When the spiders sang…

TW/CW: Holy fuck racism!!!

Colin and Savannah campingWhen I was a little girl I had a friend who lived across the street from me. He was about my age and he had a bright green coat. He also claimed that the spiders in his front garden sang to him every morning. I tried to tell my Mom about him but she couldn’t figure out who I was talking about as there were a lot of kids on our street. I was frustrated because I knew I had a very easy way to describe him as he was quite black. But, while I was young, I also had eyes and ears and knew that describing someone by any colour other than white meant that they disappeared and only their colour remained and I didn’t want to do that. So I went with the second best description, his coat. It took a while to pin down her friend’s son as my friend with the green coat. Both my Mom and his got a bit of a chuckle that I apparently didn’t find his skin colour relevant enough to mention. They didn’t live there for very long and, after he moved, my sister and I went over one morning to listen for ourselves but the spiders never sang. Maybe he took them with him.

Obviously I was quite privileged as a young blue eyed, blonde haired girl in white suburbia and, even with him, I could count the number of BIPOC I knew on one hand growing up. Even so, I learned and realized that people are people. That we all have hopes and dreams… thoughts and fears. And that skin colour does not tell you what a person is like. Some people missed that memo. Some never even saw it go by.

I follow a page by Ally Henny and she posted yesterday about a woman named Sharon Lee Davies-Tight who is, hands down, the most batshit crazy racist person I’ve ever had the misfortune to read. If there’s an award for self entitlement and ignorance she’s up there on the podium smiling and waving, oblivious, to the crowd. Her shitty post that was shared said, and I quote, “All animals have the capacity to love, including black people – The Animal-Free Chef”. Because, of course, that five pounds of shit, triple dipped in crazy, is vegan. And I speak for almost the entire vegan community when I say we don’t want her, can someone (anyone) take her?

At first I told myself that I did not want to go down that rabbit hole and I went and did something else. But the rabbit hole stayed and the search bar is a thing that exists and holy hell!!! This woman starts talking about multi-ethnic people and how much more diverse and open minded they were than single ethnic people. At first I had no idea what the hell she was talking about but it soon became apparent that she considered white people to be multi ethnic and black to be single ethnic. Yes, there are multiple white ethnicities but Africa is not a monolith, there are many ethnicities there. Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania have black aboriginal people and there are the people of the West Indies as well. Black people are far from being a single ethnicity.

She mentioned several times how black people don’t call the police, not because they’re worried about harassment and/or harm, but because of their own criminal involvement. That black people all call themselves the n-word in bars just in case there’s an undercover police officer. That white women call the police while black women scream and fight, the latter because they didn’t want to get the police involved and their criminal misdeeds uncovered. I don’t know where this woman’s lived but I’ve encountered plenty of white women who screamed louder than angry opera singers and a few who wouldn’t contact the police because of criminal issues. Like my daughter’s friend whose Mom had a grow op in the living room. The plants were lovely and green by the way, just not legal at the time. As for calling the police, as Colin pointed out, that’s an act of force in itself. That’s “I want to get you but I don’t want to get my hands dirty so I’ll let someone get you for me and they have a gun”. And that’s just plain shitty.

There were reams of posts and she had pages of external links listed but I couldn’t bring myself to read any farther so I just backed on out and wrote here instead. In bits because my brain can only handle so much vile at a time. If I was a kinder person… a more understanding person… I’d wish those singing spiders would rest under her window and sing her songs of empathy and humanity. As it is I just hope they crawl up her fucking nose and bite her!

The cancel culture…

Cis white vegans are the worst!

Some might say I shouldn’t take it seriously but it’s hard not to when every. single. word. is aimed at a part of you. It’s even harder when it comes from a friend, someone who knows I fall under each of those categories. I responded with, “Umm gee thanks. Stereotype much?” then got back a series of rapid fire responses, sent so fast that I received them all at once, explaining it was exactly one person they were mad at and that one person was racist and I “obviously” agreed with her so must be racist too so they’d be happy to yeet me off their page (phew). I’d already been unfriended before I even read the last comment and they never even found out if I agreed with her or not.

