BUILDING BRIDGES: A tiring time for ‘optimistic believer’

Sour Cherry leaves a bitter taste

I’m late turning in my column this month. I’ve known what I wanted to write about since just before Remembrance Day – it’s what everyone’s been writing and talking and arguing about – but each time I sat down to type out my thoughts, I felt tired.

Was this writer’s block? Were my words stuck somewhere between my brain and my fingers (because that is the true definition of writer’s block)? Nope. I had the words. I was just tired of thinking them and saying them and having them rebutted by people who are unaffected by the microaggressions that others face.

I don’t want to write about Don Cherry’s insulting remarks. His derogatory words – and the spaces between them. Enough people have had their say, from Canadian people of colour to their white allies to Cherry’s supporters. Do I really need to say how his words made me feel? Do I really have to explain to anybody what ‘you people’ conjures up for me?

Again, nope. I’m as tired as Mr. Cherry’s racist opinions.

The tweets from across the country and Facebook comments on news articles drained me.

I won’t reiterate them here or draw an argument about why what he said was hurtful and untrue. I’ll pass on that because sometimes I have to. Because sometimes even the most optimistic believer in the good of humanity has to take a little break.

And I think it’s important to put this out there: At the receiving end of comments made on television, radio and online are actual human beings. Just because there isn’t a face in front of the speaker doesn’t mean there isn’t a heart on the other end.

At a time when our country should have come together to honour the fallen, to give thanks to our veterans, we were divided (and it wasn’t over poppies).

My love of this land is fierce. I know what this country has meant for my family, not just those of us who live here, but the generations before me who worked and lived on other continents in search of security and opportunity. I have never understood how I got to be so lucky as to be the first generation in my family to live on this soil. I have never taken that for granted.

I hope the bitter taste of sour cherry that permeated this year’s Remembrance Day is not the thing we remember next year. Maybe between now and then, we can all reach out a little more and try to learn why people came to this country, what they left behind, what they face as they navigate a new culture… and why they work so hard to make Canada a home. Maybe we can remember that unless we are First Nations people, somewhere in our family history, there was someone who did the same thing.

Taslim Jaffer writes monthly on multicultural connections.

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