Back to School, America

You may have heard news of this little speech dealio that occurred yesterday afternoon. Oh you know, nothing major. Just the president of America having a little sit-down with the youth of the nation. A little pep talk, as it were. Do your best and all that jazz. Probably not the first President to ever do so.
However, he may be the first to be greeted with parents pulling their kids out of school for wanton fear that he’d warp their mushy little brains with his left wing agenda.  Really folks, do you so distrust your own parenting that you honestly think that a fifteen minute exposure to someone who’s views you disagree with will destroy their little morals forever and undo years of tireless value-instilling?
Here, take a quick gander. If you want, you can see the whole 15 minute shebang here, but for a brief taste that really speaks volumes about his “agenda”, here’s a brief segment.
I don’t get it guys. I really don’t understand what the problem is. I’m not even talking about this particular speech here. This goes beyond that, to the atmosphere of absolute media hysteria that I feel trembling up from our southern border. This is what you’re worried about?! And this is something that Josh and I have discussed at great length, another clear indication of the difference in our cultures. Why do you panic at the thought of understanding another point of view?
For example, let’s get away from politics for a second, and talk about another frequent point of difference and disagreement. Yeah, let’s do it, let’s talk religion.
Do you know where I learned about Buddhism and Islam? Theism, Antitheism, Agnosticism? In my Roman Catholic high school. Yeah, yeah, I wore the kilt. And they taught us not just the Bible, but provided access to other teachings as well. We learned not just Creation – although it was the obvious favourite – but Evolution. We learned other theories, teachings, and schools of thought. The Quran, the Torah and Talmud, the Bhagavad-Gita. The belief in nothing at all, or perhaps just a ‘maybe’, and even the basis for the belief of some that religion is outright harmful. We learned that you can take the Bible literally but that it’s not going to add up to real life (because, hello! Science!!!) And we learned that you can take moral truths from the scripture instead of basing your perception of reality on every single word. We were never taught that dinosaur bones are the work of the devil.
Let’s talk other issues. I was also taught not just about abstinence, but safe sex, abortion, adoption, sexual health, marriage, and all the sexual orientations under the rainbow. I saw brutal pro-life videos and articulated pro-choice seminars, and had open, frank discussion about the morality involved in either options. Understanding, rather than condemnation, was the name of the game. The girl who was brave enough to come to school while pregnant wore her belly as a badge that she hadn’t succumbed to guilt and fear, and was greeted with support, not shame. The same was true for the girl who decided for another option – publicly, the school had it’s opinion, but in the halls there was comfort, not mudslinging.
Let’s talk politics again. We learned not just about how our country works, but how others work. We learned the basis behind democracy, theocracy, oligarchy, aristocracy, monarchy. Communism, socialism, facsism, nationalism. If we see a system as inherently good or evil, why? Nobody gets in charge ranting about the terrible things they’re going to do in a few years, so what happens? What did communism hope to accomplish? How did it fail and why? Was Hitler batshit insane from the get-go or did something go horrifically awry? How do global politics come home? What aspects of our own system have the potential for abuse and misuse?
In other words, we learned to think critically about our opinions and others, and it makes me furious that there are those who don’t just allow parroting, but encourage it. Mindless repetition. Yes, I went to a religious school, and the leanings were definitely towards the morality our parents evidently wanted us to learn. But we weren’t sheltered from the rest of the world for fear that it would negate all their teachings.  We were encouraged to learn, to form opinions based on information and analytical thought, not repetitive propaganda. How can you have faith in what you believe, be it politics, religion or otherwise, if you can’t withstand criticism? And how can you criticize others if you don’t know where they’re coming from? How do you cover the ears of your children and then expect them to learn?
This is why I don’t understand the fear, hysteria and sheltering. Not just pulling your kids out of school because they might hear a ‘controversial democrat’, but beyond that. How do you forbid evolution in schools? How do you burn books? How do you take the rules of your particular interpretation of one of so many belief systems and try to rule others with it? How do you think you’re right, just because you’ve insisted so for so long without turning that criticism inwards to see if you really measure up? How do you think any single one of you has all the answers, so much so that you give yourself the permission to rise above other human beings and condemn them? How do you fear other points of view so much?
Ladies and gentlemen, I just don’t get it.

Happy (Belated) Canada Day

Okay, I know I’m eons late by now. But did you really want me to half ass a post about Canada? I didn’t think so.

