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Charlottesville: can it happen here? Yes, it can.

It’s seven in the morning and I’m listening to the radio. The host comes on to talk about the news of the day, describing the violence in Charlottesville once again. I’m groggy, but even I can predict the next question that will be asked — can it happen in Canada? Every day this week I’ve heard the same question. Whether it is on the radio, the television, in the newspaper, or even within my circle of family and friends, people want to talk about how what happened in the United States may, or may not, happen in their communities.

On the evening of Aug 11, a group of white nationalists — a.k.a. Nazis — marched the streets of Charlottesville in a rally that supposedly was meant to “take America” back. These people started chanting things like “white lives matter” and “blood and soil”, among many offensive and discriminatory things.

Oh, and they were holding torches and some of them held flags with the swastika.

The march was meant to be a response to the removal of a confederate statue, but considering the symbols scrawled on the signs and the slogans being screamed in the streets, there is no doubt this was a meeting of white supremacists who didn’t care about a statue. They just wanted to express their views and show their numbers.

These Nazis* were met with a counter protest — and because these marchers were not there to peacefully showcase their displeasure about a historical figure being immortalized in stone, they lashed out violently. People were pushed and beaten. And then someone drove a van right into the crowd, killing one of the protesters.

* I was recently asked whether it was fair to call these “nationalists” Nazis, and my answer is unreservedly yes. Calling them “nationalists” waters down the message of their ideology. If you are chanting discriminatory things about transgendered people, people of colour, and those of the Jewish faith while holding torches and the swastika — you are a Nazi. Everyone who marches with you, by association, is a Nazi. It’s that simple.

So, can it happen here? That’s the big question, isn’t it? My answer is, sadly, yes — and that’s what’s so frightening.

Fear and violence inspires more fear and more violence. It can create a chain reaction of events on an international scale. When one group of people use violence as a way to deal with what they see as a threatening situation, another group will respond in kind, creating a cycle that is never ending.

And Canada is not immune. Sure, we have small victories. A forum for “nationalists” being held at Ryerson University was cancelled after public outcry, and the University of Toronto has publicly said they will not allow a group of white supremacists to protest on their property. But is it enough to combat the many instances of racism, sexism, and blatant hate this country has seen over the last few years?

During the last federal election, the signs of Muslim candidates were defaced with graffiti, with phrases like “Go Home” scrawled across their property. In January, people were shot while leaving a mosque in Quebec City. There have been numerous instances of neighbours sending letters threatening parents of children with disabilities because they were disturbed and felt these kids shouldn’t be alive. And there is, I’m ashamed to say, many alt-right people who were starting to listen to Kellie Leitch’s rant about RCMP tip lines for those worried about their immigrant neighbours, not to mention the disgusting concept of using “Canadian values” to determine who enters the country.

Hate breeds more hate — and unfortunately, there is still a lot of hate left in Canada. Can that hate turn to violence? Yes, quite easily. But, will it? Not if those of us who are tolerant and compassionate human beings rally together and say enough is enough. People can end the cycle, but only if they do not resort to the same methods as those who initiate the violence and hate.

As grossly cliché as it is, people have to fight hate with love. Already, two rallies are being organized in Toronto as a response to the violence in Charlottestown. If this is how the world responds, in similar fashion to the Women’s Marches in January and February, I have high hopes we will not see the rise of white supremacy or Nazism spread in this country.

God, I hope I’m right.

Fear and hatred elected President Donald Trump

“This loss hurts, but please, never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It is worth it,” Hillary Clinton said during her concession speech on Nov. 9. “And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable, powerful, and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

The United States has a new President — and that President is Donald Trump.

I’m numb. I’m not even sure I’ve completely processed this information. As editor of Women’s Post, I was watching the election results come in Tuesday night with the expectation that I would be writing a piece the following day about the first female President of the United States. Staff created some templates with details of Hillary Clinton’s life, focusing on her expertise and capability for the office. There were photos, graphs, and lots of feminist quotes to throw in. It would have been easy to put together a great profile for our readers.

Instead, I’m writing a piece about how a racist, misogynist man who thinks sexual harassment is locker talk, who was endorsed by the KKK, and who believes that all immigrants are thieves and rapists, became President of the United States.

Let’s tackle the first aspect of this question: how? How on earth did this happen?!

Obviously, there were a lot of factors. Voters were upset with how their political system worked and wanted change. There was a predominant disgust of “the elite”, an undefined group that tends to include politicians that can’t relate with the majority of the American people. When voters get frustrated with their politicians, it makes it hard for them to vote for the status quo. It also didn’t help that the FBI interfered with the election by releasing unfounded information that brought Clinton’s emails back to the surface at a critical point in the campaign.

But above all else, I think the underlying reason why Trump won is hate. Hate of “the other” and fear of “non-American values”. Throughout this campaign, Trump has capitalized on the fear and intolerance of the American people. Hate of immigrants, hate of women, hate of African Americans, hate of the LGBTQ community, and hate of the media. Hate for “the other” — people who are not like you. Hate of uncertainty.

This fact makes me sad. As a Canadian, I was raised with an understanding of tolerance and acceptance, that people, no matter their race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, should be treated equally. I was taught that respect and kindness was the ultimate value. Sure, I know Canada isn’t perfect. This country has it’s own problems with racism and misogyny, but it’s nothing compared to what I witnessed during the US presidential campaign.

The Trump rallies incited violence, talks of waterboarding and torture for enemies, and general sexual harassment. Protesters were attacked for simply holding up signs that said they were anti-Trump. People of various ethnicities were dragged out of conference rooms. Is this what Americans should expect from their new president?

Trump won the election with 279 electoral votes compared to Clinton’s 218 (as of 11 a.m. on Wednesday). It was a close race, much tighter than anyone expected, with large swing states flip-flopping between the two candidates until about 3 a.m. What does this mean? A lot more people in the United States let fear dictate their decision, fear of unemployment, fear of immigrants, and fear of the unknown. Instead of voting for someone inspirational, capable, and strong enough to incite real change, they voted for the person who made them scared of the future. This person told them they should be afraid, that the political system was rigged and corrupt, and said he was the only person that could protect them from these evils. And people believed him.

The sad reality is that this is democracy. I can’t say I’m angry or disappointed with the American people because it is their right to vote for the person they want to be President. I can, however, say that I’m disheartened by how much hate and fear Americans seem to have in their hearts. I’m saddened the American people felt like Donald Trump was the only solution.

In this particular case, hate and fear won the day — and now the world will have to deal with it.