The very next day, another friend wrote a post that said, in part, that white women are white first and then women. I took it literally, thought it meant we were born white first then female, and jokingly replied that I was pretty sure both happened at conception. I went on to agree that white women have far more privileges than black women. That was taken to be white supremacy (if it helps I think that having black skin and being a woman also both happen at conception). The friend proceeded to unfriend me and then message me to have me explain what I’d posted. I believe that’s called putting the cart before the horse. They haven’t replied since. They had been Facebook friends with me for years, followed my posts, and knew what the content of my post and my views were like, enough to know this was out of character for me (remember they did message me to ask why I said what I did), yet they still unfriended me because they didn’t like how I phrased one reply in five years.

internet and real youThe hard part is this isn’t the first time I’ve fallen into a situation like this. I’m finding an increasing and uncomfortable amount of inflexibility these days, especially in younger adults. For some reason people seem to feel as if their friends need to have all the same beliefs and opinions as them and, if you differ, you must be wrong and out you go; you’re yeeted to the curb like yesterday’s garbage. Often it’s incredibly fast, the person’s made up their mind and decided you need to go before finding out what you even meant. Heck, like I said above, both friends removed me before I even had a chance to speak. Why? Where is the friendship in that? Friendship involves mutual respect and understanding, it’s not hair trigger and walking on eggshells in case you say something wrong. You’re supposed to look for common ground and mutual interests, not nitpick over minor details and search for reasons to uncheck the friend box.

I know there are times you have to get rid of a friend. I had an online friend several years ago, then I posted a benign, “Axial tilt is the reason for the season” meme and she became frothing at the mouth mad and devolved into a series of incredibly racist comments. There was no misunderstanding, she made it extremely clear. She might as well have worn a t-shirt saying “I’m racist and I’m proud of it”. The friendship ended immediately with no regrets. Another was an IRL friend I knew from a couple of community groups. We got along fine until she realized who my ex was… and I realized she was a friend of his. Even that would have been fine except she suddenly decided that I a) had to realize what an incredibly great guy he is and b) needed to get back together with him immediately even though we haven’t been together in twenty years. I told her several times that he had been emotionally and financially abusive to me and had treated both myself and my two kids terribly for years and that I didn’t want to get back with him or even speak about him. She ignored my wishes and continued to badger me on reconciling with her “great guy”. By that time we weren’t living near each other so I simply blocked her. Again no regrets. But this is different.

These days it’s like there’s a socially acceptable checklist of words and phrases to use and say, a culturally acceptable clique of White people and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) who decide what’s correct.  I see it time and time again where someone’s trying their best and has the best of intentions but gets lambasted because it wasn’t done or said exactly how things are getting done right now. No room for recognizing good intentions (remembering these are good intentions that caused no harm), no honest constructive criticism, just how dare you!!! I’ve seen people post on multiple occasions, “Is it safe to ask this here? I really want to know but don’t want to get yelled at…” And, yes, I know that BIPOC people have been dealing with crap for years but it’s not right for anyone to feel like that no matter who they are.

Back around nine years ago I joined a forum called Regretsy and made friends with a poster who used neopronouns. I had never, ever known anyone who used anything other than him or her, it was completely new to me. I asked a bunch of questions, got answers, then settled down with a sheet of paper and a few practise sentences. I worked hard to make sure I got those pronouns right. If he (the pronouns have changed) got mad at my initial fumbling questions, well I wouldn’t be transphobic but I’d be a lot more cautious and wary. I definitely would have been hesitant to ask any similar questions to anyone and there’s a lot that I wouldn’t have learned, a lot which Colin needed me to learn.

