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King George

I am a horrible human being.

Yes, you heard me. Horrible. Awful. Evil. Okay, well, the evil part is kind of fun sometimes, but I should be ashamed of myself. I’m not. Not really, but I should be.

See, I’m racist. I’m not. Not really, but I am. Do you understand? No? Neither do I, but I’ll try to explain.

As a writer I’m hyper-aware of racism, political correctness and neutral writing. If I want a job, I’ll Bobbitt my writing until it’s emasculated, wimpy and huddled in a corner. It’s gotten so bad that I can no longer use the term “he” when referring to a generic person. I have to use a clunky “he/she”, which sounds like some odd hermaphrodite or the neutral “they”. Writing for the Government of Alberta is so neutral and without any life or colour that by the time I’m done I want to hang myself. That’s okay. I simply drink heavily and don’t write for the Government of Alberta.

Proofreading, though, is a different beast and I will happily take the Government of Alberta’s money to do this. Proofreading, for me, is monkey work and is horribly simple. It’s like a game. Someone has put a document together and has put errors into the document. They can be anything from the wrong font to the wrong line size to a typo. They can also be anywhere. The result is the proofreader goes by letter by letter to find the errors so that you, the reader, has a document that looks nice. It’s tedious work and encourages heavy drinking but it pays the bills.

So it was that I found myself proofreading for my nemesis, the Government of Alberta. This is a little like Batman darning the Joker’s socks, but money is a big motivator. However, my problem wasn’t with the job itself, but with the office. This is where the racism comes out so I’m going to warn you in advance that the following will not be pretty.

I was born, raised and now live in Alberta. I most likely will die here and contribute who I am as a person to this province. I’m proud of this place I call home. We have every kind of ecological system from swamps to desert to tundra. We have every kind of individual from entrepreneurs to the insane to family people to, well, me. You can yell at stupid drivers cutting you off and have a stranger listen to your woes as you sit in a downtown park. We’re a friendly folk, we try to welcome everyone and welcome all views. I once lived on a street that allowed me to try goat for the first time. Not that I recommend goat, that is.

However, when I worked for the Government of Alberta, I noticed something disturbing. On the floor where I worked, there was perhaps 15 to 20 people. Of those, perhaps 5 were born and raised in Canada, let alone Alberta. The rest were immigrants. This is where things get problematic. Most of those people spoke English as a second language and had come to Alberta in recent years. Now I’m starting to feel horrible.

Don’t get me wrong. If someone’s qualified, they’re qualified. I want the best person doing the job that services me. Don’t care much beyond that. However, if you’re working for the Government of  Alberta, that means you’re running my province. My home. Shouldn’t the people operating the system that governs my home at least have lived here for no less than 10 years? If I want a student loan, I have to live in Alberta for at least 12 years. If I want a government job, though, I don’t even have to speak English or French as my first language. We are a bilingual country, so either is fine.

Forgive me here. Now is the time I tell the naked truth. If someone is working for my government and running my life, I want them to be like me. Yes, I want them to have been born and raised here. I’m even willing to give some leeway on this. At least have that person be an Alberta citizen for the last 10 years. Someone who knows and understands the culture and people.

Here’s the scary part; the people running the government day-to-day life are people who are not native Albertans. Is anyone else nervous? The people executing government policy and interpreting how that policy is implements on a day-to-day basis don’t understand Alberta culture or people. How can someone who doesn’t speak English fluently interpret documents written in English? Our language is rich with colour and words can have a variety of meanings depending on the context. Every writer knows this. Those policies are then applied to the citizens of Alberta by people who have lived here a handful of years. For example, last year I worked with a woman whose job it was to do research. She was Russian and didn’t speak English well enough for me to understand one sentence in three she was saying. Yet, she held the very important job of researching issues and telling her managers and, eventually, the Ministers, what was important and what wasn’t.

There are those who will say that diversity of cultures is what’s needed in our government. Okay. Let’s say I go along with that. I don’t, but I can pretend. In three floors of the building I worked in, I did not see a single First Nations, Metis or Inuit person. Alberta has a rich French and Ukrainian population. Not one that I noticed. All I noticed was a rich representation of immigrants who have not lived here long enough to truly understand the province they are working for.

All I want is for the Government of Alberta to recognize who they are truly representing. If their focus is the immigrants to Alberta, they’re  doing a wonderful job. However, as a citizen of Alberta, I don’t think it’s a lot to ask that the Government start making citizenship a mandatory requirement for employment. Beyond that I don’t give a damn about race, sexual orientation, religion or any of that other nonsense. All I want is the same criteria that is required for obtaining a student loan; must have lived in Alberta for the past 12 years.

