Hate is easy. There’s no shortage of it, and as pointed out by many speakers at this past Sunday’s Rally Against Racism and Bigotry at the Abbotsford Sikh Museum, it’s spreading like a virus — validated by the success of Trump and hardened against an emerging generation that is conscious of the deep historical scars of discrimination.
I love this province and this city, but I didn’t share in the same level of astonishment and surprise as most when white nationalist groups began to reemerge in the past year, spreading pamphlets and intimidating residents. Or when a profane and racist tirade over a parking dispute put us on the media map.
It’s a symptom, but the sickness has always been present, even if the lack of white robes, head taxes, and direct language made it less apparent. We’re a nation still uncomfortable with the discussion, too ready to pat ourselves on the back and sneer at our southern neighbours. It’s unfortunate that we’re living in a climate where a rally like Sunday’s was necessary, but the silver lining might be that it can wake, unite, and compel us into action.
I was proud to see the turnout it got. More than a hundred citizens were concerned with what was happening and ready to band together in solidarity. I saw punks and priests, antifascists and activists, different backgrounds, ethnicities, and beliefs — all with a shared desire to not stand quietly by and let this land slip away.
They spoke on many issues: the need for self defence and organization, the formation of a B.C. Human Rights Commission, the need to hold our governments accountable (there were representatives from the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Mission school board, but no one from Abbotsford School District, Police Department, or City Hall that made themselves known), to face our own shortfalls and biases, and the need to confront hate with love and as a community, to amplify voices and stand by the oppressed and marginalized.
One speaker also made a point to touch on the danger of divisions, the need for our energy to be directed vertically at the rich and powerful who stand to benefit in the conflict between citizens.
Hate is easy. Love and compassion are harder things to live with. They must be built, learned, repeated, and nurtured. Hate is the easy reaction, often the first one; if you live hatefully, it’ll drag you down in the end.
Some of you out there might be struggling with it now, you might buy into some of what the racist pamphlets and slogans say. I hope one day you can allow love into your life, that you can give people a chance to be more than their skin and background. That you can allow your own measure and worldview to be based on something more than genetics. Until that day, the people of this community have said in no uncertain terms that they will stand up to any challenge.
I don’t speak for all of them when I say my worldview will never rule out the need for a closed fist, but I hope I do when I affirm that I’ll start first with an open heart.