Looking At It All

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hate and prejudice so stubbornly
is they sense that once hate is gone they will be forced to deal with their own pain

James Baldwin

These days I don’t sense any prejudice in me.  Thirty years ago, however, I lived in Lethbridge, Alberta, near Canada’s largest Indian reserve.  (That’s what we called them back then.  Today they are appropriately referred to as First Nation reserves.)  Galt Gardens, our downtown park, was often well populated with “drunken Indians”, and my dislike of them hung on me like a stink.  I considered myself a humane fellow … but I made exceptions.

What I didn’t get at the time was that I too was addicted.  Not to alcohol or drugs, but to nose drops.  A squeeze bottle of Otrivin was essential equipment in my daily life.  A spray would open up my nasal passages briefly but would soon close them again.  I had a problem, one that I was essentially numb to.  “Carry on happily, Bruce.”

For perhaps ten years in the early 2000’s, I was addicted to sleeping pills.  As a teacher, I’d had many sleepless Sunday nights.  My doctor suggested that I add a second brand of sleeping pill for awhile.  I agreed, and soldiered on, taking three pills every night.  I didn’t realize that my mental dullness was impacting life at work and at home with Jody.  I eventually woke up, so to speak, and began a long weaning off the meds – one half of a pill less every month.

Although my prejudice against aboriginal folks declined over the years (and I don’t see any now), I look back and wonder whether it would have been there so strongly if I had been willing to look myself in the mirror and tell the truth – about nose drops, about lying to people when I was too sacred to tell the truth, about standing a girl up on a date …  I could go on.

During the last year, one reality about being a Zoom host presented itself.  I wasn’t very good at it.  The difference was that finally I could look my deficit in the eye.  “This is true, and I can improve.”  Which I’ve done.

There will be more moments of falling short, of not getting the job done.  I promise to go to the mirror … and to nod.  “This is what’s true right now.  It won’t be forever, but it is now.”

Prejudice Against Women

Beatrice Bruteau is my favourite author. Before she died, Beatrice talked about unity consciousness, how we can awaken together rather than meditating alone for years. She called society’s current context a “domination paradigm”, where I try to get one up on you while you do the same to me. Plus my group is better than your group. As an alternative, Beatrice pointed to a “communion paradigm” – no ranking. We’re brothers and sisters.

I was reading The Holy Thursday Revolution this afternoon when Beatrice mentioned the Bible, specifically First Timothy 2: 11-12, verses in which “it is explicitly forbidden to regard women as equal to men.” Ouch. Now there’s domination.

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

How intensely sad that women throughout much of history have been considered less than. And the diminishment lingers.

Why, oh why, has the Catholic Church prevented women from becoming priests, from expressing in leadership their full spiritual being?

Pope Francis and the male priests at the Vatican have said repeatedly that the teaching against female priests comes from God and cannot be changed.


And then there’s the issue of women being denied the vote for so many years. Here, from approximately 1915, are some reasons why male Canadians said no:

Religious leaders stressed that “natural law” — as stated in the Christian Bible — was clear about women being subordinate to men.

Women did not have the physical strength of men, and therefore could not hold their own in the rough and tumble of politics.

If a married woman had taken a vow to obey her husband, then she would vote as he directed. In effect, this would give her husband two votes.

Voting would drag women away from their domestic duties and their children. It was argued that voting would distract women from their roles as mothers and wives.

If women won the vote and other rights, they would be equals and no longer under men’s protection. Too weak to defend themselves, they would be depressed.

Women would be overexcited by politics and would have nervous breakdowns.

Women were — or should have been — far too busy with their home and community duties to take part in politics.

Women knew nothing of trade, commerce, science, finance, the military or the law, and therefore had nothing to contribute to politics.

Women would be hardened and sullied by politics and would become manly and unfeminine.

(A very big sigh)

The past was intensely damaging for women. The present, in some realms, isn’t so hot either:

The Cannes Film Festival has been accused of “tyrannical fashion policing” after reports emerged that a group of women were turned away from a red-carpet premiere for not wearing high heels. The women, some of whom had medical conditions and were in their 50’s, were wearing rhinestone flats to the opening of Cate Blanchett’s new film Carol when they were told they would not be allowed to enter, reports The Guardian.


Right now, the United States is one of only three countries in the world that don’t make companies provide paid maternity leave. The other two are Papua New Guinea and Oman.

(Double yuck)

American women currently don’t have a legal basis to argue for upholding the rights they currently have or gaining the ones they lack because the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, first proposed almost a century ago in 1923, has yet to pass. Currently, the government is not allowed to pass laws or make rulings that treat citizens differently by race or religion, but they’re still allowed to do so with gender.

(Triple yuck)

I’m a white male. Translation: privileged. There are several powerful women in my life who no doubt have had to fight battles that are invisible to me. I’m sad for you, dear friends. I’m also happy to see your courage and your humanity on full display. The world needs all of us.

Being Hated

There was an article in The London Free Press this morning about an actor who’s rehearsing the title role in a local play about the life of Martin Luther King.  Twice in our mostly fair city, E.B. Smith has been taunted with “nigger” out in public.

I don’t understand.  Sure, I know the history of racial discrimination, especially in the United States, but I can’t get my mind around the consciousness that would do such a thing.  It’s just skin.  I guess that even for us of the white tone, there’s some prejudice against old skin (wrinkled and dotted with age spots) as compared to young skin (smooth and firm).

“Different than and therefore inferior” could be applied to anything, if one really wanted to be small about it.  Being lefthanded.  Being 6’2″ and a woman.  Being 4’10” and a woman.  Being fat.  Being anorexic.  Hardly ever smiling.  Needing a walker.  Having a facial tic.  And one humungous etcetera.

The article today mentioned another shameful moment in London’s recent history.  At an NHL pre-season game, a black hockey player saw an object thrown at him from the stands … a banana.  I wonder what the reaction of the fans was that night.  Stunned silence, I hope.  Outrage, I hope.  Surely no laughter, I hope.

It’s a tough job each of us has, living this life.  Existence on our planet seems to come with gobs of suffering, even for people like me – white and privileged.  Please, no extra and totally unnecessary pain.  It hurts too much.