It must be hard being you these days. You have so many big issues — from the economy to national security and the looming election, just to name a few. If I may though, I’d like to focus on another one.
This is Canada, your northern neighbour (I spell it with a “u”). Blessed with a bird’s eye view, I’ve watched troubling developments unfold below. Before more damage is done, I thought it best to offer some Canadian insight in the hopes that it may assist you as you move forward in your struggle.
I’ve wanted to write this for a while. During the lead up toProposition 8 and the continued legal battle that has ensued, as debates over gay marriage spread to other states, you questioned if allowing soldiers to fight and die openly would ruin your military just as teenagers across your country tragically took their own lives after being bullied for who they were.
What finally forced my hand was a heartbreaking and infuriating article in Rolling Stone chronicling how one school district in Minnesota not only condoned but actively promoted the bullying of its LGBT students.
The result of the Anoka-Hennepin school district’s policy has been devastating. One can only pray (isn’t that what they’d want us to do?) that the souls of those who took their own lives are now at peace.
You Americans don’t pay all that much attention to Canada. We know, and are mostly okay with it. But as you strive to build your land of the free, it might do you good to look up every now and then.
When you do, you’ll discover something that might surprise many of you: We aren’t all that concerned about gay people. Our Conservative government has said it has no intention of re-opening a debate on same-sex marriage, which is legal. Abroad, it has become a consistent and strong advocate for gay rights. Contrary to some beliefs, no radical gay agenda came and hijacked our society. The sky hasn’t fallen.
Now sure, things up here aren’t perfect. We too have unfortunately been faced with instances of homophobic bullying and tragically, gay-teen suicide. There are Canadians unhappy that Bob and Joe can express their love just like Bob and Joan. And I certainly don’t want to imply that all, or even the majority, of Americans are anti-gay.
But there’s something different, something malicious about the debate in your country. The haters are too hateful and the vilification of the LGBT community has spread too far. In what other free and equal society would those seeking to be Commander-In-Chief stand silently as a crowd of citizens booed a soldier because he was gay? It is a true juxtaposition of cowardice and courage, and such a moral deficiency should automatically qualify one as unfit to lead a nation.
Back to Minnesota, where Justin Aaberg, gay, hung himself in his bedroom in 2010. He was 15. His mother found him. This past December, according to Rolling Stone, his nine-year-old brother tried to kill himself in the bathtub. He wanted to see Justin again.
In response to Justin’s death, Rolling Stone quotes Minnesota Family Council president Tom Prichard, who blogged, “Youth who embrace homosexuality are at greater risk [of suicide], because they’ve embraced an unhealthy sexual identity and lifestyle.”
What world is this?
Not to mention this took place without a response from the district’s congresswoman. When public pressure forced Michele Bachmann to respond, she couldn’t even say the word gay. This is the same woman who felt herself fit to be President, and too many others agreed.
When teachers are afraid to stand up for their students, as were Justin’s, and when leaders stand by and allow masses to trample over the vulnerable, what is there left to teach, and who is left to lead?
America, you have a problem. You need to grow up. Life is too short and the world too complicated. You have too much to give to your country and others to be dragged down over gay and straight. So please look up.
When you do, you will see a country of multiple faiths that is learning to live with faith, difference, and dignity. Civility and decency are not virtuous aspirations; they are necessities. Like it or not, to borrow a lesson from one of your favourite books, we are our brother’s keeper.
I know this is none of my business. Yet I couldn’t stay silent any longer. It’s like watching two trains headed towards each other in slow motion.
From time to time it’s necessary that friends speak from the heart. And frankly, you need it now, because from your big neighbor to the north, not only literally, but also figuratively, you’re looking kind of small.