Sunday, November 15, 2015

Risking Freedom and the Wisdom of Silence

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.

Just a few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with one of my dearest friends. We had just met up in Zambia and she was telling me how one of the weird fears that kept haunting her as she planned to come for the first time, was the fear of cold sores. She went to the pharmacist and got some strong medication just in case one came on. She also called her friend, a naturopath, who gave her some advice on what to use and avoid, but who also told her that sometimes cold sores manifest when people hold their words.

I'm not sure why, but that has just stuck with me over the past few weeks. I don't know if there is any science to it but it did make me think a lot about words and holding back and maybe why I've never had a cold sore.

In light of the recent terror attacks in Beirut and in Paris, I have been trying to hold my tongue. Or should I say my fingers from flying across the keyboard. I'll tell you what, no cold sores but I have had a burning, nauseous feeling in my gut for the past two nights. It may be unrelated but I am heartsick (and heart burn'ed?) about the fear based, racist comments I see coming from people in all walks of life. I can almost see the glow of the torches and the reflections of the pitchforks and shovels as people rally to the cry of "Close our borders!" to those who have suffered the most at the hands of militant extremists. I hear the stories of mosques being burnt in our country and people keeping their children home from school in neighbouring ones, so afraid of repercussions based on the ideas that someone with an explosive belt represents their religion and they should all be "exterminated".

There are videos circulating old footage and fearful images of waves of refugee crowds that only include military aged men and don't represent the millions of families who have been walking since before anyone really allowed the news to enter their mindset. It's only when our own freedoms and safety are "threatened" that suddenly we have strong opinions on what the refugee policy should be in our country.

Our reactions to these days are very telling of what we value. It's not lost on me that I watched a documentary the other night in which Gino Bartoli and indeed, an amazing number of Italians, opened their country, their homes, their villages and saved thousands of Jews from death at the hands of the Nazis. They risked their own personal freedoms, their safety and that of their families because they had in front of them - a group of people who, while of a different religion and ethnic background, were human and valuable and worth risking it for. We call those Italians heroes.

We live in a time in history where we love heroics. We just look for them in places like Hollywood and in stories on youtube in 30 second sound bites where it costs nothing. We've cheapened heroism. And humanity. We've become detached from the cost of it. And more so from the cost of doing nothing. We watch movies like Hotel Rwanda and Schindler's List and are inspired and say "Never again" and then...nothing. We don't really mean it and we're on to the next thing before the dvd player cools.

Terrorists win when they cause confusion and chaos and fear. They also win when they cause good people to fear doing the right thing. I'm not advocating for opening the floodgates all willy nilly as my Granny B would have said, but I am for keeping our borders open so that those who were the first and continuously affected victims of ISIS terrorists have somewhere safe to lay their heads. They've been running long before we face booked it. They've been living with the rumours of it for years, the first early assertions of these radicals, and the rising tide of terror since before we heard about it on the evening news, squashed between the leadership race of a country that won't vote for another year and the latest Kardashian to be swept off her feet by yet another soon to be ex spouse.

Over the past few days, as I've read some incredibly racist and bigoted remarks, sweeping generalizations and downright ignorant statements, I will say this: I'm going to protect the rights of those who have none. I'm going to speak for those who though they march in the millions, have no voice. I'm going to find ways to finance and be part of bringing refugees to my city. I just am.
You can decide now what you will do. I ask that you assess where you get your news, who you listen to and how it shapes you. Then ask yourself who you want to be and if the characteristics you're exhibiting are getting you there. We live out the values we truly hold when we're pressed. I value freedom. I value safety. I just don't value it at the cost of someone else's basic human rights to the same.

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