In response to the letter to the editor re: “Phoenix Riting” from 2 weeks ago:
Alisa Aiken says, “I believe that the public health requirements of proof of vaccination are really fair for the general public.” Actually, that was the entire point of my column. If we choose not to abide by the official requirements, that decision should come from the community. The PHO mandates vaccine passports for gatherings of 50 or more. In stark contrast, here on Hornby passports are required for all gatherings of any size, public or private, at the Hall and New Horizons. This goes far beyond the PHO. It seems reasonable that small private groups (of dancers, for example–oh how I miss my ecstatic dance group) should be able to gather at their usual venue without the need to show a passport.
Alisa, thank you for your response, and I hope this clarifies my position, that I am talking about small, private groups.
Last summer, we took a road trip around the province. In the Kootenays, we stopped at a little town called Greenwood, which has a fascinating history. This tiny, vanishing ghost town from the gold rush was the first Japanese internment camp in BC. Twelve hundred Japanese were relocated there during WWII. When the war ended, the Canadian government deported most internees to Japan (where most of them had never been), or else forced them to relocate east of the Rockies. Unlike other camps, the town of Greenwood stood firm with their Japanese-Canadian neighbours, and eventually they were allowed to stay.
The people of Greenwood were told by their government that these Japanese were aliens, enemies to be feared and loathed. At first, naturally they were frightened. It was the government, and people want to trust the government, especially during crisis times. By the end of the war, instead of enemies, they saw neighbours, hard-working citizens and friends, so they stood by them.
I sat in this lovely shrine with brass plaques on the walls commemorating the names of Nikkei citizens interned there during the war. As the sun streamed through the skylights, picking out names on the wall, I was moved to tears by the love and care, the kindness to strangers shown so many years ago by this tiny mountain town. People were told to hate and fear, but they said no. Instead, they said welcome. They said, stay. They included.
Humans being what we are, I am certain there are many stories not told, of hatred, even violence, but that is not what prevailed. In the end, it is the kindness they remember. Greenwood is a beautiful place. I sat and drank in the peace, and it gave me hope.
We can get through this if we hold on to who we are and allow others to as well. Kindness comes from acceptance of our own and others’ right to be their authentic selves. These times are full of paradox. On the one hand, diversity is celebrated and encouraged. On the other hand, diversity of thought and opinion is suppressed as ‘dangerous’. To me, that is the real danger.
We dehumanize each other by reducing our and others’ complex, nuanced arguments and reasons to simple, defensible (or reprehensible) lines drawn in the sand. “I believe x, which is correct, but you believe y, which is incorrect, so I win.” It’s concerning to me. Where is the respect for personal autonomy and independent perspective?
The social pendulum is swinging from revolution to conformity and that frightens me–a lot. I want to talk about it. I am afraid, like so many, of saying the wrong thing. The social atmosphere everywhere is turgid and murky. Certain topics feel too risky to touch for most people, while believers on both sides preach endless streams of polarizing judgments and rhetorical statements expressed as inarguable fact. Sometimes it’s hard to breathe.
Christmas is coming. That is, the holidays. Whichever you celebrate, or don’t celebrate, let’s take this season to balance, reflect and reconnect. To everyone, happy Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, Festivus (for the restivus). Kwanzaa? Is that a thing in Canada? Whatever your deal, dig into it, and much love, respect and best wishes to you! I’ll be here, I love you all. Breathing deep.
As always, I want to hear from you! Thank you for the lovely feedback! You can email me with feedback, suggestions, ideas for future columns and interviews at firstname.lastname@example.org.