We pride ourselves, or at least we used to pride ourselves, on our compassion and on our understanding that we’re all equal. Equal rights… equal love… equity… we were trying to make the world kinder and a whole lot more fair. But more and more I’m seeing a “throw the whole man out” attitude. That person has “problematic” views? Just don’t speak to them anymore. Doesn’t matter if they’re your grandmother or a close family friend, they’re garbage now. Yeet them out with the trash.

When Colin changed his pronouns back in, umm, I think sometime around 2014, my parents couldn’t grasp it at all and refused to use them. They refused again when he changed his name to Emma for a year-ish and switched to she/her. By today’s standards he shouldn’t be speaking to them, ignoring the fact that they still loved him dearly and spent time with him and that he wanted to keep them in his life. Life isn’t black and white. They weren’t simply “problematic”. They’re his much loved grandparents. Not everyone has to (or should be) tossed to the curb like yesterday’s paper.

Another issue with this black and white, that person doesn’t count because they’re problematic/racist/transphobic thinking is people forget the person is still, just that, a person. You can disagree 125% with someone’s views and opinions and still recognize their basic humanity. I read an article today from British Columbia where a Native Canadian reserve has a covid-19 outbreak and the surrounding area has had a racist outbreak. Okay, I get it, racism is horrible but racists are not literal trash (like the garbage you put at the curb). They are still people. Debate them if you want (I do), explain why they’re wrong (I do this too), but back off before it gets personal. One person that was interviewed was one of the racists, who now realizes he was wrong, which is great except people were wishing death on his children (like multiple people) and he’s ended up suicidal. We’re supposed to be the good guys here. We’re not supposed to be driving people to the point of killing themselves. And we’re certainly not supposed to be hoping that innocent children die of covid to teach a stranger a lesson.

The thing is, sometimes people won’t agree with you 95% of the time. Or even 80% or 75%. That doesn’t make them bad people. It just makes them not you, and that’s okay. People are allowed to be different. And, as long as they’re causing no harm, it’s fine to live and let live. Not every opinion needs to be a battleground. Not every view has to be an “agree with me or you’re yeeted” perspective. Sometimes it’s fine to just discuss the things you have in common and back off on the other stuff. So your aunt thinks aliens built Stonehenge and that Elvis is still alive. Alrighty then, moving right along. You disagree over politics… okay, unless they’re raging asstwats and/or racist, maybe just take a deep breath and change the subject when T-Rumplestiltskin rears his ugly head. It doesn’t make them Satan’s cousin.

I can’t speak for anyone else but I want to leave this world a better place than when I arrived. Standing up for human rights is amazing but if we end up so narrow sighted that we ignore the simple fact that we’re all human, we’re not going to accomplish anything. Take the time to listen.

When is a joke not funny?

I got kicked out of a group I liked because I literally could not understand how a Dad joke was racist against the Indigenous people of North America. The joke doesn’t even mention Indigenous people. If you want to help me understand feel free to break out the crayons and colouring paper because I really don’t understand and you’re likely going to have to bring it down to kindergarten level. Conversely, if you don’t see the racism, especially if you’re Indigenous, please let me know this as well. Here’s the joke:

nonbinary joke

I’d seen this joke in Asexual Aces earlier that day, where it was liked, and thought it was a pretty typical “Dad Joke”. I even shared it myself. Then I saw it in A Group For Only Cute Queer People and that’s where the shit hit the fan.

Almost immediately there were posters demanding it get removed due to the racist content. I had no idea what they were talking about. It was explained that prospectors killed Indigenous people so any joke that mentions prospectors is racist. I could not grasp that and still can’t. Does that mean talking about settlers/colonizers is racist as well? Are my friends being racist for joking about the Oregon Trail? Is mentioning my family’s background racist (they didn’t kill the local Natives)?

Chances are it’s probably the autism that’s sticking here. I tend to see things in black and white. But I do honestly want an answer. Feel free to put your answer below or, if you came here from Facebook, on my Facebook page.

Thank you!

Edited to add: Apparently it’s not just me. I had quite a few people comment on Facebook that it wasn’t racist at all and that’s with me promising I didn’t mind people disagreeing with me. Not a single person said it was racist.

