I unfriended two facebook friends this week-end, a rare occurrence for me.
One is of no consequence, a random facebook dude I kept bumping into via the posts of a mutual friend. He seemed harmless enough initially but as it turns out, he is a right-winged anomaly amid a sea of lefties, his main purpose in life being to goad liberals into his pit of self-perpetuating nastiness. Indeed, he is the sad and pathetic lone troll of his own facebook posts.
The second person I unfriended however is someone I know personally. It happened as a result of two separate but equally hateful posts from her that showed up on my newsfeed suggesting: 1) that niqab-wearing Muslims could very well be terrorists and 2) if they (“they” presumably referring to niqab-wearing Muslims) don’t like it here they should “insert expletive here” go to back to their own countries.
Not surprisingly, the awful circumstances, media hype and government reaction surrounding the recent killings of two Canadian soldiers have fanned the flames of intolerance. Mention the word terror and the usual suspects appear. Not the ones bearing rifles mind you, but rather the ones who, like predictable Pavlovian-trained dogs, fire up their self-righteous, narrowminded views and post them publicly, grammar mistakes and all.
For a refreshingly different take on these events, read this and this and this.
I wrote about the upsetting posts to a good friend of mine. He replied with a question, “Are you still friends with that racist?”. Which made me stop and think because if being a facebook follower counts then yes, I was still friends with her. And for that matter, did I really consider her to be a racist?
I asked my son to pull out the list of words he was studying for his grade five Ethics and Religious Cultures course. Words like value, self-esteem, prejudice, discrimination and open-mindedness. He knew the definitions of these words by heart which pleased me but suddenly I wondered if he really understood them.
I was confused. Not to mention the two words I really wanted to clarify were not even on his list. I looked up the word racist
first and wasn’t convinced. Then I looked up bigot
. Bigot, “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance”. This fit the profile better than racist.
I thought back to the words my son had memorized and hoped he would not learn about racism and bigotry the way I had, being on their receiving end. Having your peers tell you “go home Paki” when you’re only seven years old gouges the psyche. Being pre-judged for no other reason than the colour of my skin was probably the most defining moment of my life. No doubt, it’s exactly the same feeling as being judged, hated, called a terrorist, or told to go back to your own country, for any other outwardly religious or cultural difference. It hurts. It maims. Sometimes it even kills. On this issue, there is no grey zone for me. I find it immoral, unconscionable, unjustifiable. I will not tolerate it.
So what’s the solution if I can’t change the world with loving kindness and peaceful intent? For starters, I can take a stand and dissociate myself from some of the ugliness on the net. I can take back control and stop the propagation of these hateful memes on my newsfeed.
Living an authentic life requires removing the pieces that don’t fit, and that includes people whose core values are diametrically opposite to mine. What I did was the right thing for me, for my family and for peaceful niqab-wearing Muslims everywhere. I unfriended the bigot.