Tag Archives: prejudice

The enduring prejudice

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

The other day, while idly wandering cookie recipes online, I came across one for oatmeal chocolate chip ones and scrolled down (I couldn’t remember my usual go to and had some chocolate chips looking lonely). The writer started off, as many do, with a little introductory blather, in which she said something to the effect of:

My grandmother lived to age 94, surprisingly, given her love for cookies and sweets and things like this recipe.

Now I’m a certified cookie-lover, and I couldn’t help but take umbrage. Why is it surprising that her grandmother lived while still loving cookies? Maybe it was the cookies that gave her the will to live! I know that on some of these grey winter days, when getting out of bed seems an unworthy struggle, the thought of a fresh cookie with my morning coffee can be the difference between loitering under the covers and springing into action.

And these were HOME MADE cookies she was talking about, lacking the usual death-dealing chemicals found in the store-bought kind that the author was probably secretly scarfing while looking all judgey-judgey at her poor grandmother toiling over a hot oven to bring deliciousness to her family (and/or herself, and there’s nothing wrong with that).

You never see anyone talking about their grandmother expressing surprise that she lived to an extended age despite her persistent love for kale, do you?

Well, that’s because people who live on kale die young, realizing early on that life has no purpose, no joy, no raison d’être. There’s only so much bitter green stuff a person can chew through before the pointlessness of it all becomes apparent.

But it’s okay to shame the cookie-eaters. Of all the prejudices, the ones against the plump, or even the sweet lover, the eater of fat, well, those remain and are endlessly reinforced.

Heard a comic the other day talking about how the best marriages are when the man’s ability to see drops as his wife ages. Yeah. The wife that births the children, manages the everything, and maybe, maybe, resorts to the occasional cookie in desperation. The wife whose eyes see fine and realizes the husband has turned into a smelly hairy hulk with bad teeth, but she’s the one with the problem with sinking attractiveness, of course. Grr.

So I say, huzzah for the cookie. It’s a small bundle of pure joy, perched in the palm of your hand like a precious gift, ready to bring delight. Eat on, grandmothers and others who cherish cookies. Life is too short to fill with gritty greens, no matter how long you live. Munch on, wallow in the brown sugar and butter goodness. Then, when you live long, you might actually enjoy it.

Rage and horror thanks to the Globe and Mail

In the Globe and Mail Saturday (“Canada’s National Newspaper”) there was an article called “Love’s Outer Reaches”, by Ian Brown. In it he reviews a book by Andrew Solomon about children who don’t meet ‘normal’ expectations  (Far From the Tree). This is the graphic to go with the article that has the types of children the author obviously feels are not normal. They include: teen criminals, disabled, deaf, lesbian, autistic, my son, children of rape, prodigy, schizophrenic, down syndrome, transgendered. The point of the book is that these children are difficult and isn’t it great, they often get more love than a normal child.

I just about exploded upon seeing the graphic and the story was worse. Honestly, classifying these children as abnormal is so offensive I can barely stop spitting long enough to type. And, to be frank, no child is ‘normal’ really – they are all different from us, aren’t they, and because of that they don’t fit our inner description of normal, whatever that foolishness might be. In other times it meant they were hippies, in these times, maybe they’re the tattooed ones, the living off the land ones. To them, we are the non-normal ones. In my view, we are merely part of the colourful diversity of our species, no type better than the other. Heck, I’m abnormal myself, at my towering height of 4’113/4″.

Well, okay, murderers and rapists are maybe not quite as good as the other. I truly feel sorry for these parents, who have to cope with such evil coming from their loins. The feelings of guilt must be profound, the wish to have done something differently if only they knew what it was. And if there was any way to save their child and the world from such things. But I imagine they still find a corner of love for this child, the one they saw wearing sweet costumes on Halloween or cuddled to their heart.

I know I feel guilt, and always will, that I wasn’t able to protect my children from harm as much as I wished. But we aren’t omnipotent, and things happen outside out reach or sight or cognition. I am sorry I didn’t protect them more, but I tried my best, and really that’s all we can do.

In any case, I feel washes of anger at the thought that we are still classifying people as normal or not, and that we talk about gradations of love as if we deal it out in measuring cups. Parenting is parenting – sometimes easier and sometimes harder, even with the same child.  Normal is a moving target and merely a way of classifying people as “other”. It’s prejudice, pure and simple.

The most annoying thing about this article and the book is that it is phrased in how the child affects us, how  it’s really all about us. And it isn’t. It’s about them. It’s about the world we create, whether it is safe for “different ” folks. It’s about stopping the categorizing of love.

And a bit whether we force women to have babies after rape, babies that look like their rapist. Some women may be strong enough to love the face of their abuser. I don’t know that I would be – and raising a child without loving them, no matter what they are like, is a recipe for disaster for everyone.

But that’s more about my lacks, and not the child’s fault at all.

Read the article. It’s worth some thought.


So, apparently last night in my adopted and loved home, a man who was an outspoken but kind advocate for the gay and lesbian community, and the editor of Wayves, was beaten to death on the street.
From the Chronicle-Herald: “Although police have not released his identity, several sources said the victim is Raymond Taavel, the former longtime editor of Wayves, the monthly gay and lesbian magazine. Taavel was a well-known activist.”

This makes me want to throw my fists in the air and howl at the heavens. When will this stop?
It seems to me the world is evolving into a nastier, more hateful place. Gays and Lesbians are still being beaten to death; women’s rights are being taken away by men looking to control sexuality and behaviour; the wealthy work to further oppress the poor. Everywhere people seem to be finding reasons to hate this one, that one, the other one.

