Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The NDP is No Longer My NDP

I wrote a letter today to the Thomas Muclair to express my shock and disappointment with it's silence on the human rights violation in Gaza. I'm sharing it with you guys today.

Dear Mr. Muclair

I am a lifelong NDP supporter. I was first introduced to this party when I was in my teens. I grew up in Regent Park in Toronto which was a marginalized community at the time, isolated from the rest of the city by an invisible wall of discrimination and disinformation. I had a (then) Metro councillor who was always skilled at thinking out of the box to advocate for us residents and more importantly, to teach us how to advocate for ourselves. I soon learned that he was a member of the NDP party and was truly committed to making the lives of people better, not only in my small community, but the country if not the world. He soon gave my mother a job in his office where we learned more. He found resources so that I as a youth and many others could be employed and not lured by other temptations. He was good friends with my partner at the time and throughout the years, this person taught me that NDP stood up for social justice, even in times where it was uncomfortable to do so. Many other members confirmed that for me. If you haven’t figured out who by now, that person was Jack Layton. Through the years, my family and he stayed connected, whether it was running for leadership, being involved in the White Ribbon Campaign, or simply sitting around a table with his guitar, a good bottle of wine and lots of music. When he died, I felt like a big piece of what it meant to be NDP died with him. I of course, dismissed that as being melodramatic, but the last year, I now wonder.

With the provincial elections in Ontario and Andrea Horvath’s pandering for votes, forgetting those who need representation the most, to the silence, stunning silence of the NDP on the whole topic of Gaza, which is my primary reason for voting today. I’m not Muslim, or Jewish. I am simply a member of the United Church of Canada, again, another organization who has, stood up and boycotted unjust nations and communities based on their actions disregarding human rights and life. I work with children and youth, am a mother of three and am not involved in an NGO or even claim to be the most savvy about foreign affairs, but I’m intelligent enough to see the numbers before my eyes and footage and words from journalists using social media to bring this injustice to the world.

I am shocked, I keep waiting for the NDP to sound off on this very important matter. I know Jack has spoken up for far far less, and yet silence. He has refused to budge when criticised for his advocacy, which landed him in another pot of hot water, but it was Jack Layton and he managed it with his usual grace, wit, style and dedication to a larger picture. Where is this party that represents the marginalized? Those who are progressive and care about the marginalized? People are dying, wrongly. There are 2 million people trapped in a place about the size of Scarborough and North York combined. They are being fired upon like fish in a barrel. Why in heavens name are we not speaking up about this? I cannot elaborate enough on how shocked I am that this party is silent on this issue. I am ashamed that no one has said anything. This is not an act of diplomacy, it’s cowardice. It may not be a popular opinion in some circles, but claiming to be a party for social justice means that you won’t be popular all the time. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, they ruffled feathers, they hurt feelings, but they stayed committed to social justice and I was raised on an NDP that was too.

I now think that Jack Layton might have been an end of an era. He brought Canadians together, not based on watering down our message or beliefs, but because he showed more people how important they were and how strongly we were going to fight for that. I now see that our leaders are unclear on that message and it’s a shame, it’s sad. We have the opportunity, and the moral duty to speak out about this. An estimated 80% of the casualties in Gaza are civilians, children, the disabled, the elderly. If the party that is supposed to be for social justice is quiet, then yes, I do fear that a significant part of the NDP has died with Jack and while many of its members speak out on their own against this human rights atrocity, our party remains silent.

I will close with a memory I have. I once attended a forum in downtown Toronto with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The question was posed to the former presidents about regrets that they had during their presidency. Needless to say Bush had none, but I watched as Bill Clinton, after thoughtful reflection, nearly broke down on stage saying how much he regretted not doing anything when the Rwandan genocide was being committed. He mentioned that he based his inaction on it not being a popular or strategic decision and really in the end, nobody cared, so he did little to nothing. I will not be that man, I am not the leader of one of the most powerful nations on the planet, but myself and many others of this party who still believe in social justice will take action, even if the party we chose to represent us will not.

I truly hope you take the time to look at this issue beyond politics, beyond religion, beyond what is popular and see it for what it is. Shooting fish in a barrel trying to kill a few worms. Except these fish are people with hopes and dreams, they marry, they go to school, they cheer for their football teams and take out the garbage, they are working parents, scholars, doctors, teachers, construction workers, they are playful children, innocent babies, elderly survivors and all of whom have every bit of right to live and deserve those of moral conscience to fight for that.


Joy Henderson

Dear World

Dear World

I'm angry at you, furious, like ready to scream at the first person who provokes me, like wanting to punch something all to mask the fact that I am frustrated, scared, sad and powerless. Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard about the destruction of Gaza and it's people. Is this a one sided rant, I guess if you think this destruction is okay, it's going to come across that way, so duly warned. I've been simmering on this for a while, too afraid to write because ultimately I'm going to piss people off, if my Facebook posts haven't already done so, but I didn't earn the nickname "Mouthy" many years ago for nothing, so I may as well do it justice. I just hope I can do justice to what I'm feeling.