So, there it is. My confession. I’m a horrible human being. When I made comments to people on this subject one friend noted that to think that the criteria for employment with the government needed changing was fine. To actually say it was racist. In our horribly correct times we’ve gone overboard. I cannot point out a fundamental wrong without being a horrible human being. Ironically, the people who demand that I be an Albertan citizen for at least 12 years to get a student loan probably haven’t lived here half that long themselves.

That keeps me awake at night.

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I often think about what is fair and what isn’t. I’m a libertine which means I don’t feel bound by the moral constraints of society although I do have my own strong moral code. In living this lifestyle I recognize that I do have one set of rules for myself and another for everyone else. I’m okay with that. I don’t push my morality on anyone else and happily ignore what everyone else feels I should do. A kind word for this is independent. Let’s call a duck a duck, shall we? I’m unfair to most of the world. It’s good for me, but not for you. This is not a code everyone can or should live by and I get that. It’s not fair, but it is what it is. In truth, most people are the same way but most pretend to some sham of equality so they can look good to their neighbours. Personally, what others think of me isn’t a big problem for me.

One of life’s early lessons for me was life isn’t fair. The bad guy doesn’t get it in the end nor does the hero always win. That’s okay. Life would be very boring if everything was fair. If the bad guy always got it in the end, we wouldn’t need heroes to try to serve justice. We wouldn’t need to strive to become better people or to live better lives. Let’s face it, if life was fair, you could live your life, be happy and that’s it. Sometimes the unfairness hurts or tragedy stikes and we cry bitter tears. Sometimes the pain that the unfair situation brings can cause us to raise a wall of fear around ourselves. That is life. That wall gives us something to overcome. Those tears cleanse us. Whoever said “don’t cry” is a fool.

There is a difference, though, between unfair and unjust. Unfair is the circumstances of life. When the cancer strikes or when the car goes over a cliff. There’s no malice in the act. Cancer doesn’t strike because it’s evil and wants to hurt people. The accident doesn’t happen because some demon has decided to plague mankind. Unjust is what we do to each other. Terri-Lynn McLintic abducts a young, beautiful Victoria Stafford. Trayvon Martin is shot to death by George Zimmerman. This is unjust.

Racism is unjust. I agree with that statement. I cannot fathom how a human being can look at another and deem them unworthy simply based on beliefs, gender, sexual orientation or colour. Somehow I’m not seeing what these people see and it confuses me. What confuses me more is reverse racism. The idea that all of those of us in the majority (usually whites) are racist. Or that being in the majority is bad. I was once told that I was a racist because I’m white. I’m not. I’m Metis. I was also fired from Indian and Northern Affairs because I “didn’t look native enough.” When I tried to take that one to the union I was told it was okay to fire me for that reason since First Nations were a minority and they could hire whomever they wanted. That one is still bitter to me.

Last year I worked for the Government of Alberta in Education. Anyone who reads my blog regularly will remember what a horrific time that was. So much so that, while I’m currently desperate for a job, I’d rather be homeless than work for the Government of Alberta again. I digress.

During the time I worked for Education we had National Aboriginal Day. Being Metis, I was the token Indian and had to go to a speech given by a First Nations Elder. I sat through an hour to an hour and a half listening to this man and his wife tell me the problems the First Nations people were having because of whites. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

First, let’s look at the treatment of the First Nations people toward the Metis. The First Nations people have refused to acknowledge the bridge between themselves and us. At best we are ignored by the First Nations. At worst, the First Nations accuse us of being wanna-bes. I cannot count the number of times an Elder has told me that only people who can’t get their treaty status get Metis status. For myself, my family has been Metis since the Europeans first came here. Our family heritage is just as rich and varied as any First Nations.

Second, let’s look at the accusations the First Nations level against whites. How is it that the First Nations get to call a Canadian of European descent “white” but I can’t call them “Indian”? The First Nations cite examples of children being taken from homes to go off to boarding schools to be educated. They also cite beatings that occurred and other abuses. Let’s examine this.

