Canada has been absorbing this week the revelation of the burials of 215 children at the Kamloops Residential Schools, many of them completely undocumented in our past, and mostly completely unknown to most Canadians. In an important sense every one of these children is a crime victim, the least of which is neglect the most serious of which is genocide. Worst of all, most of us had no clue that this burial ground even existed, although that’s just a little too convenient an excuse.
This week thousands of articles have been written on the subject, news stories broadcast on radio and television. There is much hand wringing and guilty statements about Settler privilege.
What I haven’t heard enough of, or even any of, is the genocide underway in Canada today across the country. Every day children are still being taken away from aboriginal families and forced into “care” where they are neglected, abused and abandoned, with many of these children dying while in care, or shortly after “aging” out of foster care. These kids are removed from families, single parent moms mostly, because of a system that still sees “drunken indians” instead of struggling people who have been largely dispossessed from their tribal history and context by colonial exploitation and continuing subjugation by the settler cultures.
I’m going to miss her, Bella Luna, our beautiful thirteen year old German Shepard, who we lost today to old age, after she reached a point where she could no longer walk without falling down every couple of minutes. Climbing stairs, or getting into or out of the car had become difficult lately, and she was periodically losing control of her bowels.
Clearly it was time, as she’s been near the end for a few months. As long as she appeared to be enjoying her life, and not in too much pain, we were happy to accommodate her in her final days, and celebrate the four years or so she had lived with us. But it was time when she was no longer able to get around comfortably, and it became painful to watch.
I could tell that she was happy, despite everything, which made it even more difficult to make the decision. She had lost mobile and muscle mass in her hind quarter, but she still looked so happy to greet us both, that we felt the pull of her love and friendship in our lives. But it would have been unkind to let her continue to suffer. Saying goodbye was agony, and I wept when I left her with the vet. I couldn’t bear to be there with her when she was put to sleep. I hope that she just went to sleep, without any more pain.
The funny thing about how emotional I feel about having to say goodbye is that I never really wanted a dog, once I had a family with kids. There were too many allergies among our children for us to bring a dog home, so the only way we ended up with a dog is that she was already in the family with my adult daughter, who became unable to care for her when her health declined and entered care. Bella was pretty emotionally fragile when she came to us, but she’d had good care for along time, before it became too much for our daughter to handle it.
So Bella was our accidental member of the family. Kath complained about the dog, frequently, but I could tell that she loved her, as much as Bella thrived under her care. She and I both spent a lot of time with Bella, although Kath was really her mistress while she lived in our home. Kath fed her, and was with Bella almost every all day. I only saw Bella at night after work, and pretty much spent the evenings with her, and walked her after dark. Kath has restricted vision so night time walks were tough for her.
Bella was always so present for Kath and less so for me, but she was constantly aware of our slightest movement, and her ears would perk up when either of us said anything, or got up out of our chairs. She pestered both of us for treats, and challenged us to take her out, all the time. She was a delicious nuisance. I’d grumble a little bit when I had to take her out, or feed. I’ll admit that giving her a bath was a highlight, as she really enjoyed having me wash here and rub her down after. She was wide aware and alert, and you could tell that she was always paying attention to whatever was going on around her.
She was a real member of the family, and I’ll miss her a lot. She really left only love and good memories behind. Damn.
The details of your story about bullying are horrible! When I read about what happened to you in school, and with your so-called friends, it made me feel like I was actually there with you as it was happening.
My story was a little different, and the reasons I was bullied seemed pretty much unique to me at the time. I was small and short. In every grade until I graduated from school I was usually the smallest and lightest boy in the class. And there was no relief at home, either, because my dad was the worst bully of all, who beat me and my siblings too. When he wasn’t bullying us, he was molesting the girls and calling out the boys for not being “men”.
Like, even when I was five and six years old, he’d call me a fag, a pig and asshole. There was never a day in my life until I was about fifteen when I wasn’t afraid of my father calling me names, hitting me all over my body, and sending me to school covered in bruises from his attacks. And at school, the bullies somehow knew automatically that they could pick on me, and I really didn’t know how to stop them, or even protect myself.
