Monday, January 30, 2017

Pen vs. Sword, Words vs. Guns

(Blobs in background are just people obscured for their privacy.)

These are my friends, Sam and Alia. I feel lucky to call them my friends. Alia always makes me feel so good, with her bright smile and "firecracker" personality -- all bright and sparkly.
Alia is Muslim, I am Christian, and those parts of our identities have nothing to do with our friendship. We are friends regardless of our spiritual inclinations. We are friends because we like each other, and we have fun together.
We don't see each other much these days because as someone who speaks both Arabic and English, she is busy assisting our newest county residents, those who fled the war in Syria, get settled in and adjust to a new world.

I wrote about Sam and Alia in Field Notes, the book. I interviewed Alia during Oxford's first International Women's Day event in 2014. I devoted a column in 2015 to her response to OUR response to the Syrian refugee crisis. And I'm writing this post today because of what has happened in the last ten days, and because of what happened last night in a Muslim mosque in Quebec City.
This is all I know how to do: I talk to people and share their story. I live in a rural area far away from the cities where the marches and protests are taking place. I'm not a politician or a celebrity or anyone with any kind of platform that can reach thousands, let alone millions.
It frustrates me not to be able to do more, to be more vocal, to be more active. It's also my personality to freeze when confronted with violence, hatred and ignorance. My brain stops thinking, my mouth freezes open, and my heart breaks. I shut down when faced with violence, hatred and ignorance.

I'm tired of this shit. All of it. I'm tired of the hate, I'm tired of the vitriol, I'm tired of guns and the debate over them. I'm tired of perpetuating our history of aggression and retaliation, of us-versus-them, of terror and extremism, of suffering and loss.
I'm tired of seeing a little boy covered in dust and blood, his face frozen in shock. I'm tired of seeing a little boy dancing around the carpeted floor of a mosque hours before a young man armed with a gun entered. I'm tired of seeing men and women holding their dying loved ones in their arms while they call for help or wail in grief.
What is scary is that the reason behind all of this is greed. Money. The CEO's bonus, the shareholders' dividends. Taking more and more from those who have less and less. Taking what is not ours in the first place.
I'm tired of standing in a church pulpit and preaching about the laws of love -- for each other and for creation -- then turning on the television to see how those in power foment hate and fear and arrogance.

This is why we create saviours and superheroes, isn't it? I'm not super or magical or even a little bit powerful so I do what I know how to do: I get to know those neighbours I love and I share our story.

These are my friends, Sam and Alia. I feel lucky to call them my friends.

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