“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
-Martin Luther King
These are dark times and frankly it makes me despair of a bright future for us all. I can ignore or curse the points of views of strangers depending on my mood that day but when family profess hatred towards people who are different, and take pride in their ignorance of history and science, I must say something. Experts say that we live in our own world view bubbles more and more and that we need to reach across those divides if we are not to end up in a metaphorical, if not literal, civil war. So I am reaching out to you.
In the past couple of years you have become very active on Facebook. The content has shocked me and I am not easily shocked. It isn’t just the content but the fact these posts are from you, my little brother. We have not been all that close since Mom died, especially with you in Alberta, and me here on Vancouver Island. When we got together at our niece’s wedding two years ago, it didn’t take much to bring back the old stories of our shared lives growing up on Army bases or the summers spent on the family farm in Arrow River. We talked a little about politics but it was the usual banter about NDP and Conservatives. There was no indication you had become so deeply disenchanted that you embraced a political view of the world that blamed immigrants, Muslims, gays, ‘uppity’ women, unions, liberals and environmentalists for your lot in life.
So what has changed? What happened to the shy, generous guy who literally wouldn’t hurt a fly? I know life hasn’t exactly turned out as you had hoped it would. You’re a hard worker yet you moved from one crummy job to the next, most of them low pay and non-union. Conversations from the past remind me you felt disrespected, and sometimes cheated, by your bosses. Now at age 58 you have little or no savings and the future holds lots of fears. I know you’ve had disappointments in your personal relationships.
So is that what these mean and hateful posts are about? Getting back at the world in the only way you know how? You are angry at the wrong people. Refugees are not forcing you to work for $12 an hour. Your boss is, and our capitalist system is. Canadian Muslims aren’t forcing their religion or their Sharia laws down our throats. Fundamentalist Christians are the ones confusing the roles of government and organized religion. Gays didn’t rape anyone’s daughter and then force her to give birth but the straight macho misogynists you admire might. Environmentalists haven’t stolen your resources and pocketed billions of dollars while laying off workers whenever it suits them. The hugely profitable oil companies like Shell and Suncor, along with compliant politicians like Kenney, are doing that right now.
You might say these are my opinions and so no different than yours. However here are two things to think about. These are my opinions but, to the best of my ability, I read about the issues from a few different sources and I read them with a critical eye. I don’t just regurgitate them from some hate factory like the United Conservative Party website or an American neo-fascist propaganda machine. So before you ‘share’ another post about beating up trans people for using the washroom of their choice I suggest you read up on gender and biology. Which brings me to the other difference: I can honestly say my posts don’t incite anyone to shoot anyone else; they don’t show politicians, even ones I think are dangerous, in a rifle’s cross hairs. There is enough hate and violence in the world without adding to it.
Maybe what has changed is the times. One of the great fears when Trump was elected was that his crude, mean brand of opportunistic politics would not be simply an aberration but would become normalized. Three years later that fear has been realized. Racism has become OK again and the brutal attack on women’s rights continues unabated. Mass shootings and the murder of young black men by the police are almost weekly occurrences in the US. Canadian politicians of the conservative ilk have taken up the American right wing template and exploited the fears and biases of many Canadians like you.
I am not sure if this letter is helping or making it worse. I reject the idea that all opinions are equally valid. When you say that Indigenous people live off the government I know you are wrong. When you tell me unions only look out for themselves I can show you that you are misinformed. Some of your posts actually move me to anger because they are so mean spirited which isn’t the brother I know.
So where do we go from here? We could do what is often done in families and just not discuss politics or religion. Agree to disagree as it were. However that was probably one of the ideas that got us in this mess in the first place. We are both more than our political beliefs but we live in such dangerous times that I cannot ignore our differences. I will try to understand your fears and your anger if you do the same. My hope is that we continue to talk, to communicate what we desire from the world. If family can’t do that then there is not much hope in the world and in these times we need all the hope we can muster.