I guess for the time being this blog is just not going to be all light and rainbows. I'm going to try to fit more of those happy colours in, but I'm also not going to pretend that my mind isn't preoccupied with the creep of radical Islam and also very desperate for deep discussion about how to deal with it instead of leaving it to leaders whom I do not trust to make the right decisions. I don't trust them, and part of that is my fault, and probably other people's, too. Because so many of us are so fulfilled in and/or distracted by our daily lives that we are not playing our part in asking dumb questions, coming to greater understanding, and then agitating for the world we want. So many of us are not pressing our leaders like we need to even as we say we can't stand them.
A long time ago, I was fortunate to meet Dragan Todorovic, who was nominated for the BC National Award for Non-Fiction a few years ago for The Book of Revenge: A Blues for Yugoslavia. When he spoke at the award ceremony, you could have heard a pin drop. He spoke of how easily, how swiftly, a country can turn from being one thing to being something else entirely, about how quietly dangerous denial is.
He was speaking about his experience of watching his native Yugoslavia torn apart, and about how powerful the urge can be among citizens to hope that everything will just get better somehow if we keep our heads down, say what everyone else is saying, and leave it to our leaders to sort deadly messes out.
At the end of his speech, Todorovic looked at us all in the audience and said, referring to a country's disassembling or changing its essential values: "Keep your heads up. Do not think it can never happen in Canada. We never thought it could happen in Yugoslavia, either."
I'll never forget that speech, though I have certainly not heeded its wisdom enough. Not by a long stretch.
I think of it today in relation to social media, into which we are pouring so much of our angst about the world, for good and not so good (the latter if it supplants more effective, if painstaking, real-world action — which is sometimes the case and sometimes not). Or, into which we are not pouring it, mindful of an arguably dominant consensus that social media is the place we post cute and filtered pictures, poke light fun at ourselves, and share viral funness off sites like Buzzfeed.
And where we "like," and are liked. On most, if not all, social media platforms, there is without question a popularity dynamic at play. It is nice to be liked, and it's easier than ever to get confirmation that we are, for whatever real and silly reasons.
Here's my question: with "likes" such a potent currency in our culture now, what happens to the important thoughts we have that are NOT in line with popular thinking? The unpopular opinions that if expressed respectfully, and responded to respectfully, deepen our understanding of the world around us, change our minds, help us know what we really care about and really want to agitate for in our lives and as citizens?
What if we are NOT Charlie Hebdo, as we are encouraged to be if we want to align ourselves with condemnation of the despicable murder of the magazine's staff members? What if we don't know what "Je suis Charlie Hebdo" means, like really means, because couldn't it mean a lot of things? Are we then found wanting in our reaction to the massacre? What if we deplore the killings but feel like the provocation of radical Islamists at this point in time is not wise or even responsible? What if we believe in freedom of expression but want to think hard and for more than two seconds about how we can respect Muslims' reverance of their god at a time when jihadis are working relentlessly to convert moderates into radicals? How we can respect Muslims' reverance of their god — period? What if we JUST DON'T KNOW, and need to take some time before we sign on to a public statement because it's the statement demanded as proof we are repulsed?
A friend of mine posted on Facebook today, "Je ne suis pas Charlie mais parfois on se ressemble," which I found comforting and honest.
Note how much of this post is composed of questions. Maybe the questions are offensive, maybe they're dumb, maybe they're ignorant. But I have questions, and I need to ask them. I can't pretend I don't have them. It's hard to "like" them. That's ok.