Things started getting a little better after my fifteenth birthday, because my father stopped physically abusing me because I knocked him down when he tried, and then he never tried again. The same thing happened at school, when I had fight with the meanest bully at my high school, and I beat him up so badly he ended up in hospital. Obviously I had grown up a bit, although I was still small, I was an athlete and played hockey. I was an okay hockey player, but the best thing was that I learned how to fight back.
The bullying pretty much stopped after that, and the kids at school treated me a lot better, so I got along at school a lot better. At home I mostly just avoided having to deal with my dad, who still had a mean mouth, and was always mad at someone or other.
The net effect of all of this is that I grew up feeling pretty insecure, and lacked confidence. I overcompensate, to this day, and feel like I have to prove myself to other people. Despite the fact that I’ve had plenty of successes in my life, I’ve never really felt “successful” and still struggle with feelings of inadequacy when dealing with the very real challenges of living.
I’m now sixty-six years old, and although I’ve struggled with these feelings, including serious bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts, in the main I have learned to value what I have to offer the world, and respect my contributions to my fellow human beings. Having been bullied so much in my youth, and periodically even as an adult, I am a fierce protector of people who are being bullied, either as an individual or as a part of group or class of people being exploited or used by others. I won’t put up with abuse, and when I see it I stand up against it, no matter what the cost.
If you are bullied as a child, or maybe even ever, then you will have the ability to understand how it feels, and what it means to someone else when it happens to them. If you learn how to stand up for yourself, and face down the bullies, then you have learned something extremely useful to other bullied people. You become accountable for your own future happiness and safety, and are willing to do whatever you have to do to recover from falling down and failing. Nothing is impossible for you, merely difficult or painful, and neither difficulties nor pain can stop you. You’ve had to learn how to overcome all of those things, and get on with your life.
In a way I am glad that I was bullied as a kid. It taught me compassion, first of all for myself, and secondly, for others. It helped me see the ordinary humanity in each person I meet along the way. We are all simply human beings, looking out at the world and dreaming of having a good life. So I start out every day believing that this day will be better.
To you this day am I wed And to you do I make these promises:
I will love you from my deepest self Sharing my life with you, I will be joyful In your sharing your life with me
I commit myself to you , to a life Of service to our marriage, and our family And will keep my agreements with you In a spirit of love and acceptance.
I will love you without conditions No obstacle, no action will divide this pledge And I will take you as you really are And as you will become, as you grow Into the person you shall become
I will be joined with you in a common bond To a life of love, acceptance, and growth To reach out beyond ourselves, and make Our contributions to the future of our family, Our people, and our world
I will love you without seeking to own you Give freely of my abundance, while Receiving joyfully from yours.
I wrote this poem in 1984 and my wife and I based our marriage vows on it. Our marriage was my second marriage, but her first, and so far, only marriage. These words bound us together in a marital relationship for the last thirty-five years. Our marriage was always unconventional in many ways, and the way it started made it necessarily so.
It turns out that we are quite different in our points of view, on a lot of issues, including, and maybe, especially, what marriage means to each of us. For many years we chose to leave our differences unfocussed and just slightly behind a curtain of apparent and superficial conformity. To our community, and mostly to our children, our marriage appeared to be pretty much according to common community values, one man and one woman, with a raft of kids, going through the process of life. Our initial agreement to be unconventional in being polyamorous was a whisper in privacy.
It was implicitly and explicitly understood that I would be discrete in my external relationships and not bring them home, even in discussion. The policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell applied because she really didn’t want to deal with it, and as long as I stayed away from her circle of friends, she was mostly fine with it. In a sense, she had been a special “friend” with me and mothered our first child while I was in an “open marriage” with my former partner.
