Take A Knee

This summer, I worked with a group of teenage ESL students. I remember the first time I taught them our national anthem.

Everyone was ok with what we were doing, except one young woman. I’ll call her Emma.

After we sang “O Canada,”  I had the students work through an anthem-related activity. Once we were done, I couldn’t help but notice that Emma looked downright uncomfortable. While her classmates did other tasks, I took the empty seat beside her. We had a quiet conversation.

Emma was adamant. “An anthem is like a vow…” Technically, I knew she was right. However deep down, a part of me was stunned. Emma went on: she wasn’t from Canada, and didn’t want to disrespect her own country.

I dropped the issue. Days later, though, I had students do an activity that brought our anthem to mind. Once again, Emma was uncomfortable. And I was confused. Her reaction was unlike any that I’d encountered before. As far as I was concerned, Emma didn’t have to take the anthem as anything beyond what it appeared to be: A song.

One day after class, I approached my TA. I told him about Emma. His response?

He wasn’t going to stand in the way of anyone who didn’t want to sing “O Canada”.

Did I mention that my TA was Indigenous?

Instantly, I empathized. In the wake of his reply, it’s almost hilarious how quickly my attitude changed.

Looking back I can’t help but be intrigued. Two different perspectives can reveal so much about the meaning of a piece of music.

For one person, an anthem is a promise–when you sing it, you are declaring your devotion to a country. If you sing the anthem of a country that isn’t yours, you are being disrespectful.

For the other, an anthem can be a symbol of oppression. The first time I was present when a Native student didn’t stand for “O Canada”, I was curious. But I didn’t feel offended.

On one hand, I’m proud to be Canadian. Yet I’m not so proud that I don’t see my nation’s flaws. I understand why our past and present moves some of us to take a stand. Negative reactions to NFL players’ peaceful activism have been very telling.

Why should people be expected to entertain others at the expense of their humanity?

Yes, a national anthem is a song. But it’s more than that. It IS a vow–an expression of devotion and pride. And yet, to those who face injustice, its notes might not sound so sweet.

No one should feel obligated to be comfortable with a system that doesn’t value them. If you have strength and courage enough to protest against injustice, I salute you.

Photo source.

Losing My Religion: Flat Earth Faith

NOTE: I started to write a disclaimer for this post, but then I erased it. Honestly. What do I have to apologize for?

My main focus in this post is on trends that I’ve noticed among certain Christians. If this post doesn’t apply to you, then trust me. I’m not talking about you.


Whether they care to admit it or not, there are Christians out there who practice a little something that I’ve come to call flat-earth faith. They believe that if their worldview is altered in any way–if they go beyond the boundaries of a) what mainstream Christian teachers have taught them, and b) what they’ve chosen to believe about humanity–then they will be damned. Literally. Hence, a lot of people are content to adhere to what they think they know regarding the state of the world and humanity.

For example, concerning man’s purpose: Many Christians take the command that we are not our own to a very serious extreme. They reject any line of thought that focuses on the “self” as evil.  (I wish I had a dollar for every time a Christian dismissed something perfectly normal but related to self-care or self-help as a supposed example of how selfish and depraved human beings are. I swear–I’d be a millionaire.) They also aim to lead a righteous life, aka a life spent doing good and being kind to others. But this isn’t necessarily done for the sake of it. Rather, a number of Christians adhere to their code of conduct so that in the afterlife they can spend their time safely with God in Heaven, instead of Hell.

But there’s also something else that drives believers.

Remember the controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins? For those of you who don’t, here are the Cliff Notes: A few years ago, Rob Bell dared to suggest that Hell isn’t as hot as everyone says. In other words, he doesn’t view it as a literal realm of fire and brimstone. Mr. Bell also theorized that in the afterlife, heaven isn’t a Christians-only zone.

In response to this, certain folks were furious*, denouncing and disowning Rob left and right. Some even dared to declare him UNChristian. But why?

Because the hope of hell is what their faith is built on.  

Once you remove hell from the equation, the current Christian paradigm is broken. It becomes doing good for goodness’ sake–or Jesus’ sake, if you will–and where’s the fun in that?

I’m being sarcastic, but really. What I said isn’t that far off from the way some Christians actually think.

These folks are addicted to the story they’ve chosen to believe regarding humanity’s purpose and destiny. There are other lies that fuel some folks’ faith. In particular, the idea that kindness is a Christian virtue, those who aren’t Christian are “lost” or otherwise hopelessly unhappy and  missing out on one of life’s greatest secrets…And the idea that God loves them more than other humans.

Deep down–and sometimes even up front–a number of Christians value their exclusive status as God’s Chosen People. They count on it to serve them–if not here, then in the afterlife. In their minds, the point of this existence is, ultimately, to be good enough to secure a spot in heaven, otherwise what is there…?

