Breaking down ignorance
I’d like to think we live in an enlightened society. If you think about it, it wasn’t so long ago that women were not even considered persons under the law, blacks were owned as slaves, and you could get money for scalping an aboriginal person. Now, women, blacks and aboriginal people are leaders of communities and countries, with equal rights under the law, and our charter enshrines every person in the country’s rights and freedoms.
But there are still pockets of ignorance out there, and every so often, you’ll hear a story that will make your jaw drop realizing this fact. Just take this one example of a recent Republican National Convention, held in Florida, where an attendee reportedly threw nuts at a black CNN camerawoman, apparently saying, “This is how we feed the animals.” It’s not clear whether the person was referring to her job, her skin colour, or something else, but either way, it’s an astonishing way to treat another human being and a classic example of ignorance. The case of the New York State kids on a school bus bullying their 68-year-old bus monitor as being fat and laughing at her as she cried was another stupefying example of ignorance and bullying.
Then there was the case of the off-duty officer from Kalamazoo, who wrote into the Calgary Herald, saying he felt threatened by a couple of strangers who approached him and his wife, asking them if they’d been to the Stampede yet. “I quickly moved between these two and my wife, replying, ‘Gentlemen, I have no need to talk with you, goodbye,’ ” he wrote. He then noted they looked “bewildered” and went on to write that he thanked “the Lord Jesus Christ they did not pull a weapon of some sort.” He went on to bemoan the fact he hadn’t been able to carry his gun while off-duty to protect himself and his wife in this type of situation.
The officer became a laughingstock on the Internet, prompting tweets such as: “But I shot a man on Nose Hill just to watch him die. When I hear that Stampede partying, I hang my head and cry” or “Went for a walk in broad daylight. Sparrow landed in tree. I thank the Lord Jesus Christ he did not pull a weapon.”
I thought it was hilarious, but at the same time, it sparked a question if Canadians were having too much fun at their American neighbour’s expense and if there is a Canadian stereotype that delights in thinking of Americans as our dim-witted neighbour to the south. That would be ironic, because we have our own embarrassments here at home.
Take Pauline Marois, leader of the Parti Quebecois, who has a genuine chance of becoming premier of Quebec, in an election to be held today, Sept. 4. Marois and her party are pandering to narrow-mindedness with their proposed ideas, including one that would bar non-French speakers from holding public office, funding political parties or petitioning the legislature. The PQ backtracked a bit on this one, saying anyone already residing in Quebec would be excluded from the language requirement, but it still seems outrageous to try and strip people of democratic rights because they haven’t had the privilege of learning French.
Even more outrageous is Marois’ proposed Charter of Secularism, which would prevent people in the public sector from wearing “conspicuous religious signs” such as a Jewish yarmulke or a Muslim headscarf. However, crucifixes would be allowed, as would the giant cross hanging in the legislature, which Marois explains belongs, since it is part of Quebec’s heritage.
Whether or not Marois and her party win the election, it is deeply disturbing that a political party that espouses this type of discriminatory and undemocratic thinking would even have a chance at forming government. One commentary in the National Post I read on the subject noted that in the past Alberta election, gaffes from Wildrose candidates received national attention, but Marois’ plans are not getting the same kind of attention, which he speculated is because the rest of the country is eager to paint Alberta as the land of rural hicks.
The fact is, no matter where one lives, they will see ignorant, irresponsible or idiotic behaviour on display from time to time. Our responsibility as free thinkers is to consider if ideas and proposed actions have good rationales and make good sense; if, after scrutiny, you realize that these thoughts, actions and words are simple-minded, ignorant, or downright hateful and discriminatory, don’t let it slide, but call it out. Your words might fall on deaf ears, but as the saying goes, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” We all bear a responsibility for growth and enlightenment within our society.
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