Over the many years which followed those early times we both followed what we believed was applicable under the terms of our promises. Suffice it to say that my external relationships and experiences were kept away from the family, and never discussed with her. Any time she did bring up the issue of marital fidelity, I would always remind her of the agreement we made at the beginning. She believed that our agreement was purely a “pro forma” agreement, an agreement made purely to serve as an artifact of our original relationship.
Most importantly, she believed that I merely maintained my commitment to it to retain my intellectual independence, and was not involved with any outside relationships or sexual engagements.
And so we continued until a few years ago, when a time came when I had to explicitly introduce evidence that I had not only engaged intellectually, but had also engaged in sex with someone else. In my view, I was never unfaithful, as our promises never included any promise from me that I would not be involved with other people. In her view, when confronted with specific evidence confirming my external relationships, I’d been screwing around, and unfaithful, for all of the last 35 years.
It didn’t matter that we had this agreement, because she felt that it was obtained under duress, or without her full understanding of what it really meant. Over the years when she challenged me on whether or not I was seeing other people, I had always confirmed our original agreement as still being valid, and refused to specifically acknowledge when or with whom I was involved. She’d had many suspicions over the years that I was sexually active outside of the marriage, but had never felt that she wanted to push the issue, knowing that I would continue to adhere to our agreements, regardless of her fears.
The proof that I had been sexually active for years came when I took a battery of blood tests, including one for STDs, that indicated that I was a carrier of Hepatitis B, a disease that is generally contracted by an exchange of body fluids during sex. The first thing I did when this result was made known to me, was to inform my sexual partners, including my wife. Ironically, the test was a false positive, which the specialist stated to me when I went to see him, upon referral by my family doctor. So I’m not a carrier, not even remotely, but by then the damage was done, and the cat was out of the bag.
Suffice it to say, my wife decided that she no longer considers us married, and wants a divorce. I urged her to reconsider on the basis that nothing really had changed, our agreement from 35 years ago is still in place, and I still consider myself bound to its terms.
All of that took place about a year and a half ago, and we’re still living together and cohabitating. We no longer consider ourselves “married’ exactly, but we are both comfortable that we are still “partners” “nesting partners” or even just “friends” living in a common household. Sexuality has not been a facet of our marriage for a long time, so it really wasn’t an issue for either of us.
We have had a really difficult set of discussions and for now are in agreement to stay together for mutual benefit, if not in fact in a marriage, we are still in fact deeply caring people who still love each other, if not the way either of us had wanted. She will remain monogamous and I will remain polyamorous. Where we go from here is anybody’s guess.
What I can say for sure, is that we still love each other, and will remain friends always.
Today is Canadian Thanksgiving Day. This is the day when I’m supposed to be grateful for all the good things in my life, and emotionally let go of whatever negative things are holding me back from a happy and productive life.
All of that is good. In theory.
But it’s hard to do. It’s a lot easier to list the things I’m mad about, or for which I’m resentful, than to account for all the good things in my life, for which I’m grateful. That’s not to say that I’m not, that is, not grateful.
I’m grateful for the people in my life who go out of their way to make my life better, of which there are any number, including my domestic partner who puts up with my frustrations and anxieties, and continues with me in her life, despite no longer wanting to be married to me, or believing that there is any romantic future for us. She’s probably right but still has simply accepted me as I am, despite my faults. So the two of us struggle to go forward in this fundamentally undefinable relationship and cause each other, and ourselves, the least emotional damage possible. And although this relationship isn’t what either of us imagined forty years ago, it continues to sustain me in the present. She still inspires me with her generosity of spirit towards.
I am grateful to my family, including my kids and my siblings, trying not to let resentment fill my heart for all the things I’d hoped would be, but are not. When people love me its hard when its not exactly the way I’d like to be loved. But who am I kidding? The fact that they are willing to be a part of my life is what is important, and I am appreciative when they do spend some time with me.
