Tragedy in Charlottesville
The events in Charlottesville, Virginia this past week horrified people around the world. Young and old men marched, carrying Confederate flags, showing Nazi symbols, and wearing T-shirts with quotes from Hitler and the like in order to advertise and spread their messages of hate against Blacks, Jews, Immigrants, LGBTQ, anyone they thought was inferior to them. That’s the key to belonging to this group of haters. You have to think you are superior. I was surprised to learn that some of the men were well-educated. Accountants and teachers were among them. It just shows that their education had holes.
And then, in the aftermath, I saw and heard the parents of Heather Heyer, the young woman who was murdered by a white nationalist, speak at her funeral. What strength, compassion and love! How were they able to stand without falling apart? How was Susan Bro, Heather’s mother, able to give such a stirring speech? What an example! I don’t know Susan Bro’s background but I do know she doesn’t have a huge income nor a station in life that brought her fame and money. And yet what she did was show those who marched in anger that her daughter was worth more than all of them put together. She also showed that she had the ability to unite people in a way that Trump, the American president, couldn’t.
Trump’s Bullying – A Model for a Nation
As a Canadian, I’ve watched from a distance Trump’s rise to the presidency. During his climb to power, I saw him mock so many. What surprised me was the fact that many of those he’d mocked still bowed down to him. They swallowed their ire, as if they were afraid of what he would do if they stood up to him. I can only guess that his bullying worked. Or they had some pay-off in mind.
Prejudice Cuts Deep
I was brought up by immigrant parents and a grandmother, who barely spoke English. My mother maybe finished grade 3 in Ukraine. She was smart, but there were good reasons as to why she didn’t go on. My father had grade 8. Similar story. He was also very bright. He told me how, as immigrants to Canada, they were treated shabbily by those who’d been in our country a generation or two or three before. Dad and Mom were called names, were treated as if they were lesser people. Dad said when he worked in the fields, he would turn so dark from the sun that he was called, “darky”. So, though not Black, he felt the sting of racist remarks and looks that were hurled his way. Despite their pain, they taught me not to hate, but to respect every single human being I encountered, regardless of station in life.
Dad’s three brothers all fought in WWII, fought against Hitler and his followers, who were men who shared the same beliefs as those who marched in Charlottesville this past weekend. His two brothers, who were in the army, changed their surname, Klewchuk, because they couldn’t advance in the Canadian army with a Slavic name. Discrimination against differentness is an old story here and around the world.
I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I learned quickly the impact of prejudice and the emotional scars it can leave behind. I was a very sensitive child, quiet and obedient. Early on, I skipped a grade but then in the middle of grade 3, we moved to an Anglo-Saxon neighbourhood. My Klewchuk name stood out among the Smiths, Browns, Wrights, etc. I had been an A student, but suddenly, the teacher began to give me Ds and keep me in at recess. I was taunted and told to go back to where I came from. I was called a DP (Displaced Person). All because of my different sounding name and the fact that Mom had dressed me in my best blouse for my first day at this school. It was white satin with long sleeves, beautifully embroidered with red roses and green leaves. You know, it took me decades to get over those feelings of not belonging and those feelings of loneliness that accompanied those bullying words.
Celebrating Our Differences
I look at our beautiful world, rich in different cultures, languages, races, religions, sexual preferences and orientations, and I think, my God (and here I use God loosely because frankly, I no longer know what to believe)and wonder how someone can think they are superior to anyone else.
Like, how are you superior to me? I know I am not superior to you, nor do I want to be. I don’t know how someone can think they are supreme over others because of the colour of their skin or otherwise.
We’ve lost our way. In our society, we give too much attention to fame, money, position and looks. And to the colour of our skin, which religion we choose and what we do in the privacy of our bedrooms. We need to give more attention to kindness, patience, understanding, social and emotional intelligence.
We each come into this world with certain genetics. We are born into families, some rich, some poor, some broken, some lost. We are given opportunities or not, but the one thing that we all have in common is our humanity. When I saw and heard Heather Heyer’s mother speak and show such generosity of spirit, I welcomed her humanity. If there is a god, may God bless her, for she is truly a human being He would be proud of. Life is not a contest. We need to be here for one another. All of us.
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