Woke people need to stay in their lane…

I am so tired of people who claim to be woke. They’re not very woke, they need a few more hours sleep because they’re cranky as hell and don’t always make much sense. In their minds, they are the chosen few who have risen above racism and cast judgement on us lesser people. In reality they’re harassing their allies and driving them away.

I had a friend who got mad at me for saying Roseanne Barr was a horrible person for dressing up as Hitler and pulling little burnt Jewish cookies out of a gas oven. I needed to “stay in my lane”. Several Jewish people said it was fine and they agreed with me. She spoke over them to tell me, once again, to stay in my lane. I simply said “no” and got unfriended.

And now, today, I have a “friend” who posted this…

ridiculous radicals

Gee… I wonder if a “radical” wrote this. I am a Liberal and have no interest in being Radical. I also don’t think that POC need to learn how to act like white people. I believe we need to accept people as themselves. So I wrote, “I’m liberal but don’t think that at all.” Short and sweet, right? This was the response…

Holy shitballs folks, maybe when something angers you it’s time to examine why you’re so angry…

Because I, btw, do not consider myself a liberal exactly because of how invested in white supremacy liberals in the USA are.

And because any discussion about race leads to white folks moaning about how “not them” instead of calling out other white people.

Not every generalization applies to you as an individual, get over yourselves. They apply to liberals GENERALLY.

Although I find the ones quickest to #notall are usually the most guilty need to be defensive.

That you even get to argue this shit is a privilege. Deal with the fact that you are racist and do better instead of thinking that when I complain about men/whites/liberals I’m calling you out personally.

Unless, you know, them shoes fit.

For someone who’s claiming myself and the other person who commented are angry, she sure has a lot of rage. I responded that her response was full of anger and she might want to look in a mirror. She was not happy to be told that.

People need to stop pinning labels on others and making assumptions about their beliefs and prejudices. Instead they need to treat each individual as just that, an individual. Black people can be prejudiced against other POC, southern Baptists can end up being supportive of trans people, white liberals can be open minded, and radicals can be ignorant.

If you build a big wall of intolerance between you and your neighbour, you are never going to see your similarities and you’ll never get the chance to actually know them.

Sadly, I don’t think this friend is going to try and listen but hopefully someone will because racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia are growing and the people who should be fighting against it are fighting their allies and calling them names instead.

Yes guns kill people…

This Wednesday a young adult opened fire on his former classmates and teachers, killing seventeen of them. He obtained that assault rifle legally, despite the fact he was known to be unstable and people had warned the FBI about him.

Obviously so much went wrong. The FBI didn’t act on the warning and the store sold him an assault rifle. An assault rifle to a kid who wasn’t even old enough to drink. And now seventeen families have been torn apart. Seventeen futures are gone. Parents around the country are terrified to send their children to school. They have to answer questions like, “What if I get shot?” or “Will I get shooted in school Mommy?”

I live in Canada so the topic of guns rarely comes around in real life. But I’m also online and have many friends in the US so I get to read all the arguments every time there’s a school shooting. Which, sadly, is often. And those arguments infuriate me. Most of the reason is because people, quite often children, have just been killed by guns and part of it is because the arguments are so ridiculous.

I hope I never read another post claiming guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Followed along with, “If I put my gun down on the table, it does nothing.”

Seriously, are you that dense? Take the gun away and how many people would that shooter kill before he gets tackled? Probably none. Maybe a couple if he had a knife. Guns definitely need a person to operate them but they do kill people, and a lot more easily than a knife or other weapon.

Another argument that comes up often is that the gun is an inanimate object. When it’s left alone it does nothing, as all inanimate objects do. My water bottle is inanimate as well and it doesn’t do anything either. But if you pick up a gun and I pick up my water bottle, you have the potential to kill as many people as there are bullets in your gun. I have the potential to squirt someone and get them damp.

