On International Women’s Day, we tend to celebrate and recognize some amazing and their incredible achievements. They are often women who have had significant impact on our lives.
I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts for almost two days now. They’re still a bit muddled, so bear with me.The earliest exit polls from Tuesday’s American election had me in shock immediately.
Shock that such an overtly racist, sexist, misogynist, anti-LGTBQ, ableist, and disturbing specimen of a man could be elected? No. Not at all. I know how the United States is. I always knew there was a chance. If you didn’t think it could happen, then you’ve been burying your head in the sand for far too long.
My shock came from the fact that this nightmare scenario was about to become reality. That what we witnessed in the 2011 Canadian election was happening again – the apparent outrage over Stephen Harper was not quite enough to make ordinary Canadians dust off the complacency and get out to vote against him.
As the night progressed, it was evident that the American populace had elected not only Donald Trump, but a Republican House and Senate as well. That Nebraska reinstated the death penalty, and Oklahoma just made it more difficult to abolish capital punishment. A Colorado amendment to its constitution proposed removing outdated language revolving around slavery and the results were still too close to call as of the morning of November 9.
The results clearly showed that the disenchanted part of the US stepped up in a big way. So why does this Canadian care, you ask? What’s in it for me?
Technically, there aren’t many things that will directly affect me. But I’m still heartbroken over the results. So why is that?
I’m a human being. I have empathy. I understand the pain that so many are coming to terms with as I type this in the north, far from the Canada-US border.
I am a woman, and as such, have dealt with my share of sexism and institutionalized misogyny.
I am not part of the LGBTQ community, but it doesn’t matter. I know those who are, but they were human beings worthy of equality before I personally knew anyone in the community.
I am not a person of colour, but it doesn’t matter. I have friends and family who are, but they were human beings worthy of equality before they became my friends or part of my family.
I am not religious, but it doesn’t matter. I have friends who are Muslim, Sikh and Hindi, but they were human beings worthy of equality before I met them.
Are you starting to see a pattern? We don’t have to know someone in a marginalised group to feel empathy. We don’t have to know someone who is being oppressed to understand that they are worthy of the same rights and freedoms as we are afforded. We can give respect to anyone and everyone.
The United States does not exist in a bubble. Being one of the two nations with whom it shares a border – the snow Mexicans, remember? – we have ringside seats to potentially watch the biggest fall from grace since the Roman Empire. There will be worldwide repercussions for many issues. Pulling out of NAFTA, NATO, and climate change agreements are a few that strike me first. This new government seems to be interested in becoming increasingly isolationist, yet the effects of such a taken direction will be far reaching.
I’m terrified and dismayed that the legacy of one of the most effective and progressive Presidents we have ever seen is about to have its slate wiped. For eight long, gruelling years, Barack Obama and his government fought. They fought tooth and nail for every little advance. Don’t let that be forgotten. And if it’s all taken away, keep fighting. No one should have to fight and fight for the same thing over and over again, but if it has to be that way, so be it. We will fight and fight hard. And we will win.
And I’m angry. I’m angry that the uphill battle against systemic racism and sexism and everything else has had its incline increased. Abhorrent behaviour has been normalised. The reports of attacks, aggressions – micro and macro, threats; I grit my teeth with each heartbroken messenger. Each mother whose son has been bullied for Mexican heritage. Each girl and woman who no longer feels safe wearing their hijab in public. Each person of colour who continues to bang their head against a wall because their white friends just don’t get it. I’m angry because you may say Trump is #notmypresident, but guess what. He is. Somewhere along the line, your efforts, and the efforts of other Americans fell short. (Admittedly, there was voter suppression happening too.) Own it. And let’s figure out what we can do about it.
I have a list of demands (written on the palm of my hands). The list is short:
- Stop saying ‘let that sink in’. If it hasn’t already sunk in, you have a problem. You shouldn’t be shocked. You shouldn’t be surprised. You should understand that Trump is a dangerous man. Not for what he can and will do, but for what everyone thinks he will do. Don’t be afraid. Take him on. Millions have your back.
- Don’t let these election results get to you in a way that sends you to defeat. Let them energise you. Let them spur you to action. Fight racism. Fight sexism. Fight homophobia. Fight xenophobia. Don’t let the ‘locker room’ jokes squeak through in everyday conversation. Don’t stand for microaggressions and please stop contributing to them yourself. If you are white, educate yourself. If you are cisgendered or heterosexual, educate yourself. If you are male, educate yourself. Understand that no one is coming for your rights; they merely want to be elevated to your level.
