In the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando, more young black men killed by police, suicide bombers in Baghdad and Nigeria and the fear and hate escalating rhetoric of the presidential race in the United States and Brexit supporters in Great Britain, I hear and see many comments like "Thank God we live in Canada" and "I'm so grateful to live in Canada."
We need to stop being grateful. I don't mean that like it sounds because of course gratitude is a good thing. Meister Eckhart noted that if the only prayer we ever said was thank you, that would be enough. And I too am grateful for the relative peace and the other benefits we are afforded in Canada. When I needed a new hip joint, I was grateful for our health care system. I know that if we had had to pay out of pocket for that it would have had a huge negative financial impact on my family. Not to mention the employment insurance benefits that allowed me to be off work for two months.
But in the wake of the violence and terror that we see in the world, being grateful to live in Canada is not enough.
It's easy for us to be self congratulatory when our prime minister is photographed walking with clear and open joyfulness at the Toronto pride parade. But our own Black Lives Matter debacle underscores that we have a lot of work to do. White people have clearly failed to understand both the way that BLM has been a catalyst for more acceptance of the LBGTQ2S community in Canada and the way BLM continues to be marginalized and the reality of the lives of people who live intersecting isms.
“Thank God we live in Canada” is a bit like saying "there but for the grace of God go I" when we see a homeless addict. As if you are somehow one of God's chosen and that poor sod has been intentionally dissed.
Simply praying gratitude misses our culpability. “Thank God we're in Canada” shutters us in. It risks becoming a wall like the one that is gleefully held up as an election promise in the United States.
Instead I am saying thank God for black lives and for Black Lives Matter. I hold gratitude for those people who teach me about my privilege and challenge me to use it for the good of all. I am asking for forgiveness for the ways in which I have, unintentionally though it may be, supported the systems of racism and discrimination from which I have benefited and others have suffered. And I send love. Gratitude which walls me in does not help other people. Sending energy of Love I believe does.
And may all of that spur me on to be a better ally, a better friend and to be more actively engaged in challenging our unjust systems. Especially when that very challenge has the potential to infringe on my comfort. May it be so.
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