And then they kill them. Directly or by starvation or imprisonment.

What the hell is wrong with everyone????

Is it too much caffeine? Are we enraged by the excessive salt in our diet? Are men not getting enough sex and so feel they need to attack?

Yeah, I know, women can be mean, too. But there is a qualitative difference. And women seem to be less deeply offended by homosexuality, for some reason. Maybe we identify with oppression.

Maybe we just work behind the scenes in hateful ways.

Men pound the heck out of people. Apparently this attack used no weapons, solely body parts, and was totally brutal – the poor fellow died on the street.

The man who is in custody for this was for some reason on an unrestricted leave from a forensic institute, where he was sent for beating someone else. So now all of those who hate people with mental illness will have another reason to rant, when the real blame rests with the people who released him, and the overall lack of decent options for the mentally ill.

I wish people would understand how very lucky some of us are in this country, how we should be on guard against hatred, how wrong it is to kill people because of their beliefs or race or sexual orientation (or lack thereof) or in fact, at any time.

(Well, at least until the next time we want to send them overseas to kill “the enemy”. Grr.)

It is both freaky and odd that this happened on the anniversary of the passage of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms – one of the very very good things done by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his government. The Charter is viewed worldwide as the example of how to write such a charter (though I should point out Canada still hasn’t signed the UN Charter on the Rights of the Child).

But still, we hate. And kill and beat and treat people badly. As a parent, I feel horror. My kids are all their own people, with strong beliefs about sexual identity and religion and politics and life. I am glad of this, but fearful. I’ve been attacked often times for taking a position, and I know how hard that is on a person.

But are we all to be quiet? Say nothing? Avoid controversy?

Or can we be brave enough to differ politely, to discuss alternatives with respect for each other, to allow others to exist in their reality as long as they don’t punch into ours? Can we speak out more loudly about injustices, prejudice, poverty, the fact we seem to be losing our way?

Can we ever learn to love one another, but also hold one another to our Charter rights?

To basic human rights?

It is tough, and sad, and I feel despair.

Scapegoating and Catcher in the Rye

I recently had the opportunity to visit my stellar niece, Stephanie, and caught her in the middle of Catcher in the Rye, the classic high-schooler-getting-filled-with-angst-coming-of-life story. I remember reading that waaay back before the dawn of time, when dinosaurs ruled the earth, and I was in grade 10. I couldn’t get it at the time – the profanity, unusual in that ancient world, blocked me effectively from reading and understanding.  So I picked it up recently, figuring that now that I had aged and become all too used to profanity, I’d be able to understand the story, identify with the anti-hero.

My niece is much wiser.  She reached the same conclusions I did, at a much younger age. “In the beginning,” she said, “It was interesting and I could understand what he was thinking.  Now though,” as she disparagingly flipped through the pages, “it just seems like he’s ranting…” Amen, Steph. The story is one of ultimate self-obsession, and, like The Great Gatsby, I still wonder why these are on the reading list for every student, American or Canadian.  Surely there have been a few adequate authors since then?

And the self-obsession, so totally already there in the life of the average person, let alone teenager (who always get blamed for the equal sins of their parents) – why reinforce that with visions of thousands of silken shirts, anger at anything that doesn’t go your way, sulkiness, gaiety, song and dance?

When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to play a child in the excellent play from the better short story, The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson. I read Miller’s The Crucible, and Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.  I won’t pretend I understood any of those better than Catcher in the Rye – I was an innocent, thoughtless gal, with the depth and weediness of a duck pond.   I was much more interested in Robert Redford and the concept of his affluent life in Gatsby.  I had my first boyfriend during my time in the Lottery, so I barely listened to the play. Too busy dealing with the shame of not knowing how to French Kiss. (Thank you, Dan J. for being my instructor – such a useful skill!)

But those stories, all of them about scapegoating and what we do to each other when we find “different” amongst us, they sunk into my psyche. I can’t help but feel these readings, along with the horrific Lord of the Flies, are more pertinent for growing youth, and maybe for we “grownups”.  It’s so easy for them, and us, to categorize people into innies and outies, people we want to take the time to get to know, people not worth our effort. And then to target those outties with venom and hatred. We pounce. We stone. We kill. We yell at them when they don’t get our multi-layered Starbucks coffee order quite right. We send amusing photos of “Walmartians” to our work colleagues and make fun of the poor. We blame people for their life circumstances or punish them for their bad choices, as if these weren’t punishment enough. We make them carry identification cards, take away their land, deny them rights.

Isn’t it more important for us to understand our need to scapegoat than our essential angst?  Isn’t gazing outward more important than chewing the inside of our lip and fretting about why we are unhappy and what we can buy to make it all better?

All right, perhaps the economy would crash if we weren’t all on a continual wander through shopping therapy, but perhaps that wouldn’t necessarily happen – if we could only turn outward and see where our spending could help.

I know my niece is already there, gazing outwards, taking steps toward making this a better world. Maybe she’ll be the one that writes the book to replace Catcher in the Rye with another book more geared to a feminine perspective, to a generative perspective, male or female, that leads to encompassing, compassionate thinking towards the rest of the world.

As for me, I’m off to reread The Lottery and The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter. I need to remind myself of how I, too, slip into scapegoating and prejudice. And then I am going to pick up my pen.