- If you are not an American, do not abandon the United States. But don’t abandon your own place of residence either. Every ‘ism’ exists outside of the United States too. Remember that this behaviour is not limited to Trump’s America. That this movement is worldwide. And if we are not a part of the movement, it is our responsibility to do everything in our power to stop it. Expose racism, sexism, homophobia, queerphobia, transphobia, xenophobia and everything else when you see it. Make it known that it is not acceptable.
- Use humour to react and deal if you must, but remember this isn’t a joke. Don’t tell people to relax, calm down, stop whining, stop protesting. Join them. Understand that while you might be able to live with the next four years, the target is on their back simply for existing as someone not of the ‘chosen’ interest groups this government will not go after. Stand beside them. Stand in front of them if they need protecting.
I am not as afraid of Donald Trump as I am of the climate he has ushered in. It was always there. It was just waiting in the shadows for us white people to notice. People of colour always knew. The LGBTQ community always knew. Immigrants always knew. Women always knew. Now it’s bubbled to the surface, and the bigots are not afraid to show their true colours.
People are posting that we need to unite. We need to be kind. We need to live and let live. If Hillary Clinton was sitting as the President-Elect, do you think the other side would be doing so? Make your anger productive. You do not have to coexist with bigots. Fight for the right to exist and thrive as a person of colour. Fight for universal health care. Fight for maintaining the hard won LGBTQ rights that have been achieved. Fight for climate targets. Fight for humanity.
Let’s change the fucking world.
It’s no secret that I have been a supporter of the New Democratic Party for most of my life. I know socialism tends to scare people. I suppose that it scares the greedy the most. But a social democracy is one of the most ideal political ideologies that aligns to my interests. So it makes complete sense that I would support the NDP.
That said, every year, I do reevaluate party policies in comparison with my beliefs. The political compass websites are quite useful. CBC’s Vote Compass is a decent meter. However, I prefer I Side With. It is an extremely comprehensive questionnaire that breaks down social, economic, environmental, health, foreign policy and more issues, and allows you to answer with a simple yes or no, or gives you the option to choose a more specific explanation, including entering your own response. Based on your answers, you are “scored” alongside each political party, demonstrating where you side with each on the issues. It’s interesting to see just how much you agree or disagree with each.
This election year’s issues – some pressing, some frivolous – have placed me where I expected. Still, my Liberal friends always try to convince me that I am in the wrong with my decisions. There has been a lot of talk about strategic voting. Problem is, strategic voting doesn’t always work. Not to mention, strategic voting is based upon polling, which is flawed. In the United States, Gallup will not be running polls for the presidential primaries after misidentifying the winner of the 2012 American election as Mitt Romney. Generally, they may indicate a trend, but we should not trust them completely.
Here’s a health analogy. As a diabetic, I can test my blood glucose levels with blood from my arm or my fingertip. The fingertip tests are much more accurate, so if I think my blood glucose is low, I shouldn’t be testing on my arm. Think of polls as the arm, and the actual vote as the fingertip. We aren’t going to get accurate results until election day; we’ll only see trends, and those trends might not be a good reason to change a vote.
Let me say this; if everyone got off their arses on election day (or the advance poll days prior to the 19th), we wouldn’t need strategic voting. We are still a left leaning nation. Popular vote states this. The fact that at least two-thirds of polls trend people’s allegiance with the NDP, the Liberals or the Greens indicate that we are not the country the Conservatives have forced us to become. This brings me to my first point.
I’m voting for the New Democratic Party because…I believe the Canadian electoral system needs an overhaul. First past the post does not always indicate the will of the majority, and the NDP have vowed to change this. Mixed-member proportional representation means that Canadians will cast two votes: one vote for their local representative, and one vote for the party they wish to form government. The numbers that count would be the national vote percentage, and representation at the national level would be proportional to the votes cast. What does this mean? This means that while Elizabeth May’s Green Party only received one seat in Parliament, despite receiving 3.91% of the popular vote, proportional representation would see the Greens with approximately 12 of the 308 seats. This is a huge difference and so important to ensuring fair representation of our country.
I’m voting for the New Democratic Party because…I believe in a Canada that is inclusive, welcoming and tolerant. You may have noticed, but there have been oodles of overt racist comments and behavior displayed across the country lately. I’m not saying that I appreciate hidden forms of racism any more, but people are being attacked. Full stop. This is not my Canada. We are not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination. We have a lot to do to make up for the genocide of and continued mistreatment of our First Nations, Inuit and Métis brothers and sisters, but forcing newcomers to our country to conform simply because we are afraid of being “taken over” is bullshit. We are a country of immigrants. I had the good fortune of being born in Canada, but until political borders are rendered null, we cannot shut our doors. Immigration and refugee programs need to be monitored, yes, but we can do better. In fact, we have to do better. People are terrified that we are losing our rights to newcomers, but let’s look at this carefully. We can’t really claim the cause of not taking care of our own is due to newcomers when the current government neglects huge swaths of the population on its own. Our seniors, veterans, First Nations, Inuit, Métis, impoverished and children deserve better. But stop blaming it on the immigrant population.
