Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The First Ever....

So.... Calgary just elected its first ever Muslim Mayor.
So what!?
He was the choice of the people. Clearly he won the election for varied reasons: his platform, ideas, ability to engage the electorate and cause them to buy into his vision for Calgary, his effective use of social media. Did he win because he is a Muslim? Did anyone step behind the ballot box and say, "hmmm I think it is about time we elected a Muslim".  Who cares that he's Muslim? Is Naheed Nenshi qualified to do the job? Time will tell whether the people's choice was correct but regardless of the outcome I can pretty much guarantee that Mayor Nenshsh's religion will not be a factor.
The Hon. Glen Murray, was the first ever openly gay Mayor of a major North American city, representing  Winnipeg, Manitoba from 1998 to 2004. Did the people of Winnipeg decide it was time to have a gay guy running things or did they just chose the candidate with the best credentials?

George Smitherman kissed his spouse in front of a group of reporters "an action normally seen only by heterosexual politicians". So what? They're gay and they are married.  Did we expect them to shake hands?

Kim Campbell was Canada's first ever female Prime Minister in 1993. This may be a bad example since her abysmal failure might have been, in part, due to her gender because lord knows the powers that be on the bible thumping religious right don't like feeling emasculated. But nonetheless, did Canadians say "we need a woman running things"? No. They were voting political right in Canada and she happened to be at the helm.

And of course, probably the most notable first ever was watching Barack Obama become the first ever black president of the USA. Did Americans decide it was time to elevate some poor descendant of slaves and give him a shot? Or did Obama actually win because, oh I don't know, he knew what he was doing?

Muslim. Gay. Woman. Black. Am I the only one seeing a pattern here? Not a white heterosexual male in the bunch.

And so why is it that anyone who, through ability, knowledge, character and sheer determination, earns a position of power, either politically or in the private sector, becomes some kind of freakish "wow check this out" kind of news story? Because anyone who isn't a white heterosexual male shouldn't attain such things?

You're right: of course that's a ridiculous notion. Why then is it that we as a society continue to make a big deal when it happens? The simple answer: prejudice, bigotry, and racism.

Harsh, I know. But I believe this to be true. And it continues to be perpetrated by the media, as well as by the formerly marginalized groups who now lay claim to the very bastions of power that they could only once dream about.

So this morning on Canada AM, the story went like this:  "Calgary elected its first ever Muslim Mayor in a close race last night".

In my perfect world the story would have gone: "Naheed Nenshi, a 38 year old business professor, narrowly defeated two opponents to become Mayor of Calgary last night. Nenshi's platform included a promise to limit urban sprawl, and to make neighbourhoods more fun, safer, and greener. The mayor elect holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Calgary".

Now, I'm not bashing white heterosexual males here: I happen to love white heterosexual males! But when was the last time we made a big deal about one's religion, or the fact that he kissed his spouse prior to the start of a press conference?

We are all guilty of prejudice, bigotry and racism.  Every race, every gender, every sexual orientation. I guess it is too much to ask that we can all be judged only by our individual merits. Or maybe my ideal world is far too simple a place! I can dream though......

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thankful for Thomas Edison

You know, I hate swimming in the same direction as everyone else. I've spent most of my life swimming up stream, either because it is my nature or it is by choice, and I'm just determined not to be the same breed of fish as everyone else. (Interesting topic for another time!)

Either way, it kind of bugs me when I fall into thinking about "what I'm thankful for" on Thanksgiving. Ideally, I would do that every day of my life. But for many varied reasons, it is impossible not to fall into step with the rest of the world on this particular weekend.

So, I'm thankful for Thomas Edison. Yes, I mean THE Thomas Edison - of phonograph and motion picture camera fame. He also invented something that seems to have become a recurring image and theme in my life of late: the light bulb.

During the past 13 years I have experienced euphoric highs and devastating lows. Being diagnosed with Lupus in 1997 was a defining time in my life, even though I was determined that the diagnosis would not define ME. But in some ways most surprising, it did.

As a result of this diagnosis I have made some fabulous choices and I have made many that were on the verge of cataclysmic. Being faced with one's own mortality has a funny way of bringing about profound change: Challenging everything that was once the norm; examining my interaction with the world around me;  being forced to look deep into the core of my very being and coming to the devastating realization that mine has not been a life of purpose, but rather of reaction fuelled by anger, hate and hurt.

Living with a life altering health challenge that's here to stay has forced me to face issues head on which have deep roots in my childhood and have profoundly affected my past, to a lesser extent my present - but  I have determined, not my future.

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse at the hand of an extended family member. It is not something that I ever planned to parade for the world, but my need to close a dark chapter in my life once and for all precludes my silence on the subject any longer. And the fact that I was, at last, recently able to share this with my parents 30 years or so later allows me to finally turn a corner and be free.

Over the past year and a half or so, I've done some very difficult, painful, intensely private, introspective work in order to be well again. Where my personal demons consumed me and caused me to behave self destructively at times, I'm finally learning to live with purpose; I'm learning the meaning of forgiveness, and I am realizing that  the journey we know as life is much easier when one doesn't have to carry such heavy suitcases filled with remorse, regret, anger, hate, and self loathing.

So back to the light bulb. Sometimes over the past while, I've struggled to get my head around certain concepts as I focus on building a future of fulfillment, joy and peace. And I want the answer for something in particular to come so badly that my brain hurts. Sometimes I wait for what seems like an eternity.  And then, it happens -  a light bulb moment, and its brightness fills even the darkest reaches of my being with a sense of calm understanding and and the light of knowledge. And the joy and delight in these revelations is that they just happen, sometimes at the least likely of times and in a manner that seems completely random, even though I know it can't be.

I wonder if Thomas Edison understood that his invention, while important to modernization of the world, would also provide strong symbolism to our quest for deeper knowledge and understanding of the universe and the supreme being that created it.

I have so much more work yet to do. But I continue to be thankful for Thomas Edison, whose invention shines light on the fledgling seeds of all the good things I hope will grow and help me become the best person I can be.

"Many of life's failures are experienced by people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."  - Thomas Edison

May I never give up.