Category Archives: Rants

Say Something

The news is terrible everywhere.

Sunday night it was a shooting in a mosque in Quebec City. Six people dead, nineteen injured. The shooter was a white guy, a Trump supporter.

Monday night I was supposed to go out for dinner with an old friend from high school, Joanne. She texted me to ask what time I wanted to meet up. I was torn. I love getting together with her, but I really felt the need to go to that evening’s vigil for the victims of the shooting.

After a bit of texting back and forth, Joanne and I agreed that she and her daughter would pick me up and we would all go to the vigil together.

The vigil was… like any other. Some hundreds of us huddled with our toques and mittens, clutching our jars and glasses containing lit candles, rocking on our feet and curling our toes to keep them warm during the sad and inspiring and heartfelt speeches.

At one point, two protestors interrupted the speech with their signs to condemn Canada for having removed and endangered their children, and at first it looked like they were going to be ushered off the steps of the Legislature, but ultimately they were allowed to speak. I felt sorry for them and moved by their family’s plight, and I was grateful to them for interrupting the “wishful thinking” thread running through most the vigil in which speaker after speaker almost unanimously praised Canada as being a safe haven and a place where diversity is welcome and celebrated.

Because that wishful thinking lets us off the hook. If it was that safe here, those parents wouldn’t be mourning the disappearance of their children. That mosque wouldn’t have been shot up by a racist. Our jails wouldn’t be overwhelmingly filled with non-white people, particularly Indigenous people. Companies wouldn’t be bringing up migrant labour from Mexico and housing them twelve to a trailer for the summer. Women wouldn’t be getting raped and then blamed for it. No one would be trying to degay anyone or murder trans people.

But we keep giving those speeches and we keep repeating it to each other. Because we want to believe that’s not us. We’re not homophobic or misogynist or racist or classist or ableist or transphobic or in any way discriminatory. We would never (shoot Muslims) (rape anyone) (disown a queer family member).

It’s not enough. It’s not enough to stand at a vigil with a candle on a winter’s evening, no matter how comforting it is to mourn in community, no matter how important it is to be a body in the street, to stand up and be counted, to be another face in the lake of faces when the TV cameras pan across the crowd. These are important, but they are only a small step. Showing up at a vigil does not challenge anything or change much.

It’s hard to change. Hard to change within ourselves and hard to change our behaviour to intervene when we should. There’s so much work to do to unlearn all the crap we’ve been taught and fed, the lies we breathe in, the stereotypes we drink like water.

And there’s also so much work to do to learn how to interrupt others. It’s not necessarily our job to change people’s minds, but it IS our job to clearly express what language and behaviour we will or will not tolerate. It IS our job to not remain silent. We, especially if we embody multiple sites of privilege, have no “right” to remain comfortable and safe. The idea that this is a “right” is a facet of our privilege. Say something. Say anything.

A couple of years ago, I stumbled across Captain Awkward’s blog. Since then, I have read every single post, and probably 90% of the comments. The blog and the community that has built up there is very supportive and insightful in terms of articulating boundaries, taking responsibility for one’s own feelings and actions, dealing with annoying or abusive people, and holding others accountable for their own behaviour.

Captain Awkward is not perfect, but she owns it. She corrects her mistakes, apologises when necessary, and is responsive to feedback from her commenters. Most of the regular commenters are the same way. It’s an interesting place and I am sharing this with you in the hopes that hanging out there for a while over time might be as helpful to you as it is to me.

Some of Captain Awkward’s posts are specifically geared to how to deal with racism and Trumpism and sexism and other forms of discrimination. Others are more about dealing with difficult people and situations in other contexts. But there are lots of recurring themes: Use your words. “No” is a complete sentence. Let it be awkward. Build and maintain good boundaries. These are valuable skills and concepts for changing the world, bit by bit.

I’d love to hear what online resources have been helpful to you in learning how to stand up and make change. The more information and strategies we have, the better—as long as we actually put them into practice.

 

 

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So this guy tried to pick me up…. (or, A Tale of Three Men)

Last Friday, I played a gig with two other DJs. I was up first, and I tried something totally new (for me): a set of music from my childhood. Pink Floyd, Cream, The Animals, Led Zeppelin, Supertramp, David Bowie, The Talking Heads… Music I remember falling asleep to as a little kid. If I’d come up with the idea a little sooner, I would have loved to add some Golden Earring and Moody Blues and ELO, but anyway, it was fun.