Tom Mulcair has left the niqab debate in the hands of where it belongs – the courts. And sadly, this has caused a drop in polls for the party’s popularity. Regardless, it proves to me the strength of character of Mr. Mulcair. It was an honourable choice. Canadians are playing right into the hands of the Conservatives. What is more ridiculous is that the Liberals essentially have the same stance as the NDP on this issue, yet have not seen the same effects. But what’s most disappointing is that this is the issue that will choose our next Prime Minister. This is the issue that may win the election. And there are far too many other important issues we should be considering. Issues such as climate change. Education. The answers the families and friends of over 1,200 murdered and missing indigenous women deserve.
I’m voting for the New Democratic Party because…the Harper government has not delivered on the transparency and accountability they promised. Instead, we have seen the following:
- Election fraud – robocalls, undercover sting operations, spending violations, false stories on opponents, using interns as plants to interrupt other candidate rallies and speeches
- Media access limits – tight controls on who is allowed to speak to the media as an employee of the Federal government, “media minders” assigned to staff, lack of transparency from election candidates, closed door rallies where no one can ask questions unless they’ve paid the Conservative party for the “privilege” to do so
- Undemocratic omnibus budget bills – sweeping changes to environmental, taxation, and financial legislation
- C-51 – the destroyer of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (unfortunately supported by Trudeau’s Liberals)
- TPP – the Trans-Pacific Partnership as it stands today, has been in negotiations since 2008. Its secret negotiations have been a point of contention for many, causing protests around the world. It will influence the cost of medicine, intellectual property and copyright, threaten the climate and environment, and further extend income inequality. The TPP has much to offer corporations, and little to offer the rest of us.
The NDP have promised to protect the Parliamentary Budget Officer from political interference and Mulcair has stated the “plan will enshrine budget transparency into law.” As with any party outside of the Conservatives, rallies and events are open to the media, and often the public as well. There are no veils of secrecy or walls of construction equipment as we saw in Harper’s most recent visit to Iqaluit. They have committed to repealing Bill C-51 and have announced that an NDP government will not be bound by the TPP. The TPP would have to be ratified in Parliament, but Mulcair’s strong statement convinces me that should he be elected, he will not blindly conform to the negotiated agreement. That’s important.
I’m voting for the New Democratic Party because…I work in protected areas. The Conservative government under Harper has gutted environmental legislation, reduced funding and staffing at Environment Canada, reduced funding for the provinces, and restricted media coverage of climate change through the muzzling of scientists. Fewer watersheds are protected and the environmental assessment process for projects has been all but removed. As the Minister of Environment, Leona Aglukkaq made multiple gaffes on climate change, including her 2013 comment during a CTV interview regarding whether the ice in the Arctic was melting; “there’s always a debate around science and what’s changing.” Where almost every report (including those from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Environment Canada) is in agreement, Minister Aglukkaq can barely even say the words “climate change”.
I’m voting for the New Democratic Party because…when it comes to the voting records of the NDP and the Liberals, the Liberals supported the Conservatives on too many bills and motions I disagree with. The outcome of this election would leave me disappointed if the Liberals were to form government rather than the NDP, but I would not be devastated. That said, I cannot in good conscience, throw my hat in with the Liberal government knowing that they supported items like C-51.
I’m not telling you who to vote for. If you want to vote Conservative, I may not understand it, but it’s your choice. If you want to vote Liberal, that’s also your choice. But if you’re undecided or usually don’t vote, I urge you to reconsider what not voting means. It means that you will be forced to live with the decisions of others. We may still be forced to live with some decisions, but I’d rather say that I fought, than to say that I rolled over and gave up. We’ve gone back and forth between the Conservatives and Liberals for as long as Canada has been a nation, and nothing ever changes. Perhaps it’s time.
I’m voting for the New Democratic Party because…I’m ready for change…
On another note, has it really been two years since I wrote anything? I guess that shows you how important I feel this is.
It’s that time of year again. Escape from Iqaluit for a vacation in southern Canada.
That means I get to see a lot of people whom I haven’t seen in a long time. About a year, to be precise.
The last time most of said people saw me, they saw me after I had been losing some weight and trying to get healthy. And since the last year hasn’t been particularly kind to me, things have changed for this visit.
I can see it in everyone’s expression as they lay eyes upon me for the first time in a year.