I can’t understand why people are allowed to buy assault rifles in the States. Guns are designed to kill but assault rifles are solely designed to kill people. One person tried to argue with me on that point but stopped when I asked if he was planning on shooting a deer fifty times. There is no reason to own an assault rifle. Absolutely none.

Then you get the people arguing that everyone should have guns. Could you imagine how many bullets would be in the air if everyone started shooting after the initial shots? The body count would be horrific. Besides, even trained professionals like police men and SEALs get shot and killed while alert and wearing a gun. If they can be shot to deal while armed and ready, what makes you think an already scared teacher or teenager has a chance. Arming teenagers and teachers is a recipe for disaster.

I don’t have any pat answers. I can point out that Australia banned certain kinds of guns after their only school shooting but the pro gun people claim it’s different in the States. The only difference I can see is an accent and the attitude that property is more valuable than lives. Pro tip, the court of law doesn’t not offer the death penalty for breaking and entering so neither should you.

I can also point out that the indigenous POC in Australia get harassed by the police, similar to how POC are treated in the States. Heck, I knew as soon as I read that the shooter was in police custody that he was white (or at least appeared white). Having armed police doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safer for everyone. Yet I don’t see how having a gun would change that. Just as many people would get attacked, having a gun would mean getting treated worse, and using the gun would either end up with someone looking like swiss cheese or a lifetime in prison.

At the end of the day, I believe that if people want a gun they need to train on how to operate it safely first and pass a security check. They need to keep the gun unloaded in a place out of reach of children and the bullets secured in a second location. This would at least stop the heartbreaking deaths of small children playing with guns and accidentally killing a sibling, cousin, or friend. And there should be an age minimum. If you’re too young to drink then you’re too young to shoot. I’m sure an exception could be made for those who are currently in the armed forces.

I applaud the students who are planning on walking out on March 14th and April 20th. I hope enough of them leave to make the government take notice, although I’m not sure if Cheeto Hitler would even care. Maybe politicians in their areas will initiate changes.

But for now we’ll keep reading about school shootings until the US government realizes that “thoughts and prayers” aren’t the answer.


Intersectionality and pink hats…

Dreadlocks. The style that White people have been wearing since the 1960’s. I’d never really thought about them other than vaguely wondering if they got mildewed in the centre after being washed. But now I was being informed, very strongly, that these clumps of hair were deeply offensive to Black people. Why? Because Black people were punished at work and at school for wearing dreads and braids and even just their hair in natural poofy curls.

I can understand intellectually that it would be frustrating and unfair to not be allowed to wear your natural hair style to work while Johnny gets to wear the same style. Although I fail to see how Johnny cutting off his dreads is going to make things more equal. It seems like an everyone loses situation.

Then there was the little girl who wanted a Japanese Tea Party for her birthday. People instantly cried out “cultural appropriation” and “racism”. At least up until Japanese people stepped up and said it certainly was not.

Cultural appropriation can be a real thing but it can also be incredibly hard to sort out. A big company took Native patterns, without payment, and put them on a t-shirt. That’s definitely cultural appropriation. But what about the average person who picks up a shirt or other garment while traveling? Is it cultural appropriation to wear it? Most of my friends agreed that if someone was given a garment it’s safe to wear but how is anyone supposed to know it was a gift? The shirt looks the same whether it was a gift or not.

The other part of cultural appropriation is the judgement. There’s no knowledge of what the individual is like or what they believe but they have beaded braids or an embroidered shirt so they’re guilty of racism. Sentenced and judged without even knowing.

And as more people learn about cultural appropriation, the tighter and more ridiculous it becomes. First it was fighting against corporations then individuals who wore certain clothes or styled their hair too similar to what a POC would wear, then it moved onto words White people can’t say and emojis that White people can’t use.

That Facebook emoji has black skin so you can’t use it.

Even yoga’s come under fire. I refuse to believe that every single White person who’s ever done a downward dog is racist.

