Where do we draw the line between morbid curiosity and genuine concern? Each morning as I read the newspaper and then watch the news on television later in the evening, I find myself torn. On one hand I want to remain informed but on the other hand it’s making me feel ill. Watching the horror show on the American political scene is like driving past a fatal car accident. Should we just politely look away and drive on (after all, we’re Canadian and it’s not our problem) but we find ourselves wondering how two cars driving in the same direction on a sunny day on a straight stretch of double lane highway could possibly have created such a tragic mess.
Then, as I watched the news on television last night, they described a vicious racial attack on a young woman and her mother who were shopping at Hurontario and Dundas Streets in Mississauga, not far from my own home. The young woman, who had spent her entire life in Canada, was physically assaulted while verbal racial slurs were repeatedly shouted at her and her mother, traumatizing them both.
Every single one of us is the product of immigration, regardless of whether we are white, brown, yellow or any variation of colour. Even our indigenous people once crossed the Bering Strait or the Pacific ocean to populate this continent. The Greater Toronto Area has tripled in size and prosperity since I moved here from small-town Ontario more than fifty years ago. We have immigrants to thank for fostering this growth by providing the human resources to run our farms, provide us with service workers, teachers, health care providers including doctors, scientists and technicians, for launching small and large businesses and for building a country of tolerance and acceptance.
I’m very concerned that the new order south of the border is bringing the haters, racists and extreme right wingers out into the light of day in our own country as well. The alarming new attitudes and policies being accepted as mainstream in the once-free United States is a cancer that must not allowed to take root. An extreme right Catholic television station is gaining traction and expanding in Ferndale, Michigan near Detroit. Their anti-gay, anti-climate change, anti-feminism, anti-Muslim message is within broadcasting distance. And thanks to the internet the spores of hate, intolerance and racism jump across the border and infect our own country
As Canadians we can no longer politely look away and drive on. Much as I’m tempted to take one of my regular news sabbaticals, I realize I have a moral responsibility to no longer simply look away. We have to stop the car and provide assistance. While we may not be able to provide medical aid to the injured, we can redirect traffic and provide comfort to the victims. We can make it known that inaction is not an option. The racist policies launched in Nazi Germany began with subtle changes that quickly escalated while the German people opted to look away in the mistaken belief that they couldn’t do anything about it. Given to understand they were “making Germany great again” they soon forfeited their rights and the cancer ran rampant. Hate often stems from a lack of understanding. We have to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself. Promote tolerance and understanding before it’s too late.
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