As far as I’m concerned, PLENTY.

 

*That TIME article mentioned some of the pushback Rob received. I didn’t link to some of the more conservative sources out there, mainly because I don’t want trolls to pay me a visit.

 

This post’s image is from Unsplash. This time, via Jason Briscoe.

Losing My Religion: Foreword

I’ve been thinking about the future of my page. In the days to come, I’d like to dig deeply into self care and spirituality. But before I move forward, I really feel the need to take a look at what I’m running away from.

I’m going to begin by offering an honest look at my thoughts on religion. And I’ll be frank with you–a part of me is terrified. For one thing, I know that what I have to say is bound to upset people. I can think of certain long-lost friends who will be offended. Once I speak up, I know that I risk ruining some personal connections.

(On the other hand, some of my people will read what I have to say and go, “Uh huh. Uh huh… NEXT!” I salute them in advance.)

Spiritually, right now, I’m in an interesting place. I agree with the idea of God or a Higher Power. But I don’t subscribe to popular religious teachings surrounding man’s universal purpose, or the way that said Higher Power operates within society.

A part of me can’t help but feel bad. I still admire certain people that I’ve known who are traditionally religious. Meanwhile, I’ve been completely put off of others. Either way, folks’ religious leanings are tied to their values. And in our current political climate, I notice that some have used their faith as an excuse to uplift their fellow human beings. Still, others feel content with oppressing them.

It feels weird to give myself this space to share what I think. I feel the weight of the fact that spirituality can be a very personal and controversial thing. But the more I free myself from religion, the more I value myself. Deep down, I know that I have every right to give myself room to breathe.

Now that I’ve had my say, I’m bracing myself. Let the release begin.

This post’s image is from a photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash.

Very Necessary: Rob Bell’s Book

Over the years my thoughts on religion (Christianity) have evolved. I’ve been working on putting some of my feelings into words.

Meanwhile, not too long ago, I’d heard that Rob Bell had released another book. And then I discovered this interview.

I listened to it in podcast form, and I’m sure it’s worth watching.

Religion has a disturbing amount of influence in our society. And that influence begins with how people choose to interpret the Bible, and how seriously they choose to take their interpretations of its ideas.

In addition to self-care and other topics, I know that I’ll write about religion again. In the meantime, I’ll see if I can resist going too deeply into my thoughts on Christianity’s favourite book until I’ve read Mr. Bell’s.

Handwringing and History

Every time I feel like going off on social media, I remind myself that I ought to channel my energy into a blog post. This is one of the rare times when I’m attempting to follow through.

Have any of you seen this?:

I was following a contact’s thread on one of the confederate statues that was taken down the other day, and that’s when I saw a question. This isn’t an exact quote, but someone asked

What makes a statue historical, vs racist?

Immediately, I was furious. And stunned. I don’t want to waste time arguing with strangers, but it took everything in me not to respond.

Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the fact that the so-called heroes of the confederacy fought for people to remain enslaved?

Honestly.

If America was Germany and the confederate monuments were of Adolf Hitler, would there even be a question?

So long as people insist that everyone has a right to everything, and that their bro’s feelings are worth more than actually doing what’s right, racism, sexism, islamophobia, homophobia and other evils will continue to have a place in this world.

The Handmaid’s FAIL?

Millions of years ago when I was in school, I read The Handmaid’s Tale. And I’ll confess–as with all of Margaret Atwood’s works, it gave me the creeps. I don’t remember every precise detail of its story. However, I still have enough of it with me to recall its overarching themes. It deals specifically with women’s reproductive rights and the horrors of living in a society where our agency has been removed.

Flash forward to today. A TV adaptation is about to be released. And something is amiss in the way the actors are discussing their material.

Last night I read some tweets* by a reporter who was present at a screening. Her words made me do a double-take. Then earlier today, I read this piece on Vulture’s web site. Elizabeth Moss, who plays Offred said

“Honestly, for me it’s not a feminist story — it’s a human story, because women’s rights are human rights. I never intended to play Peggy as a feminist; I never intended to play Offred as a feminist. They’re women and they are humans…”

(Emphasis added.)

A part of me feels terrible. I don’t want to make assumptions about Ms. Moss. If that’s how she feels about The Handmaid’s Tale, that’s her right. But from what I read on Twitter, she wasn’t the only cast member attempting to disown her show’s heritage.

At this point I’d like to offer the film and television industry’s PR people some advice.

Firstly, “feminism” is NOT a dirty word. It is nothing to be ashamed of. The people who think it’s divisive are probably the same people who think that it’s wrong to talk about racism.