Last year we had the pussy cat hat, made as a symbol of protest against Donald Trump, specifically a reference to the comment he made of “grab em by the pussy”. It wasn’t a protest against trans women or women of colour, although it definitely ignored them. The worst that could be said against the protestors was they were tone deaf. And, honestly, nothing was stopping a single woman of colour from making a hat in any colour she wanted. I know someone who knit one in the trans flag colours. There were free patterns online and they could be knit in brown or black.

As we enter another year I’m noticing more and more the dislike of White people, especially cis White women. Lots of “where were the cis White women when there were Black issues to be protested”. I don’t know. But I do know that this is not the first time cis White women have protested and I do agree that there should be people on both sides standing up for each other.

I’m looking at the States from Canada and see a president sowing dissent among his government and citizens. I see cuts to health care and children’s food programs. I see LGBTQ rights crumbling and I see people up in arms about a knit hat on a statue. Yes, she is a very important figure who made an incredible difference. She’s also dead and is unlikely to care. The statue was not disfigured, the hat is not permanent. And there are so many other issues to worry about right now.

Facebook is suspending accounts for complaining about White people because it’s “racial prejudice” to the point where people are calling White people “yt people” to get around the scans. There are police disproportionately killing POC or arresting them. Judges are sentencing POC with long sentences, much longer than White people. Black preschoolers are suspended and expelled for minor issues that White children get a time out for. Black children are seen as older than their age and they’re given less pain medication when they’re sick and in the hospital. All these are more important than a hat.

I think the hardest part of the cultural appropriation issue is it leaves people feeling there’s no room for dissent or criticism because as soon as you disagree, you’re obviously racist and being judged by your friends. Most of my friends on Facebook are introverts and this is the bulk of their social interaction. Being ostracized on Facebook becomes a big deal.

I’m a firm believer that people own their own body. That means they have the right to say no (or yes), they have a right to wear their hair the way they want and the right to wear the clothes they want. It’s not my right to walk over to someone and tell them their hair is cultural appropriation. It’s hair. They’re not stealing sacred artifacts out of burial grounds. Can we please focus less on cultural appropriation and more on human rights? There’s enough of them at risk right now.

Photo from A Mighty Girl



When the PC culture goes too far…

I read the post and then reread it… twice, unable to believe my eyes. A teenager in the States had poured out his heart explaining how he understood how marginalized a teenager in Canada felt. He was gay, his family would not accept that and treated him badly. His peers at school thought he was disgusting. He had no friends. He pretty much lived his life online, waiting for a chance to grow up and get out. The Canadian teenager was horrified. How dare he compare their lives! He wasn’t trans and would never understand how marginalized he, as a middle class trans Canadian, felt.

Instantly the Canadian teen’s friends jumped in, name calling and mocking. I waded in and explained that, while being gay wasn’t a big issue in urban Ontario, where equal marriage had been around for a decade, it was still a huge issue in the States where, at the time, equal marriage didn’t exist. I pointed out that the gay teen likely was even more marginalized where he was and got back a simple, “I didn’t know.”

No, he didn’t but he never stopped to listen either. And, by then the damage had already been done.

A couple of days ago a friend of mine posted a screen shot with the name blanked out. It was discussing Harry Potter and whether he was marginalized because of previous child abuse. My friend felt he didn’t, that he was an ass all on his own. The person in the screen shot had a different opinion. All was going fine until this comment.

“She’s a POC though so I don’t really appreciate you doing this.”

The fact that POC have precedent to speak about their own issues does not translate to everything they say is sacrosanct. My friend can disagree with someone of colour over Harry Potter without being racist.

We are all people with unique views and opinions and we need to work together to support each other. If we all devolve into “you can’t understand me because I’m black and you’re Chinese” then we’ve lost. If your entire focus on a conversation about child abuse is someone commented “that’s crazy” and that’s ableist, what does that say about you? No, it’s not right but, seriously, shouldn’t your focus be on the child abuse? I’m crazy. Trust me, work on the abused kids first.

