Monday, September 26, 2016

Ban the Silence

I don't always come with something to write about but this weekend, I visited the Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I'm telling you, it's worth the trip. The building itself is an architectural wonder, with meandering ramps, soft lighting, bare polished cement and open resonant spaces from top to bottom. It's incredibly beautiful and restful and yet sufficiently reverent and open to allow you to move from exhibit to exhibit with time for reflection in between.

I was in Winnipeg for one of our Carlie's wedding. Carleigh Wegner and her counterpart, Carly Honeybunn, were part of our intake team in Africa in 2012. They and our fellow Saskatonian, Mel, were subjected to not only the culture shock and work of spending three months in Africa, they had to share it with our family, who were trying to figure it all out with two boys in tow. These girls were big sisters to our boys, little sisters to us and wise teachers all at the same time. I can't express how much respect I have for these young women who were brave and went to Africa, seeking to learn and contribute, to love and to encourage. They are some of the most compassionate women I have ever spent time with.  I stayed at Carly H's home (which she shares with her stellar husband, Kyle). Our dear Kristal Hoff and her little Francie joined us and it was basically an amazing extended slumber party, with a wedding and fireworks and good food thrown in for good measure. 

After the beautiful wedding of Carleigh to her Will, Kristal and I left with Francie and headed back to the apartment for a good nights sleep. I tell you, waking up to a baby just cooing in the room is something I don't think I ever experienced with our boys. They just weren't the wake up smiling and cooing kinda kids. Probably because they only ever slept for an hour at a time and were perpetually sleep deprived, as were we, their parents. 

On Saturday morning, I had made arrangements with (ahem, bribed) my eldest nephew, Mitch. I figured I could get a good half hour or forty five minute visit in even if it meant taking him to Costco and buying him meat. He's such a good kid (well, man...but kid to me....) and he showed up with a list that included eggs, bread and salsa. I did NOT fight Saturday morning parking at Costco for that measly list so I got him rolling and left satisfied that he'll not waste away till his mom gets back from overseas.  As we were finishing up, Kristal and Carly texted where we were going to meet up, so I sent Mitch on his way with a hug in public and said all the mushy aunt things I needed to say, and then I drove away, with maybe a small speck in my eye causing a few tears.

Kristal, Kyle, Carly and I met up and had lunch with Francie as entertainment and then we decided to head over to the Museum for Human Rights. I was hmm'ing and haw'ing about going because I didn't want to rush but I also knew I had a long drive home ahead of me. In the end, I couldn't pass up the chance to see it with people that feel things as deeply as I do or even more so, in regards to social justice.  I was not disappointed. It was interesting as we wandered through the exhibits of which were the issues that spoke more pointedly to each of us as individuals, and also those that struck as collectively. I can't begin to tell you the impact the exhibit of the residential schools and the red dress exhibit of missing and murdered indigenous women had on me. The stories are haunting me still and I can't seem to get my head or heart around the fact that this is happening in the country I feel so privileged to live in.  My desire to learn more and speak up more for the cultural genocide and abuses that our First Nations have been subjected to and erased from is overwhelming right now. I'm moved to tears thinking that I've been naive enough to believe the media and the downplaying of the atrocities inflicted on our indigenous populations in Canada.   Seeing the exhibit of the Holocaust and the artifacts again brought home the idea that we are not so evolved that we can say, "Never again" because we are allowing these things to happen worldwide and turning away. Standing facing the school uniform of Malala and seeing how little she was when she was shot for speaking up for her right to get an education humbled me as well. An 11 year old girl shot for being a threat to some of the most ruthless terrorists in our recent history. Until you see the blood stained fabric of a child's school uniform, it doesn't hit home that she speaks for all children and particularly girls' rights to education. Incredible. 

Despite the horrors of what man does to man....I left the museum feeling somewhat encouraged. That if we continue to tell the stories and show the evidence of our histories, hopefully we can learn from those. I was also amazed at the resilience of survivors...of genocides, of residential school abuses, of unimaginable losses and witnessed horrors. If they can stand against it, how can I not? 

I continue to reflect on the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that I read on my way out of the museum. 

"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people."

We can't be silent. It is siding with the oppressors to remain so. I challenge you again as I do myself. Pick an issue. Refugees. Migrants. Displaced persons. Wars. Genocides. Terrorist plots. Government corruption. Pick a country. Zimbabwe. Congo. Venezuela. Syria. Ukraine. Sudan. Nigeria. Cambodia. Myanmar. America. Canada. Learn the history. Speak up against injustice. Fight the terror with courage.  Use your voice. Use your influence. Use this one brief and beautiful life to make someone else's easier.

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