I wasn’t sure I wanted to write about this subject. Mostly because sometimes I give the impression that I’m trying to shake a hornets nest. Au contraire, I’ve always been annoyed with argumentative rebels, especially the self-professed kind. But I do enjoy talking/writing about things that matter. I especially believe in this when the thing that matters so much has been relegated to being an elephant in the room. For the most part, tolerance is celebrated in our culture. But in some of the circles I run in tolerance is seen as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Sometimes it can be a big, sweaty ol’ wooly mammoth that we wish would just lumber its way out of our room, take it’s stench and big behind with it and never return. Talking about it is painful. But then again, so are vaccinations, entrance exams and pulling off band-aids.
When my sister was in college she heard a local politician address the student body. He was running for office at the time—not sure in what capacity—and in his speech told the crowd how much he appreciated them. But my sister noticed something: he kept referring to his listeners as “you people.” They lived in the same community, but to him they were “you people.” I’ve thought about that story a lot over many years. We all have assumptions and prejudices about groups of people, and most of the time we don’t even know it. And this leads to one of the biggest hurdles in embracing tolerance. I find it often takes the shape of common complaints and accusations that can be summed up in the sentence, “What about them?” Some examples are:
“They want us to respect their culture but they don’t respect ours.” (English Canada vs French Canada/Quebec)
They say we oppress them but they’re killing themselves every day and call each other n____.” (White vs Black)
“They want us to tolerate them but they don’t want to tolerate us.” (Christians vs LGBT)
“They want us to respect them as a people but all they do is drink their government money away.” (Canadians vs First Nations)
“They’re taking away our jobs and won’t even bother to learn English.” (WASPs vs… well… pick a minority)
I am afraid this is going to come across as pious, but I’m more than just tired of hearing these statements. Kinda makes me surly in fact. And can you blame me? For the last ten years or so I’ve been hearing these kinds of accusations from my children about each other! My kids are good kids. Very good kids. But like all children they have to learn to get along, and one of the toughest lessons for them to learn is to put themselves in another person’s shoes. “She did it first!” means little to me as a parent when discussing why a pinch, hit, or hurtful word has been hurled. My answer is usually something like “I’m not talking to her right now. I’m talking to you.” Isn’t that what we should be saying to ourselves? I mean, we’re grown adults, right?
I’ll only tackle two elephants, but their important ones to me:
Elephant #1: My fellow Canadians. It’s 2015. Way overdue is our need to deal with our racial/language issues and move ahead. Let’s quit accusing the Americans of having racial tensions when we have our own and talk about it less than they talk about theirs. Warning: a piece of Canadian history trivia is happening in 3… 2… 1. Did you know our national flag was going to be three maple leafs in the centre, not one? The symbol was chosen because it was the only thing on the Red Ensign (or Union Flag) that looked distinctly Canadian. Know why they went with one leaf instead? Because the decision makers believed that Canadians would look at those leaves as English/French/Aboriginal and that the flag would become a dividing symbol. After a long history of being seen as agreeable, polite and kind in the eyes of other countries, let’s try making that global treasure more of domestic one as well. We’re not going to be united unless we tolerate and understand each other.
For me, I’ve decided to stop complaining about Francophones getting jobs more easily than Anglophones. Not only am I not convinced anymore that it’s true, but Canada has faced much bigger challenges than that. If it bothered me that much, I could just decide to learn a new language. Doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me. Especially since more French Canadians have done that than English Canadians have.
Elephant #2. My fellow Christians, I must say, we are terrible with these complaining statements (see examples above). So you think the LGBT community isn’t showing you tolerance? So what? What’s wrong with giving to those who don’t give to you? When I bring up tolerance with Christians and the gay community comes up, this complaint comes up every time. Every time. But I seem to remember an important figure in the church saying something about doing to others as you would want them to do to you. Sound familiar? Let’s show tolerance, love and acceptance. If we don’t get it back… big deal. Pouting gets you nowhere. Just ask Santa.
Besides, how can trying to understand and get along with people be so difficult for people who value being like Jesus? How can promoting peace and harmony with fellow human beings be so frustrating?
Are “those people” frustrating to you, whoever they may be? Well, I’m not sure God wants to hear that. When Peter asked Jesus, “What about him?” his answer was perfect: “What is that to you? You follow me” (Jn 21:20-22).
Congratulations Remember the Titans. This is your week.
And the Oscar goes to:
Best Actress: I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the assistant coach’s little daughter in Remember the Titans had become the cheerleader in Heroes. So the this week I think Hayden Panettiere is our best actress. Save the cheerleader, save the world.
Best Actor: I’m a huge fan of Denzel, but for me the clear winner is Kurt Russell. He was nothing short of brilliant in Miracle. Definitely one of my favourite performances by an actor.
Best Quote: “If we played ’em ten times, they might win nine. But not this game. Not tonight.” – Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks in Miracle. That speech gets me every time.
I always hated it when adults would say to us as kids, “You want us to treat you like adults you need to act like adults.” But, that just might be what God would say to us now. Makes me wonder if we would respond to him by saying, “But Daddy! They did it too! They did it first!!”