When our last issue of 2015 went to print, I wasn’t sure I was ready to share my column from that week on my blog. While it is online on our website, our readership is limited, and while it addressed specifically the refugee situation in our small town, I wasn’t sure I was ready for its reach to be extended.
If you follow me as a blogger, a writer, or a journalist, you know I’ve rarely been one to shy away from speaking my mind. I’m rarely afraid of the implication of my words because I am fully prepared to stand by them when the situation demands it.
It’s no secret my faith in humanity has faltered greatly over the last two years.
While there have been many times where that faith has seen some restoration, it seems like there is more and more pointing towards the death of humanity (the concept of loving, helping, etc, not mankind itself).
My faith in my community has faltered even more since the arrival of our first refugee family. It took a lot for me to step out and write that column, and it was perhaps one of the hardest columns I have written in a long time. It was a column I had to reread and rework to ensure the comments I made were not snide responses out of anger to those in our community, but were out of genuine concern, love, and desire for true, positive change.
I wasn’t afraid to put it out there in the paper because let’s face it, most of the people who have been uttering threats towards those who want to help the refugees, border-lining on hate crimes and avidly promoting hate speech are likely not the kinds of people that read columns. The largest culprits are barely the kinds of people who educate themselves to anything outside of their own small world of thought.
But the internet is a whole other ballgame. And I will admit, I was afraid. I was afraid right up until this past Sunday when people, some of whom I would never have expected to hear this from, came out of the woodwork to thank me for my column, to thank me for my bravery, to commend my boldness in speaking out. After yet another call today, I’ve decided that if my column can impact one person, if it can change one mind, get one person to reconsider, then it would be worth anything that might come my way.
It would be worth it because I truly believe that in the end, true, deep love always wins.
The first time I experienced negative behaviour toward me because of my heritage, I was 13 years old, and a bully in my class had just found out I was of German descent.
He told me that my dead mother was a two-dollar hooker in hell, servicing all my Nazi ‘comrades’ and that people like me shouldn’t be allowed in Canada – that all Nazis, which is anyone who’s German, deserved to die.
While he may not have understood the words he was saying and the racism that was attached to them, it was an experience I’ve never forgotten. I may not have been spoken to that way since, but it was an eye-opener. It was just a slight dose of what those who are different have to deal with, and it was enough to change me forever.
As I’ve grown into an adult, I’ve come to realise that the ideology that drives hatred toward people of different heritages, colours, backgrounds and religions is one which appears to run rampant in our community.
It’s not just uneducated children who are spewing these concepts, it’s adults – ones who claim to be educated, who claim to be community-minded and caring.
Nothing has made this more clear than the current Syrian refugee crisis, particularly with several groups starting to raise funds and bring some of the refugees to the Orangeville area.
When dealing with such a controversial, and even terrifying issue, it’s normal to have varying opinions. It’s normal to be afraid and to have questions and concerns in a situation like this. It’s normal even to want to keep yourself far, far away from it. As we’ve seen over our history, it even seems normal that the fear allows us to forget that the people on the other side of the issue are humans.
What is not acceptable is to have that fear turn to hatred, turn to the point where we not only forget that these people who are suffering are humans but forget that they deserve human decency as much as we do. It’s not okay to send threats to groups who are using their own funds to bring some of these families here.
Regardless of whether you agree that we should be bringing them here or not, treating them like terrorists simply because they exist is not going to help them, and it’s not going to help us. The reason so many people become so easily radicalised is because they see the hatred toward them, they see the way people shut down their hearts and lump them together solely because of the colour of the skin or their country of origin.
When we turn our backs on someone because of something like this, we drive them to hate us.
It happened during World Wars when we imprisoned people for their heritage, telling them it was for their safety, and forcing them to live in awful conditions with everything stripped from them.
Orangeville is supposedly a warm and welcoming community. It’s a town where folks do what they can to reach out and support those who are in need. But since the first refugee family has arrived, it has also become a town of a few people who not only broadcast hate, but who threaten people who live here because they want to help – who threaten and encourage hate against a family that has just come from a tragic situation none of us could ever imagine being in.
I was fortunate enough that I was born here, that my father was a Canadian, and that I never had a German accent. My biological mother was not, and though it was many, many years after World War II that her family came to Canada, my Oma and Opa have shared stories of some of the awful treatment they received by Canadians, by people who believed that all Germans were Nazis and terrorists. Eventually, this stopped and they became a part of their communities.
I can only hope that the same can be said for the families who are coming to our community.
Because they are coming, they are already here. And no amount of hate-filled rhetoric is going to change it because, for every person who is threatening the groups, for every person telling these families to get “OUT”, there are way more of us who want to welcome them with open arms. Because in situations like this, there are only two outcomes: either love wins, or hate wins.
I’m not sure what the people who are sending out threats, hate calls and hateful messages think they are going to achieve. I’m not sure how they even think that it would help anyone, let alone themselves.
What I am sure about is that in this situation, love is going to win, and love is going to outweigh the hate.nd love is going to outweigh the hate.
This column appeared in the Orangeville Citizen on December 23, 2015