I got into a philsoophical discussion with a close friend from my home city of Winnipeg last night. Winnipeg, Manitoba considers itself a kind of "capital" of multiculturalism
. That used to be a source of pride for the place I come from; and yet these days if I wonder if the popular ‘Folklarama’ festival, which celebrates the diversity of Winnipeg and the immigrants who’ve settled there over the last several generations. The recent story of how Muslim terrorists (alleged terrorists) were caught in Toronto this past weekend has started to tarnish the term multiculturalism in the eyes of many Canadians. So where’s this headed? Does Canada stand on the verge of becoming a police state, populated by white-skinned people fearful and intolerant of any who appear vaguely of eastern descent?
But that’s not the most pressing question for me today. Intolerance has always been around; along with bigotry and racism – amongst the white, anglo-saxon majority (or what once was a majority). But incredibly, I’m finding a disturbing number of cases where those of mid-east ancestry are taking a strangely defiant attitude about this situation – even those who have the attitude that basically we, the ‘WASP’ majority, asked for this somehow by supporting the Americans or sending troops to Afghanistan.
Setting aside the right or wrong of troops aboad for the moment, there’s gonna one huge question in the minds of us would-be oppressors to immigrants who harbour these views. If we really are a big, nasty, uncaring, white neocon majority – what in the hell are you as an immigrant to this country doing antagonizing the host population, which after all sees itself as having been under absolutely no obligation to allow anyone immigrate here in the first place? And if you hate it so much here, why stay? Why not go back where ya come from?
In short: are ya nuts?
The fact is, regardless of their skin colour, most Canadians simply don’t dwell on what George Bush is doing and don’t harbour any particular animostiy to Muslims or those with non-white ancestry. From what I can tell, most white-skinned people don’t partcularly harbour ill-will of any kind to others, regardless of skin colour. But when threatened by people they feel they’ve been kind enough to lend the favour of letting immigrate to this great, prosperous land that if we don’t do as we’re told by Osama bin Laden that our institutions will be attacked and fellow citizens killed – well, some of us (myself included) get a little defiant ourselves. And a lot less accomodating.
But the the big surprise here is that this somehow is all unexpected by anyone. To a whole of people, being in Afghanistan isn’t wrong; not because of any love of invasion either. It’s the good ‘ol fashion desire to help one’s fellow man. Maybe it is wrong to be there, but oppression just isn’t the goal. And how in the name of Allah, God or whatever you believe in anyone could reach a conclusion to the contrary is a trifle puzzling to say the least. If nothing else, it’s astounding that those who’d want to purpotrate violence on Canadians in Canada could somehow turn a blind eye to someting this obvious.
Scariest of all is the realization that if there are those, in this age of the Internet and tolerance who can start believing in something as wrong as bombings in Toronto and Ottawa; they can probably end up believing anything at all – and believe they’re right doing it. To them they’re so right and we’re so wrong and they’ll kill us because of it until they’re dead or we are. Period. How do you deal with any significant number of people who harbour such views?
The options to react seem damned few indeed. And at the moment, I’m having a lot of trouble seeing a path different from the one my grandparents found themselves on during World War II. I remember her telling me stories about how Germans were persecuited and discrimiated against. When I exclaimed how bizaare I found that when she told me the story, she’d said "well it was a different time; we were at war." She was the most kind, genrous, loving and wonderful person I’ve ever known, so I was stumped how she could have justified such a view – war or not. Only now do I realize just what she meant – and how it doesn’t seem so bizaare or inexplicable anymore.
Here’s hoping, for once, that I’ve just got blinders on and can’t see the answer. Because I’d only be too happy to be wrong, this occasion – about how things are going to be in Canada in the next 2 to 5 years.