We live in a world filled with differences and that’s what has divided us through history. Dividing right into war. If your zeal for human rights blinds you to actual human suffering, you’ve lost what you’re fighting for. Aren’t we fighting for equality and acceptance… not dissonance and separation?

I’m watching as a drive to unite is slowly turning into picking at differences. Can we please acknowledge our differences and celebrate our similarities? I can listen to your struggles with being black and celebrate our kids playing in the living room together. I can listen to your fears of being trans and celebrate a mutual love of Doctor Who. You can listen to my struggles with insanity and celebrate our love of nature.

We need to work on being a tapestry; different threads all woven into one beautiful whole. And we need to stop picking at the threads and deciding which ones have more worth. We all have worth. Our tapestry wouldn’t exist without us.

Signed  ~a life long snowflake~


Remembrance Day revisited…

CN: discussion of violence and prejudice

I stand on my balcony and can see Lake Ontario. On a clear day we stand on the shore and look across the lake at Buffalo. This has never scared me until now.

I went online yesterday and my news feed was flooded with stories of hatred and violence. A friend of mine has an openly gay ten year old who was terrified to go to school… to the point of stress vomiting. He’s been taunted since kindergarten, this fear is something new.

Another friend of mine had a pick up truck, with a poorly shored confederate flag, nearly hit him at high noon. The driver stopped and jumped out screaming “fucking faggot” before heading into the nearby post office. My friend wasn’t sure who he was more scared for, himself or the solitary black woman operating the office. Luckily both were fine.

After my friend posted, one of his friends chimed in to say she’d just had passengers tell her to flash them in order to get a tip. Pro tip, that’s not how taxis work. But maybe that’s how they work in Trump’s new United States… if the driver is female and the passengers are male.

Yet more friends are panicking about getting IUDs inserted before January 20th or getting married before that time. One’s researching nursery schools in Canada while others half joke about marrying a Canadian citizen.

I’d expected the hatred and violence to start slow and increase. Instead it poured out as if a flood gate was opened, starting with a bottle bashed over a gay man’s head because this is Trump’s America now. It moved on to school children drawing and shouting “build a wall” while their classmates cried. To high school students scribbling racial slurs and graffiti about white pride. To grown men harassing and groping women because it’s their right under Trump.

And, through it all, Trump stayed silent.

Well, not exactly silent. He complained about people being mean to him on Twitter and placed Ben Carson, the man who thinks the pyramids were grain silos, into the position of the head of the Department of Education. The masses will now become even more uneducated but they’ll know the Bible right down to every last hate filled corner. I don’t think the more positive and altruistic verses will have a place in Trump’s world.

I’m terrified for my friends. For my black and brown friends and my gay and pan friends, for my friends who “don’t pass” and my friends who do, for my friends who hold their LGBTQ children close and hope for the next four years. And I’m scared for those of us living in the US’s shadow, because if Trump starts lobbing bombs, just because they’re there, that border is not going to hold back retaliatory radiation.

On this cold and quiet Remembrance Day, I feel like history is repeating itself.


Poppies under the full moon

Celebrating differences…

“He’s that black kid, isn’t he?”

My mouth snapped shut. I looked at my Mom and had no idea what to say. He was my friend. He swore to me that the spiders in his front garden sang to him every morning as the sun rose. My sister and I mostly didn’t believe him but one morning we got up really early and crept into his yard just to see. Maybe we showed up too early. Maybe the spiders were still sleeping.

“He has a yellow coat,” I insisted stubbornly. Mine was a quiet stubborn; I didn’t throw flashy tantrums, I simply did not budge. Yes, he was black but no one pointed me out as the white kid. I couldn’t understand why he was known as “the black kid” even above his own name. That didn’t seem right.

Mom went out and took a look, returning a few moments later.

“Yes, he’s the black kid. Apparently Michelle just doesn’t notice colour.”