I can't claim to be an international expert. I'm pretty smart and have been reading up on the issue for some time now, but the fact remains that well over 1000 people are dead, about 80% of them civilians. Now you may think that they are Hamas sympathizers, or angry Muslims or terrorists whatever, but the fact remains that they are people, most of them innocent. A great many of them are elderly, children, people without arms or means to a life outside of poverty, in short, they are pretty helpless when it comes to fighting the 11th most powerful military in the world. These people are being killed, relentlessly as they sleep, as they seek shelter as they seek medical care or spiritual sanctity. These are PEOPLE.

I can't believe I live among folks who consider themselves progressive, but refuse to value these lives. (I'm looking at you NDP leadership-I expected this shit from Harper and Baird, but not you!) They justify it, ignore it, give weak responses, say that the media is biased, when at the start of this destruction, the media was letting go of journalists who were bringing back the stories that showed a hint of what the people of Gaza are going through. Thankfully that has changed and journalists are at least somewhat being encouraged to do their jobs. They protest conditions on First Nations reserves and rightly so, but Gaza is apparently okay.

You can call me whatever you want, brainwashed, lefty, even worse, but I'm going to tell you something, if saying that targeting a civilian population, when you have the bloody technology to accurately target is wrong, then have at it.

Fact of the matter is, if you can look at those disproportionate numbers of civilians killed, and if you can look at photos of dismembered children and the grief ridden parents and not question it, then I've got to ask what in the world is going through your mind? If this were happening anywhere else in the world, you'd be raising hell. I cannot get over how people who protested and criticized their governments over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the slaughter of innocents can so blithely write this off. Did I miss a memo? Are the people of Gaza less human?

I'm a mother, I'm a child and youth worker, I'm a person who cannot look at these photos and not be shocked, saddened. I can't imagine what those mothers, those families are going through. The desperation of having no water, no electricity, no shelter and no safety and trying like hell to keep yourself and more importantly, your children alive. I, like most parents have for a few brief moments experienced the fear a parent does when their child wanders away, is in danger, or is hurt, or does something dangerous, it is excruciating and never before have I felt such panic and terror, it still makes me anxious. Imagine that (if you're a parent) 24/7 and no way out.

Peace will never come of this, if people haven't figured this out by now, then we cannot call ourselves civilized. If we can brush off or justify the murder of innocents to root out enemies, we cannot call ourselves civilized. If we cannot call out each other when we are out of line without all hell breaking loose, we cannot call ourselves civilized...we can't even call ourselves adults at that point.

Forget party lines, forget race, ethnicity, religion. Forget nationalism, borders and money and alliances. Remember that every child has a wish for when they grow up, every (good) parent wants to see their child grow up and be happy, old people want peace and happiness, students want knowledge, farmers want to grow, doctors want to heal and the list goes on and applicable to any one of the what 7 billion now? People on this Earth. In the big picture, our hopes, dreams, lives, fears are not all that different, we have more commonalities than not. However you have to want to see that, you have to fight for it and have faith and believe that somewhere deep inside a person, there is a significant part that is like you, even if they don't want to see that. If you've lost that piece of you, that willingness to do so, I'm afraid for you, I'm afraid for humanity.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

SUMMER! Summer summer summer summer!

Can you tell I'm a little excited? I've been seriously lacking in writing during the school year, because school funnels writing away, and seriously after writing and editing umpteen papers, the last thing I want to do is to be on a computer. But it's summertime. The kiddies are off in a few days, vacations starts, pool parties, patio nights, long lazy days, and I finally got the urge to write again.

As most of you know, I'm studying Child and Youth Work. For those who don't know what the hell we do, we basically work with kids. More often than not, we work with kids who have problems. Whether developmental, behavioural, socio-economic, legal etc. We're pretty spread across the board. Schools, group homes, community agencies, detention centres, children's aid or equivalent.

It's exciting learning and practicing and working with children. A lot of it was stuff you instinctively know as a parent, some of it came from growing up in a high risk community, some of it came from my previous work and there is a whole bunch of new things that connect all the dots.

What's challenging though is being a CYW and a parent. I mean its good because it's harder for my kids to outsmart me. It's great because I have a new understanding of how local schools work, what resources are available and can better make a judgment on how well a school is performing socially. It's hard because I tend to over think some things. It's hard because when I'm in my kids schoolyard, I want to participate with the kids. It's hard because parents ask me for advice, and I'm caught between a rock and a hard place.

One of the hardest things is separating the mother from the worker. I want to nurture every child, make everything better, and I worry when I come home. I went through my placement this year having a very difficult time decompressing and it added a lot of unnecessary stress, which ultimately affected my physical health. Thankfully this year's placement looks a lot more positive with better support for debriefing and such.

The best though has been the community and the brilliant things I have picked up and has enriched the lives of my kids. I've made amazing friends, I have a giant network of childcare in a pinch and I know they'd be awesome. lol I've also brought so many games and ideas and fun back to my children it's made life great. I love that I can go to a school talent show and genuinely enjoy and get shivers from the hard work these kids have done, the immense talent, the amazing support they receive from their peers, and the ability to be in awe of how great they are. It's also given me an opportunity to understand my kids more, to see their needs and put a larger scope to it. It also makes me grateful for how easy I have it as a parent. When I see parents out there struggling with real issues for their children, suddenly those 6am squabbles between brothers don't seem to be such a huge problem.

That said, I'm still excited for summer, largely because I get to spend time with my children. To enjoy their discoveries, play silly games, appreciate their quirks (my boys are weird, but it works for them and I love it) and soak in all the time and sunshine I can with them.