country) to help avert it, and yet feeling like I share in the blame.  By and large, white people—including a majority of white women—were the ones who voted him in.

If anyone from a Roman Catholic background reads this, they will probably recognize the title of this post as the name of one of Carey Landry's better-known hymns.  (Indeed, this is one that, when I was growing up, popped up at Mass so frequently that even now, many years after I ceased to be a practising Catholic—though I've been to Mass a few times since my closest friend became the organist at a Catholic church earlier this year—I could still sing accurately in my sleep.)  It's been on my mind quite often in the last week.

Actually, my mental playlist since the American election has been quite interesting.  It's also included Melissa Etheridge's "Pulse", "Service" (another childhood favourite hymn), "Let There Be Light" (one that I've learned since I started singing with my Anglican choir), John Farnham's "You're the Voice", and  (somewhat oddly, I admit) "I Walk With the Goddess" and "We Won't Wait", the last of which is widely accepted as the Pagan national anthem.  (Confession: I've been listening to "You're the Voice" for the last several minutes.)  

Aside from "I Walk With the Goddess," though, I think I do sense something of a theme to these songs that have been occupying so much of my mental real estate lately.  The idea that we're all in this together somehow (even "We Won't Wait" refers to taking action to safeguard the Earth, even if it is in terms that imply that neopagans are the only people who care enough to save it because everyone else, especially Christians, are huge assholes who just want to burn and pillage it) is a powerful one.  I suspect that if the world is to survive what's coming, if Trump and his handlers do act on even half of the regressive policies that they're already talking about, there's going to have to be a hell of a lot of cooperation among the people who oppose them.  That's going to mean that a lot of the divisiveness (including, by the way, the not inconsiderable issues caused by white people who think that we're at the centre of all things) that has plagued progressive movements is going to need to be dealt with.  Otherwise it's going to be a fun little game of "Divide and Conquer" while one of the most powerful nations on Earth slides into fascism.

We need to care for each other.  We need to act with justice, as much as we're able.  We need to resist the temptation to see anyone who's different as automatically an enemy, stop instantly condemning unfamiliar people as garbage.  Above all, we need to love, and to act on that love in every possible way.  As a very wise friend of mine recently said, in the end, that may well be what saves us.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

An Extra Reason to Care

When I was working on my teaching degree, I had to take a class on educational law. It was an interesting subject, if a bit dry, and I always looked forward to that class.

 The room was set up with a number of round tables, likely in order to facilitate discussions (and there were many). This was helpful during group work, of course, but if you were unlucky enough to have to sit with your back to the front of the room, it could be a bit of a pain during lectures!  At my usual table, I normally sat with two other women who happened to come from the other two Abrahamic religions.  Looking back, it seems almost like the setup for a joke.  ("A Christian, a Jew, and a Muslim sit down at a table...")  But the three of us got along extremely well, and I suspect that if we'd been able to spend more time together, we would have become very good friends.  As it is, I think of M. And V. often, even now, and I hope they're well.

Especially V., these days, because she was the one of the three of us who was Muslim.  And since the attacks in Paris a couple of weeks ago, all the things I've heard of happening to Muslims, especially women—I hope that she will not be targeted for abuse.  In my years of postsecondary education, and in the years since my formal studies ended, I have met many people who are Muslims, or who at least come from Muslim families.  And every single one of them is a reason why I care about the discrimination which they face, and why I'm fairly vocal (elsewhere, not necessarily on this blog, if only because I've been neglecting it in recent years) about saying that Muslims are not the enemy: hate and fear are.

But let's get one thing straight here: I would still care about what's happening if I had never met these people.  I suspect that there's a lot of that behind other people saying, "Of course I care!  I know someone who's [insert marginalized identity here]!" as well.

I must admit, it annoys me a little when people accuse others of not caring enough because they've stated that they care about any given issue because they personally know someone who's affected by it.  Or saying that these people's caring is selfish or superficial or just an attempt to avoid examining privilege by hiding behind a marginalized friend, acquaintance, or family member.  And maybe sometimes it is.  I won't pretend that I think everyone's motivations are always perfectly progressive or altruistic all the time.  That would just be hopelessly na├»ve.  But I am willing to entertain the idea that knowing people who are marginalized in some way gives people who do not share that experience an extra reason to care, or maybe that initial impulse to do so in the first place.

It's a very human thing, I think, to be more engaged in a cause, or to be more open to certain ideas, when you know someone who's personally affected by it if you aren't part of that population yourself.  People need connections.  And that's not purely selfish; it helps with understanding to be able to put a human face on something that, to you, might have once been a far more abstract concept than it is to someone who has to live it.

So when I hear about discrimination against Muslims, I think of V.  And because she was one of the first Muslims I ever got to know particularly well, she is one of the reasons I care.  But she's not the only one, and I don't believe that the personal connection makes my caring less valid.  As long as I don't try to pass myself off as some kind of expert or authority just because I know people who answer a particular description, how is that personal connection a bad thing?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

I'm still alive!

It's been quite some time since I last felt like writing here—inspiration has been fairly rare of late.  But I've missed this blog, and I think I'd like to get back to it.

Few of the good things have changed.  I'm still singing in my church choir, still a practising Pagan, and still working with young students who are having trouble with reading.  My depression is still (mostly) in remission, though I've had a few small flare-ups and I'm still dealing with a certain amount of social anxiety and negative thought patterning.  Overall, life is good.  And if I return to my writing as I want to, it will only get better. :)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Please don't be THAT Vegetarian.

Before I get to the rest of the post, I want to make something clear.  I like vegetarianism.  I tend to lean that way myself, but for various reasons, going vegetarian full-time is not currently a good idea for me.  Yes, I've thought seriously about it (and tried it, which did not go well for my health, mental or otherwise).  No, I have not closed my mind to the possibility that I might do so in the future.  Yes, I agree with most of the ideological reasons for becoming a vegetarian.  No, I really, really don't think that all vegetarians are like this.  Most of THOSE Vegetarians I've met are ones who have recently adopted this eating style and I think it's profoundly unfair that the people who exemplify the idea of THAT Vegetarian are able to give other vegetarians, and those of us who are predominantly vegetarian, a bad name.

This post is the product of a fair amount of frustration caused by a few too many recent encounters with people who have been, often in more than one way, THAT Vegetarian.  I repeat: I do NOT think that all vegetarians are like this.

THAT Vegetarian is the one who never misses a chance to educate people about the benefits of vegetarianism, regardless of whether such education is necessary or welcome.

THAT Vegetarian is the one who dismisses as mere excuses the reasons why a vegetarian diet is not always ideal or even suitable for all people.

THAT Vegetarian is the one who ignores the psychology of eating disorders when pointedly saying, in a conversation in which a person has made note of their own eating disorder and stated that putting that kind of limit on their eating habits did indeed make it worse, that there is never any good reason to be willing to consume animal-based foods. 

THAT Vegetarian is the one who believes that omnivorous diets are a sign of a less-evolved and enlightened mind and never lets anybody forget it.

THAT Vegetarian is the one who won't rest until they've converted the entire omnivorous world to their way of eating.  (I've said it before and I'll say it again: you can't annoy people into believing that you're right.)

THAT Vegetarian is the one who claims that going vegetarian is a great way to lose weight and that there's no such thing as a fat vegetarian.  (Hint: this is not true.)

THAT Vegetarian believes that being vegetarian makes them superior to the rest of us, and won't let anyone forget it.

Please don't be THAT Vegetarian.