But that’s another rant for another time…

I agree completely with the Vulture piece’s opening. We’re at an interesting point in human history. A reality-TV star is president. Still, even before he was elected, people were taking to the streets–and their keyboards–unafraid to take a stand against injustice. In that light, I’d like to argue that it is more than safe for an individual to own who and what s/he is.

The same can be said for our works of art. Reading Ms. Moss’s words, I couldn’t help but wonder if the Tale’s actors were coached to deny the production’s feminist overtones. I’d like to know why. Are producers afraid of offending their audience?

Take it from me as a Black person: Not everything is for everyone. There are folks out there who will reject you for your inherent traits. Why not revel in your production’s uniqueness? Downplaying something that is so obvious to onlookers, such as The Handmaid’s Tale’s feminist elements makes you look cowardly and dishonest.

Furthermore, it’s not necessary. Your work will draw the audience that it is meant to have, period–regardless of their gender or political stance.

Denying The Handmaid’s Tale’s feminist themes is like saying Roots has nothing to do with Black people. I don’t see what the point is in dancing around the obvious, other than an attempt to win over a disinterested audience.

If that’s the case, I have the feeling that the Tale’s producers are in for a very rude awakening. And like those who regret voting for you-know-who, when certain folks have an epiphany, it won’t be pretty.

*In case you think I’m weird with my,”Someone on Twitter said something….” check out this Vanity Fair piece. I Googled after I wrote my post and the title says it all.

The struggle is real.

A few days ago on my Instagram account, I spoke about facing yourself. Last week I was really moved by Pepper Brooks’ latest blog post.

In case you don’t click to read, in “It’s easier to be a Workaholic” Pepper wrote a bit about one of the masks that she wears. I was struck by how familiar it was to me.

Currently, I’m in a curious space. During the day I’m looking for work. But at night instead of sleeping, I waste time chasing information. To explain exactly what goes on, I’ll give you a slightly edited version of what I shared with her.

Photo by Hernan Sanchez

I’ve struggled with self-care for years. Specifically, with the foundation of it all: Sleep.

I know that if I slept better, I would have the energy that I needed in order to take care of myself properly. But lately, whenever I try to go to bed on time, I don’t.

Over time, I’ve followed a pattern of staying up for hours, satisfying my FOMO by shoving information into my brain. (I live in a small town. By itself that’s not problematic, but I have transportation-related issues. To add to this, I’m an introvert and I love being alone…Yet I’m also pretty lonely.)

I satisfy my need for contact and information by checking up on everyone and everything on social media instead of relaxing and shutting my eyes at night. When I have my laptop in the room, I’m looking up something or other.

But for what?

I’m attempting to satisfy some sort of ache. I know it.

And I also know the truth. I know that “I am enough” isn’t merely a cliche. But a part of me keeps resisting it.

I tend to feel and do better when I give myself a chance. Mediation helps. But really, I need to give myself room. I have to tell myself to ignore distractions.

Needless to say, I’m tired. (In more ways than one.) I’m sharing my thoughts because I know myself. I really need to breathe.

Some people don’t get enough rest because of their obligations. They have to stay up into the wee hours because of a job, or their children. But what’s my excuse?

The quest for a “good night’s sleep” is more than a cliche. So many of our body’s systems get the chance to repair and restore themselves when we go to bed.  When we don’t sleep properly– or specifically, when we run from the chance to do so–I believe we need to think. Take a look at our culture. It’s trendy for people to call themselves information addicts or night owls. But what’s really going on?

For years now, most nights, I’m up way past my bedtime. I have to order myself to put my electronics away. As much as I try not to, I can’t help but feel haunted: Whatever I want is out there. Meanwhile, there’s reality.

Whatever I think is going to satisfy me won’t get come to me any faster by staying up late chasing air.

Given the reasons that we need sleep, I’ve come to a grim conclusion: I think that a part of me has been convinced that I don’t deserve to be whole.

These days I’m trying to work out the details of exactly what I deserve. Some of them are hazy. But I know that I’m worth more.

Sweet dreams.

Mission? In progress.

The air around me is rife with people talking about their purpose. A couple of weeks ago my mentor Krista Foss encouraged me to write down my mission. I left our meeting thinking. As a writer, what am I passionate about? What do I want to achieve?

I, Claire would like…

  • To honestly discuss topics of my choosing
  • To uplift women, people of colour, and especially Black Canadian women
  • To promote spiritual healing

These three points are true to who I am. I look forward to seeing where they lead me.

Photo courtesy of CreateHER Stock Photography.

Flashback Friday: HERstory in video

I’d heard there were videos that captured the HERstory in Black experience, but I’d completely forgotten. Then one day, I caught a clip on on How She Hustles’ Instagram account. Jully Black led the ladies as they sang “This Little Light of Mine”.

I can feel the sisterhood in every frame of this video. Be sure to check out How She Hustles’ YouTube channel for more content.