While I don’t condone taking children away from a perfectly happy, loving household; the Europeans of the time believed they were doing what was best for the child. European education, the type of education that we know and love today that takes place in the classroom, was believed to be the only kind of learning. In other words, if you didn’t read or write, if you hadn’t gone to school, then you were an ignorant savage. Narrow minded, but it was the belief at the time. We now understand that learning occurs in many different environments and ways and I hope we’re smart enough to embrace them all. How is it I’m being blamed for something that was done a hundred years ago? Does this mean I get to blame Italians for what the Romans did to the early Christians? How about blaming the Spanish for what they did to anyone who lived in South America? Blame is a tricky dish. There’s always enough to go around.

As for beatings, well, that was the standard of the day as well. Again, I don’t condone beatings, but I do remember the strap being still used in school when I was a kid. It was scary and awful, but I don’t blame the principals of my schools for nightmares I have today. It was a part of my life. Shall we shake hands and move on?

Another part of this talk was how the First Nations people were somehow privy to a more ecological way of living. That somehow they had secrets that the white man didn’t know. Really? Okay, then why is it that there are First Nations people using dynamite to fish? BOOM!! Yep. Very ecological. As well, according to the 2009 Fall Report of the Auditor General of Canada, landfill sites, sewage treatment and disposal on First Nations Reserves were not operating according to regulations laid out in the Indian Act. Let’s lay this out; First Nations reserves are dumping their shit wherever they please and, as of the report, were not called to task on it. Yet, there have been health issues on First Nations reserves. However, instead of blaming their own waste disposal system, people (the vast majority who listen to big media) have chosen to blame the Oil Sands.

Yet, the Government of Alberta has an active land reclamation project underway as do many of the oil companies that operate there. For example, Syncrude Canada has an extensive reclamation project that is a major undertaking by this company. Cheryl Robb, Media Relations Advisor for Syncrude Canada, explained that Syncrude has an active relationship with the First Nations people regarding reclamation and suggestions for moving forward with sustainability projects. This relationship is one of the six pillars of the Syncrude corporation. Syncrude will soon be able to boast they’ve planted over 7 million trees. Yet, it’s okay for the First Nations reserves to literally dump their shit wherever they please.

The First Nations also claim they have the right to self-govern. I’m Scots. I’ve decided that the Brits were shitheads for taking us over and I’m going gather other Scots and govern the way we did before the Brits came. Now all I need is a druid. I’m a witch. I don’t qualify.

Let’s take a look at what the First Nation’s self-government has gotten. There are stories of addiction, sub-standard living environments, crime and rampant poverty. In Hobbema, a reserve in Alberta, the chief’s 5 year old grandson was killed in a gang shooting spree. His was not the first death and I’m sure it’s not the last. So if the First Nations can govern themselves so well, shouldn’t they have fewer problems than us whites? Yet do not criticize them. What about the Attawapiskat reserve in Northern Ontario where living conditions were so deplorable that the government was forced to step in and take over the governing of the reserve? By that winter, 2000 people had to be evacuated from the reserve because the housing was so bad the government feared that people would not survive the winter. How on earth did the situation get to that point if the First Nations people are able to govern themselves so well?

Life is unfair and I accept that. I don’t want everything to be fair because it gives me something to work towards. However, it’s unjust when a minority group like the First Nations are able to point the finger of blame towards everyone else and not once do they address the issues on their own doorstep. Jesus said it best in Matthew 7:4, “Or how will you say to your brother, Let me pull the speck out of your eye; and, behold, a beam is in your own eye?”. Worry about your own backyard before you begin laying accusations elsewhere.

Danielle Smith Boob Bus

Danielle Smith Boob Bus

I suffer from night terrors. Night terrors differ from nightmares in that when you wake up, you don’t fully come out of the dream. So, you wake up and the monster you’ve been running from is now there in your bedroom. Not fun. In these dreams things start out innocuous enough; things look normal until the family you’ve been having dinner with decides you’re very tasty. This whole Danielle Smith campaign has been a little like that for me.

Smith is charismatic. She can sure talk and she looks pretty on the side of a bus (by the way, how on earth did that slip by her office?). Let’s face it, she talks better than Ralph Klein ever did and looks better than Stelmach. So much so she slipped this whole “conscience rights” things past me. I didn’t pay attention to it at all. I was so busy listening to the promises of payouts and improved health care that I missed this one. Like David Copperfield, Smith has an amazing ability to get her audience to watch what is happening in the right hand while her left is doing the pickpocketing.