I’m also happy with my progress towards a healthy future. Intermittent fasting and lifestyle changes I’ve already made are making a real difference in my health, even just a few months into the process began with my decision last spring to reevaluate my medications and side effects. My son’s consistent input about carbs and sugar has encouraged me to stick to my guns when comes to fasting, and has helped me to lose 35 pounds. I do feel better, and I’m grateful for that.
But I still have a hard time not being angry about the things I’m facing in the future. It doesn’t matter really if they are a direct result of my own actions, or not. Chronic pain is very difficult to ignore, especially when it is quite severe, most of the time. I’m taking it on faith that losing weight will improve matters a little, but I’m not counting on it. Pain has become my constant companion, and it’s damned hard not to complain about it. Not that it does any good, but saying something does relieve some of the pressure of feeling so isolated and alone in the pain. Sometimes people think that I resent them because they don’t really express much sympathy, or even really seem to understand what the hell I’m talking about. Actually I don’t resent them, what I resent is the pain itself, and the fact that nothing really helps.
I’m also really resentful about the total destruction of my business and professional career, as a result of having made some stupendously stupid mistakes which cost me everything, including putting limits on my future I’m not quite sure how to endure. It doesn’t actually help to know that there were things I could have done differently that might have made all the difference. I didn’t do those things, so here I am. I’m critically broke, impoverished by the consequences of these mistakes. I also resent being ashamed of my mistakes and lack of better judgment. How can I be sure that I’ll do any better in the future?
But today is Thanksgiving Day, so I’ve thought a lot about those things that matter to me. There is a better future ahead, even if I’m not quite sure how to get there. I’m still alive, and I’m in better health than for a long time, and have more energy than for probably ten years. So I grateful for that.
I’m also grateful for my blog. Expressing my deepest feelings helps me come to terms with them. So I’m also grateful for my faithful readers, who have been so encouraging to me as I have been on this fasting journey. Thank you.
I was taught as a child to be “blind” to racial and ethnic differences, by a family that had fled Sweden to escape poverty and discrimination because they were Laplander in a land dominated by Scandinavian Swedes, Danes and other late arrivals to the northernmost coasts of Europe and Russia.
This “blindness” included denial by my “Swedish” family of their Lap roots to the point that I only found out by taking a DNA test through Ancestry.com that I was descended from a persecuted minority. My grandfather worked his entire life in education in first nations communities in Northern Canadian communities striving to improve the lot of Inuit and First Nations peoples in their own lands and territories.
I thought that being colour blind was a good thing, and felt no sense of difference when in the presence of people of colour. To me people were people and I judged them on the basis of their actions towards others, their level of personal accountability, and their willingness to be friendly towards me and my family.
It never really occurred to me that “colour blindness” was a symptom of belonging to the dominant race, at least visibly. By not “seeing” race it allowed me to ignore systemic discrimination against blacks, asians, aboriginals, and other people people in Canadian society who don’t get an automatic pass because of their race or color or religion.
But I have learned that it is important to see difference in people, in order to identify when they are being treated as less than full citizens or even as less than human.
Our jails are full of people who look or act differently than the dominant community – first nations, other racial minorities, religious minorities, etc. Educational opportunities to help level the playing field are seldom as equal as they seem, with economic and social barriers in place that pit all of us against everyone.
The current Reconciliation Commission and Investigation into the disappearance and murder of aboriginal women and children needs to be followed by a similar commission into the treatment of minority women and children, and their rapes and murders in Canada during the same periods of history.
Canada is NOT the United States with its history of slavery and discrimination against blacks. We have our own history, and a self satisfied attitude of superiority to American historical has allowed our nation for all too long to escape genuine self examination and rectification of serious and persistent ill treatment and denial of human rights to all too many of our fellow Canadians.
I have learned to see difference, and it shames me to see what this blindness in my country has allowed to exist, and continues to exist.
Image via Wikipedia Image via Wikipedia I was having coffee with a close friend at Park Royal today, talking about family stuff, again. She asked me about my eldest sister. When I said that we weren’t close any more, she said that … Continue reading →