I never really thought about how much my Canadian culture effects what I do in uncomfortable situations. This past Saturday, our local PRIDE Association hosted a vigil to show solidarity and pay respects to those lost and effected by the mass shooting in Orlando at The Pulse nightclub.
Standing in the circle, listening to each of the speakers share from the heart, I felt uncomfortable. I wasn’t uncomfortable because of the loss, I wasn’t uncomfortable because of the pain of losing people who are just like me, I wasn’t even uncomfortable that this was the first time I attended something as a fully out person–I was uncomfortable because I spent 29 years of my life contributing to this type of hate.
In Canadian culture, it’s abhorrent to be rude intentionally to someone else. To contradict them or correct them publicly is a kin to assault. People are encouraged to “mind their own business” and gossip about it in hushed whispers to their neighbours or friends sitting beside them. We whisper and point, roll our eyes in disgust or move to another spot on the bus. Very rarely does one hear someone publicly call out another for inappropriate behaviour–because that would go against Canada’s Tolerance. When does being polite pour gasoline on a silent and raging fire?
Every single time I allow someone to cause others pain, I am fueling the type of hate and homophobia that led to this and many other violent tragedies. One of the speakers’ words echoes in my heart: “now is the time to refuse to let our friends and families say something is so gay. Now is the time to audibly say ‘no, that is not acceptable’ when we see anyone being bullied or put down. Now is the time to fight harder than ever for equal rights. Above all, now is the time to stop making those same mistakes with other minorities.”
Together is the only way forward. Prejudice, homophobia and blind hatred is going to tear this world apart unless people who are remaining silent start to speak. The next time one of your friends tells a racist joke, tell them that’s not acceptable. When they tell you to lighten up, remind them how many people died because of that attitude.
The next time you hear a stranger say something cruel in the mall, don’t just ignore it. Call them out or comfort the person being targeted. Kindness is another weapon against hatred. If you’re afraid of speaking out, imagine how afraid that person being verbally and emotionally assaulted is every time they need to go to the mall for new clothes.
Stand up for the humane treatment of all people. Every single person deserves to live their life with dignity. We are all created in the image of God. There are no caveats in scripture for what constitutes a human, so there’s no need for it in culture.