The last was said with a mixture of exasperation and pride. Was it a good thing not to notice colour? To ignore differences? I wasn’t sure. This was something I struggled with for years.

I had a friend in high school. We weren’t close, despite knowing each other for years, we simply walked to school together in the morning and chatted if we shared a class. Our drama teacher was late one day and a large number of classmates decided to share jokes. This was the mid 1980’s and the popular jokes at the time were the “Paki jokes”.

I hated those jokes. They made me feel dirty just listening to them; they made me want to vomit them right back out again. I was the only one in my family who felt like that.

“Dad! I learned a new joke in school today,” my sister announced at the dinner table the night before. “What do you do if you see a Paki drowning? Throw him his wife and kids.”

Everyone laughed while my stomach twisted.

“I’ve got one too,” my Dad replied. “What do you do if you think you’ve run over a Paki? Back up to make sure.”

Once again the whole family laughed hysterically, like these were the funniest jokes ever. I felt like throwing up or crying… or possibly both.

“I’m not hungry,” I murmured. “May I be excused?”

My Mom sighed. “Michelle, don’t be so sensitive.”

“Yeah Michelle, they’re just jokes. They don’t hurt anyone,” my youngest sister added, parroting phrases from previous conversations.

My Mom gave a gesture granting me permission to leave and, as I pushed back my chair, my sister (the one who told the joke) rolled her eyes. “Well, we all know Michelle has no sense of humour.”

Everyone nodded agreement. The so-called jokes continued before I’d even left the room. Once again I headed upstairs in tears. Were they right? I didn’t think I had no sense of humour, although I’d been told that multiple times. I enjoyed jokes as long as they didn’t make fun of anyone but those were generally aimed at children. Maybe those didn’t count. And maybe my family was right. If I was the only one being offended then I was the only one being hurt, which made it my problem. I listened to my family laugh downstairs and felt incredibly alone.

Now I was in class and listening to those jokes again. I lurked at the back, not wanting to be mocked for being oversensitive and ruining everyone’s fun but not wanting to listen either. Then I noticed my friend leaving the group. He went to the other side of the room. I quickly followed.

We slipped in between an assortment of room dividers then my friend turned. I was surprised to see tears in his eyes.

“I hate those jokes,” he hissed. He swiped the backs of his hands across his face.

“I hate them too,” I said and he nodded.

“I was born in India, right on the border between India and Pakistan. If I was born just a few miles further then I’d be from Pakistan and those jokes would be about me. Would they really find it funny if I died?”

“I don’t find them funny,” I replied. I patted his shoulder then we stood in silence, surrounded by grey dividers, until the teacher arrived and broke up the jokes.

It was a weird moment. I had proof standing right in front of me that I was right, those horrible jokes did hurt people. The flip side was being right meant people were being hurt. Talk about a hollow victory.

I could keep tossing out examples but that would bring my word count up to a billion and nobody’s got time for that. Even I can’t procrastinate on my real writing for that long. But each experience brought about a little bit of change.

Over the years I’ve realized that we’re all like stained glass windows, each little piece connecting together to form a picture. You can’t ignore parts of someone and still see who they are; you can’t focus on one or two parts and see their entire picture; and if you spend all your time looking for how their glass is different from yours, not only will you never find their similarities but you’ll miss their beauty.

“Michelle? Which outfit do you think looks better?” A friend of mine held up two dresses. She was heading out somewhere and wanted to look good.

I shrugged. “They both should look good,” I pointed out.

“A friend of mine said she likes this one better because it makes me look white.”

“That would be an interesting trick,” I said dryly and she laughed.

“What do you think of this one?” she asked, as she held the other dress up.

I looked at her appraisingly. “It’s a good colour on you. It brings out highlights in your hair and face.”

She nodded. “I like it too,” she agreed. “My other friend didn’t like it, she said it makes me look black.”

“And this would be a problem because…” I let my voice trail off as I stared at her in bewilderment.

“You’re right,” she replied, grinning, “It’s not a problem.”