Let’s look at this whole “conscience rights” thing for a moment. I first heard of it when Warren Kinsella of the Toronto Sun wrote about it in his article, “Smith Changes Her Tune and Is Completely Off-Key”. Wait a minute. I don’t usually watch the news and such, but come election time I do keep up with the politics. I love the Internet for giving me that ability. So how did a journalist in Toronto click into this and make noise about it before Alberta journalists did? To be fair, perhaps there was an article or two that I missed. Still, he’s in Toronto writing about Alberta politics and drawing attention to where it needs to be focused. You’re being ripped off, people and Kinsella is showing you.

Conscience rights, as I understand it, means that if an official does not agree with a particular issue and it conflicts with his job, he does not have to perform that function. So, let’s explain that. Let’s suppose there is a judge that does not agree with gay marriage. That judge does not have to perform the marriage. What? If there is a doctor who does not agree with abortion, he does not have to perform the abortion. Now, if you’re a judge who does not agree with gay marriage, you tend to stay away from marrying people. A doctor who does not agree with abortions would probably go into another field. No problem there. Right? Let’s take this one step further; let’s suppose you’re a prison official who does not agree with gay rights. Does that mean that official no longer has to care for them? Let’s say you’re an apartment manager who does not agree with the swinger lifestyle. Guess what? You don’t have to rent to “them” any more. Restaurant manager who doesn’t agree with First Nations’ rights? Don’t serve them. Welcome to the slippery slope, people.

Yes, some of the examples I’m showing are extreme, however, do you really believe there aren’t those who won’t go there? I’m a Wiccan and once lost a job because of it. No, that wasn’t the official reason, but was something that was said from my manager to me on my way out. She later denied saying it. Who is easier to believe? I have met racists, skinheads, gaybashers, and religious nuts; all of whom believe that “those” people should be grateful for what they got. I actually met a man who once said, “Rosa Parks should have stayed at the back of the bus. Then we wouldn’t have all these problems.” They’re out there and this policy gives them a blank cheque.

Okay. Those people do exist. What about the woman who really believes that shielding her children from swingers and Wiccans is best for her kids? I have to ask, what do these people think will happen if they meet a swinger couple? That the couple will start indoctrinating a five year old? “Yes, Billy. Your Mommy and Daddy are going to hell because they only sleep with each other.” Do these people believe that Wiccans will steal their 10 year old to perform a “Drawing Down of the Moon”? Do they think gays will infect their children? Come on. Let’s get real here. I’m all for raising kids right, but not when that means they get the idea that stomping all over the rights of those who are different is okay.

I did try to contact Danielle Smith’s office. I was a good girl and sent an email via their website. That’s a nice way of doing it. I can be polite when I try. That was a week ago. They never responded. So, when I called Smith’s office today the alarm bells really rang. I first called her campaign office and was told that the website email goes to her “other” office (they never really explained what the other office was). So, I called there and tried to get someone in the media office. No answer. I hate leaving messages. Besides, they’ve had a week to respond. So I got ahold of the receptionist who stated that the office “wasn’t sure where that email is routed to.” WHAT?? Let me get this right; you have an email for constituents (and nuts like me) to get ahold of you but you don’t know where it’s going? There’s a unique solution. Don’t want to have to answer questions? Create an email link and dump the email into the ether. Then you can honestly say, “nope. Didn’t get your email.” Does anyone else find that hilarious?

All I can do is write this blog, send a letter to the editor of local papers and cross my fingers. I won’t be voting for Smith, I can tell you that much and I urge others to do the same. Yes, the flash and dazzle is pretty, but all that gets annoying after a while. Then, when reality sets in, we’re left with “conscience rights”. I’m awake, but the night terror goes on and the monster is in my room.

All my life I’ve been the kid on the edges. You know the one; the one sitting on the side of the playground, reading. She’s the one pretending it doesn’t hurt to be left out or made fun of. The one standing along the bleachers at the high school dance, bouncing along to the music that no one asks to dance. She’s the one that’s learned to do things on her own. No one’s going to ask her to join them. It hasn’t been easy, and sometimes it has been very hard, but there’s an advantage to knowing how to do things on your own.

That life I have integrated into myself and embrace it. I am who I am and make no apologies for that. I’m a libertine, a polyamorist, pansexual, lover of life who makes her own way mainly by brute force and sheer determination. Would I like to have a clique? Sure. Then when things go horribly wrong I have someone to blame. I only have a small group of very good friends who remind me that when things blow up in my face, it’s my responsibility. They also come to the front and help me celebrate life’s victories. Those are many and they are sweet because I got there on my own.