And yes, pictures of the vacation are on the way. Josh is moving around right now, so he hasn’t had time to send them to me. Don’t forget, we’ve got celebrities, strippers, and inappropriate licking. So stay tuned!

Now, onto Canada Day.

In case you didn’t notice somewhere along the way, or are joining us here for the first time, I’m the Canadian half of this couple. Josh, on the other hand, is from the Deep South of America. It makes for some fun times, but it also leads to very involved, sometimes heated conversations about our different ways of life, politics, and principals. I have to admit it can sometimes be difficult for me to not bash my head into the wall at a lot of what I see coming out of America…


But on the plus side, there are advantages to being in a relationship with someone who’s way of life has been totally different than mine, and who will debate me on things that matter. He can play up the southern redneck side when he wants, but at the end of the day Josh is sharp, and politically motivated. You can’t bullshit him. So when he doesn’t understand or agree with why we do what we do, I have to be on my toes.

I realize that as far as some are concerned (it’s okay Talea, I still lub you) being from Toronto may somewhat negate my Canadian status. After all, it’s a pretty massive piece of land and civilization – I’ve only seen the French and Maritime parts of it, and my day to day life is mired in urban culture as opposed to prairies, mountains, and small town issues. But a year of dating an American, I have discovered, makes you want to be the best damn Canadian you can be.

This isn’t to imply that Josh is arrogant or anything – quite the opposite in fact. I’m continually impressed at his wanting to know and understand everything about the country he’s moving to, to pick at issues until he’s sure he has the facts. But to give him those facts, I have to make sure I know what I’m talking about.

For example, we do have an army

I’m not going to go into a long involved schpiel about our differing policies, beliefs and political structures. Frankly, politics are only so exciting, even during that coalition brouhaha we had. I’m even going to try and avoid grandstanding (as much as I’d love to run around with a flag yelling CA-NA-DAAAA! FUCK YEAH!!!) Because when you get right down to the nitty gritty of comparing rights, freedoms, taxes, benefits, social institutions and etc., well… it can be disappointing. Josh is still very true to his southern heritage, but I think he’s more than a little frustrated at the state of his nation lately. Sometimes I feel a little bad about it.

However, I will say that despite some decline, Canada’s economy has fared relatively well. There’s no doubt we’ve been affected, but I believe that our economic and political foundations are strong enough to weather bad times – relatively speaking, we’ve got it together.  I will say that we have health care. There are problems, I know. It may take months to get an ultrasound, there may not be enough general practitioners, but when your kid is sick at 3 in the morning and you can’t figure out what’s wrong, you don’t have to think about whether or not you can afford to go to the hospital. I will also say that when I told Josh that I’d want to consider placing our eventual kids in the seperate  school system rather than the public system, I was dumbfounded when he asked me how much that would cost – it never occured to me that others don’t have free access to more than one school system. And I will say that I’ve grown to appreciate the multicultural mecca of  Toronto more and more every day – do you have any idea how many kinds of food I get to feed Josh? 

So moreso than anything else this past year, I have learned not to take these things for granted. While we’re not the biggest or loudest player, Canada is a well respected member of the international community. And we didn’t get here by having the biggest army, by being the most outspoken, by having a standardized Canadian flag hanging above every porch or so help you the neighbours will talk. We got here by quietly building up a solid foundation of domestic and international diplomacy, by beginning our country with less war and more politics, and by encouraging flags from around the world to be flown next to our own. We’re more than maple syrup, mounties, and whatever party is in charge this quarter. It’s how those parties interact, how the entire system is set up. I like to think of it as a hockey team that doesn’t always get along, but scores when it counts, parties calling each other out for the greater goal of winning at the internationals. It’s how we work with each other, and with the rest of the world.

Yes indeed, it is a damn fine year to be Canadian.

I can’t wait until Josh is here to see everything that Canada, and especially Toronto, is all about. The Gerrard Indian Bazaar, Greektown, Corsa Italia, Chinatown, Litte Portugal and others. The Pride Parade, the music festivals, the film festivals, the Agricultural Winter Fair, Winterlicious and Summerlicious, the theatre, the symphony, the media, and the constant barrage of invitations to info sessions on everything from meditation to Darfur.

More than anything I’m really looking forward to just having him here living with me. But I’m also hoping that while keeping his own brand of southern flavour, he also gets to understand that certain je nais se quoi of what it is to be Canadian.

Did you see what I did there? With the French? Pretty clever, huh?