I thought she was smaller….?
And while trying to prevent their faces from screwing up into a weird mesh of disgust and surprise, they manage to let loose a gem like this: “Suzanne, you look good!”
No, I don’t.
So seriously…just stop.
I have gained back almost all of the weight that I lost last year.
So the subject is eventually broached and people start to wonder why it happened. For everyone who I haven’t seen yet, here’s the story. Remember how I broke my wrist back in November? Well, it certainly threw off my workout schedule. I didn’t want to go to the gym, because I was afraid to walk anywhere in the city for fear of finding another super patch of ice to fall and break something on. I fell out of the gym routine and let’s face it…that was a miracle in itself that I actually managed to develop that routine in the first place. It became difficult to keep up with the healthy eating in the winter: Iqaluit barely has fresh produce that’s tasty in the summer, so the winter is next to impossible to find the kind of food to keep me happy.
And then…my mental state was not exactly peak either. After another battle with depression in excess of a year, I started to wonder if I wasn’t actually dealing with a personality disorder. After doing a lot of reading, I had begun to recognize patterns within myself that suggested I might fit into the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. That’s a scary thing to face. And in Iqaluit, it can be difficult to find proper mental health care, so I because really nervous.
I began to hate myself. Yeah, yeah…I know. Who doesn’t hate themselves? Seriously though. Hatred. Full on self loathing. I’m not the kind of person to feel suicidal. I don’t get those thoughts usually. I sometimes consider what life would be like for people around me if I wasn’t around, but that is pretty much the extent of it. And with the hatred I was feeling, I was to the point where I didn’t even feel like I was worthy of ending it all. Yup. That was my hidden life for a pretty long time.
I began to let my eating get reckless. I ate for comfort. I ate for boredom. I ate because I hated myself so much, I just didn’t care. As a diabetic, it’s not a particularly safe way to go about things. But I didn’t care. Some people drink. Some people turn to drugs. My path to self-destruction began at the grocery store.
With luck, I managed to find an amazing therapist in Iqaluit thanks to a recommendation from a friend and I have been seeing her since. She has helped me learn to meditate and accept and recognize that it’s okay if I can’t solve my problems. It’s okay to feel what I’m feeling. It’s okay to let myself be myself. To be honest, it’s been so long since I really understood who I was that it seemed like an insurmountable task to just be me.
But I’m getting there again. I’m beginning to feel at peace with the woman I’ve become. I’m getting there mentally. I’m getting there emotionally. And one day, I’ll be there physically too.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to be where I want to be in terms of weight. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get rid of that flab that I don’t necessarily feel like looking at. I’ve never been a small girl. I’ve always struggled with body image. I know I’m lucky that I have a supportive partner in that regard. Ian doesn’t really pressure me one way or another and it’s helpful. I hope I inspired him last year with what I accomplished, because now I need that same inspiration to get myself back to a healthy lifestyle.
I recognize the amount of work that it’s going to take for me to maintain a healthier body and in being honest with myself, I’m not sure if I have the energy – mental or physical – to spare. I will certainly try, but I also am trying to accept. Whatever path I take, I am trying to accept that I am who I am…and that’s okay.
If that’s the only lesson I learn in this journey, at least it’s one of the good ones.
I’ve been trying to write a post for a long time. Putting pen to paper, figuratively speaking, has become an impossible task for me.
It probably doesn’t help that the topic of the post I’ve been trying to write has been my all-too-fragile mental state. I find it easy to write anonymously on the internet. But this wouldn’t have been anonymous. This would have been akin to an expose, I suppose. Well, that might be a little melodramatic. I don’t tend to have a reference point these days for that sort of thing.
The point is that writing in general has been extremely difficult for me lately. And my writing this now is not necessarily because things have changed; it’s more that someone else has written a really great account of far too many of the things I’ve been going through. Rather than re-inventing the wheel at this point, I figured I would just link to the post.
Will I eventually write the post I’ve been meaning to write?
I don’t know.
Until then, I think you should go read Allie’s posts on depression. The first one…and the second. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have depression. Chances are, there is someone you know that does. And that someone is also probably pretty good at hiding that fact. And if they do open up to you, trust me…they don’t want to hear “Cheer up”, “this too shall pass” or any other contrived bullshit that people tend to come up with when they don’t know how to respond to what’s in front of them. Not everyone who has depression can point to a singular cause or event that led them to feel the way they do. Not everyone with depression will ever be able to just snap out of it and feel better.
Anyway, before I end up actually writing a really poorly written version of what I’ve been trying to write, just go and read the posts.
And I’ll just go back to dealing with life the best way I know how to – at least until that shrivelled up piece of corn appears.