I have battles I choose to fight. One of which is bullying. Of course, bullying comes in many forms including; abuse, rudeness and racism. To me, all of these are just bullying. They don’t always take priority; I simply don’t have that much energy. Which form I’m battling depends on what’s happening in my life. This time it’s racism.

By now, everyone’s heard of Trayvon Martin and how he was gunned down by a bully. Yes, George Zimmerman was nothing more than a bully with a gun and a stupid Florida law behind him. There are so many issues here that I want to address that it’s hard to keep them from crowding each other out. However, recent events in my personal life pushed me towards making a statement.

Let me say I never intended to say nothing. This is such a huge issue I felt it was vital, as a writer, to take my time and really mull over what I felt and wanted to say about this. This is not a simple situation and, as a Canadian and a writer, I felt it would be irresponsible to pound out words said in the heat of the moment. Now I’ve had a chance to think about it and I have something to say.

I am no stranger to racism. Growing up, my father was a closet racist. He held to the idea that “those” people were inferior, but tried to keep that to himself. I loved my father, don’t think I didn’t. I was very close to him but I heard the “jokes” and the snide comments. They were very subtle and I only heard it as I stood at the periphery of the adults speaking. When I got a bit older I questioned this attitude and the rest of my family defended him. It was harmless, I was told. Or, I was told that he was simply pointing out a truth about a certain culture. Indians drink, for example. Blacks like hot weather (please don’t ask me how this one came to be. I’m not sure myself).

As an adult I protested this subtle racism and was pushed to the edges of my family. I was being over-sensitive. I should learn to live and let live. I was tilting at windmills. Yet, my mother contended that Chinese were the best accountants and my father insisted that blacks were best at blue collar jobs. Finally I told my family that it had to stop or I would never talk to them again. Luckily, it never came to that.

I have friends from all walks of life; asian, white, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, pagan, black, you name it. I try to respect everyone’s beliefs and am very curious about their lives (which generally leads me to asking questions other people don’t ask). It was a shock, then, to be the victim of this subtle racism I’ve fought against all my life.

One of my friends is Polish and is very proud of his heritage. I ask questions and try, in vain, to pronounce his name as it’s meant to be said. Usually I give up and revert back the Anglicized version of his name. Recently, he posted a picture on Facebook with a caption in Polish. I assumed it said something positive so I posted, “I agree”. The picture was pretty.

He sent a message back to me saying how rude I was to post in English on a Polish posting. That I shouldn’t have said anything and stayed in my place. I wondered why my place suddenly became the back of the bus. When I replied, I pointed out that ostracising someone based on their culture or language was racism. He didn’t like that. I cried.

So let’s go back to Trayvon Martin. I would like to make a comment about Florida’s “stand your ground” law. From what I understand, this allows a person to shoot first and ask questions later. Okay. I’m Canadian and maybe I’m being a bit dense on this, but it seems that this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.

Let’s do a comparison. A police officer, in most places around the world, has to train for months, learn the laws of the land, take counselling and generally prove he is worthy of both the badge and the gun. If a shooting does occur, an inquiry is called. He is questioned by his superiors and by the local internal affairs department, has to fill out paperwork and takes more counselling. In all of this he MUST have “just cause”. This means he has to be able to prove, beyond a doubt, that he believed his life or the life of someone else was in imminent danger.

In Florida, if I understand right, if you’re a private citizen all you need to have is a gun. This law says that the owner of said gun only needs to PRESUME the threat of imminent danger. The danger doesn’t actually need to be there. No one sees a problem here? What about a gun-happy idiot like Zimmerman who was told by the 911 operator to take no action? No. Zimmerman creates some imaginary threat in his head and kills a boy with skittles in his pocket. I imagine there are unicorns and werewolves in Zimmerman’s world, too.

Now, why was Martin killed? He was a black kid wearing a hoodie. That was the threat. I’m not sure which Zimmerman found more threatening; the hoodie, the fact he was black or the skittles. Skittles can be scary, you know. That whole “taste the rainbow” sure sounds ominous to me.

Racism is such an odd creature. I’m not sure I understand the idea of ostracising or hurting someone because they’re different. To tell me I can’t comment because I don’t know the language is patently silly. To shoot a boy because he’s a black kid wearing a hoodie is criminal. All of it is just sad.

My heart goes out to the family of Trayvon Martin. I would like to show my support but, as there are so many ribbons out there, I’m choosing a different method. I’m going to wear a hoodie for Trayvon. Maybe if more people wore them, people like Zimmerman wouldn’t find them so frightening.

September 2017
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