Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, well-known Irish-American politician, once said: “To be Irish is to know that, in the end, the world will break your heart”. With all respect to the good (and late) Senator, I think this applies to more than just the Irish. More and more recently, I have come face to face with the most depressing and heart-breaking examples of just how much this world of ours seems to be going to hell, with or without a hand basket. It is getting harder than ever to feel confident about the future of our society on a broad scale.
Take politics, for example. It was bad enough having to deal with the whole Trump disaster, watching the inexorable eating away of all society’s values: honesty, integrity, honour. Lying, blatant and unapologetic lying, became expected, no longer caused any upset, when it came from the mouth of the American President. Yes, politicians are known not to have a deep regard for truth, when it suits them; but this level of mendacity is heart-breaking. And his own Party stand back and say nothing. They have sold their souls for power.
It went beyond that, though. It extended to encouraging hatred of others. Didn’t matter who the others were, that’s the way autocrats work. Identify an enemy and stir up nationalist, racist, misogynist rage, putting real people’s lives in danger and creating a free space for haters to speak openly and arrogantly against whoever they choose.
Am I exaggerating? Well, we received a copy of a letter sent to our Mayor and Council this week, in response to hearing that the Pride flag would be flown outside the Municipal Centre. I can understand why some people would find that offensive and that is their prerogative in a free society. But look at what this person said: “I am voicing my opposition to you pandering to political activist groups, especially replacing NG flag with their offensive rendition of rainbows. You might as well put up the Swastika”.
That is being said in our community. Today. Everywhere you look, people are feeling free to utter hate-filled and hateful comments about whoever they find objectionable. Today’s enemies include people with other than heterosexual leanings, Muslims, the poor and unemployed, and who knows who else. I don’t get it, to be honest. What lies behind this division?
In the U.K., they’re finding that racism is becoming more of a problem in soccer – not among the players, but in the crowds. Non-white players are hearing monkey chants whenever they have the ball, or they have banana skins thrown onto the pitch at them. The really weird thing is that these same idiots shout loudly in support of non-white players on their own team!
Brexit has brought out a lot of this miserable behaviour also. Ultra-nationalists who believe that the Brits are somehow superior to “Europeans”, that the European Union is somehow reducing them to “slavery”, and preventing the UK (by which they really mean England) from reaching its full potential, i.e., a return to the Empire.
Immigrants – now there’s a popular target of hate and suspicion. According to these warped haters, immigrants are all potential terrorists, or else they’re taking away all “our” jobs, diluting the pure Canadian identity. Of course, when some in Quebec raise these allegations against the RoC (Rest of Canada), we condemn their narrow minded point of view. Then the Quebec Government bans people working in the public service from wearing religious “symbols”. Does this mean that people like Sikhs, for example, are now banned from working in that sector in Quebec? Isn’t that against the Charter?
Remember, though, that none of this is really new. Hatred of Jews has been a staple of western society for generations, and even Canada sent boatloads back to the gas chambers of Hitler’s Germany. I am an immigrant. I have, however, one advantage: the colour of my skin. That didn’t save my fellow Irish people in the past. In the UK, we faced signs outside boarding houses and businesses: “No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs”. I suppose we Irish have been promoted since then?
There is another famous saying that fits these days: “I Can Take The Despair, It’s The Hope That Kills You”. The thing is, most of us hoped that these kind of awful sentiments and statements were slowly disappearing as we learned to live together. Then the truth comes out that very little has changed, not even the nature of the targets being fired on by racists, bigots and other haters with no reason. A poet from Liverpool once wrote: “And the difference between those who love and those who hate, is that those who hate have to explain”.
It is up to you and me, to each individual, to decide on what side they want to stand. You don’t have to approve of everyone and what they believe and want. Nor do you have to march and write and speak out in public. But, when it comes to you, when you hear the comments, the pseudo-scientific rationale for hatred and anger, then you have to take a stand. In the words of another American: “Just say No!”