There was a guy (we’ll call him Stripey Shirt) who was pretty drunk and trying his luck with a lot of the women at the venue. With me, it was “Wow, you got some good dance moves. I mean, I’m from Jamaica and I know you got some good moves!” while his arm was on the back of the chair in which I was sitting. I was leaning away from his arm and planning how to extricate myself when he added “You gotta give me your number. I want to you DJ a private party I’m throwing!” I laughed at him and said “Yeah, because THAT sounds totally legit!” Continue reading

Weekly Pet Peeve: Distracted Drivers

Content warning for traffic accident, gore, and trauma.

Last night, a friend and I had dinner at the Marion Hotel. It looks kind of scruffy on the outside, with the beer vendor out back, the parking lot full of pickup trucks, and the line of gleaming Harley-Davidsons out front all summer. But the sweet potato fries are fabulous, and the servers are great.

But my friend told me a shitty story. Her sister-in-law was killed last year by a distracted driver. The SIL was out cycling with a friend. A driver was weaving all over the road because she was texting. She struck my friend’s sister-in-law and killed her pretty much instantly. The friend cycling with her wrote a Victim Impact Statement for the court about how she saw her friend’s brains crushed out of her head onto the roadway, and her pretty blue eyes go lifeless, and blood everywhere, and how she now has flashbacks and nightmares in which she relives the event.  The victim’s daughters wrote impact statements, too, about how now their mom won’t ever know her first grandchild (one of the daughters is currently pregnant).

The sentence was handed down recently. The “distracted driver” got her driver’s license suspended for ninety days. That’s it. THAT’S IT. I put “distracted driver” in quotations because my preferred term is MURDERER. It’s not involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide or whatever. It’s pure and simple murder.

If you text while driving, if you drink and drive, if you smoke pot and drive, if you are distracted or impaired in any way—especially ways that you KNOW are illegal!–then you are an asshole, a shitbag, a waste of fucking skin, and you deserve to have your license revoked forEVER, your car impounded, and your name made public.

I can hear the whining now: “But the punishment should fit the criiiiiime!!! It’s not faaaair to do that to someone just for having a couple of drinks / toking up / texting!!!”

You’re wrong. It’s entirely fair. If someone puts my life at risk for the sake of their own convenience or recreation, they deserve to be charged and convicted with Attempted Murder.

 


Edited 13 May 2016 to fix a typo.

 

Weekly Pet Peeve: Toast-Related Injuries

You know when you make the perfect toasted tomato-and-cheese sandwich? With a tasty, juicy tomato in thick slices, and some sharp old cheddar, and coarsely-ground black pepper. With the stone-ground whole wheat bread toasted to the exact perfect crispiness, and the layers of tomato and cheese perfectly constructed. When nobody interrupts your progress, so by the time you slice the sandwich in two and sit down to take the first bite, everything is still fresh and warm.

And then, with that first bite, the top layer of toast scrapes the top of your mouth raw, so that every chewing motion hurts, and the pleasure of savouring your perfect sandwich is lost.

I hate that.

 

 

Weekly Pet Peeve: I Am Not a Mental Health “Consumer”

Words matter. The labels we are given or choose to use matter. Language structures how we think, and how we think structures how we use language.

Once we were victims or sufferers.

Then we were patients (and if we were lucky, ex-patients).

Clients.

Person with X.

Survivor.

All problematic in different ways, but none as problematic for me as the trend to call us users or consumers of the mental health care system. My mental illness is not a commodity. To deal with it, I am not choosing or shopping or consuming or using the mental health care system. That implies that there is actually an array of effective, accessible, affordable, respectful options from which to choose. To commercialise mental health care (and all health care), to position the people who need health care services as users, as consumers, as if we are freely choosing to use and consume resources, as if we are the same as anyone shopping at WalMart for plastic toys made by kids in factories in overexploited countries, is to make illness and its treatment on par with any other goods and services in a capitalist system. That is absurd. Getting help isn’t as simple as picking out canned goods at the grocery store. Health care is not a commodity, and illness is not a lifestyle choice. Continue reading

Weekly Pet Peeve: “I’m not racist, but…” (aka “Some of my friends are…”)

I got nothing against passive-aggressive a-holes, but...

I got nothing against passive-aggressive a-holes, but…

In all its various permutations:

“I’ve got nothing against gays, but…”

“I’m all for equality, but…”

“I got no problem with immigrants, but…”

“There’s nothing wrong with blue collars, but…”

And so on, and ’nuff said.