We must resist the urge to devolve into a bunch of mutually hostile camps who see the Other as evil and alien.
Heading through the downtown Vancouver Costco checkout last weekend, one man caught the attention of everyone. Or rather, his t-shirt did. “CNN is FAKE NEWS” and on the back, “INFOWARS.”
The cadence of his gate seemed in slow motion as he walked in through the checkout, against the grain. He appeared to be just waiting for someone to comment and touch his hair trigger.
It was unnerving.
The tension level has ramped up in Canada and it cannot be ignored.
We’ve been spectators to the ever-growing divisiveness of the US and yet we shouldn’t pretend we aren’t primed for the same to happen here.
The level of ugliness fostered in the United States over the last four years (or more) has been nothing short of shocking. The stress toll on citizens continues to be unmeasurable – let’s call it uncomfortably high.
Canadians might assume we are immune…we’re not.
Around the world, more lines are blurred by the day. We see it on social media – racism, narcissism, homophobia, propaganda, hate rhetoric…a seemingly unavoidable wave of blooming anger. It’s incredibly sad.
Like me, you might feel helpless in moving the needle away from societal ugliness. But we can do something.
Consider this Middle: let’s start with the little things. It might sound naive, but let’s start at home.
Talk to your kids, spouse, extended family, neighbours, everyone. Find common ground and resolution instead of a way to win a fight. Resist the urge to fold into “camps.”
Make eye contact. Smile while walking. Say hello and thank you to everybody.
In a hurry driving in rush hour? Pause, let that late merging vehicle go ahead. If you are that late merger…toss that kind motorist a wave.
Hold the door for the human behind you. Resist the urge to scroll through your text messages at the crosswalk, hustle and acknowledge the motorists who’ve stopped.
This is not brain surgery. But it is the disappearing art of being Canadian.
As simplistic as this sounds, this Middle is about reminding Canadians to be more Canadian than ever.
We are headed into an election cycle. We are going to be poked in our most uncomfortable places. We’ll be told we must take a side, and be tribal.
Instead, let’s not.
Rather than become divided, let’s do our best to have our wants and needs delivered by asking, nicely, for what we want. Then VOTE for those who listen, not divide.
We also need to understand that your neighbour who sees things differently, or whose experience leads them to prioritize slightly different things – and votes accordingly – is still just that: your neighbour. Not the Enemy.
Think about what you really want, it’s probably not a fight. I don’t think Costco/Infowars Guy was truly looking for a fight. He was looking for attention – of any kind.
Perhaps we all need to spend more time listening, even to what we don’t want to hear, and talk it through.
It’s hard to hear someone riff on a conspiracy theory or hateful rhetoric rooted in misinformation, yet we must let the frustrated vent before they are corrected with facts.
Don’t shut down those who disagree with your perspective, don’t block them and eye roll. Listen to them and then fill them with an avalanche of actual facts.
Facts matter. Real facts. When you read a news item that makes your blood boil online, search it — do the homework. Hit snopes.com. Don’t be sucked into the void of ill-informed.
The art of discussion and debate is evaporating before our eyes, replaced by dismissive arguing and mudslinging. Tone deaf political spin – and even lies – it’s all exhausting, because that’s what they’re designed to be.
Don’t let repetitive talking points take over. It’s on us to drag actual facts back into our conversations.
That is where the USA has fallen short. First, they tuned each other out. Then, they turned their backs.
It will take cool, very Canadian heads to safeguard the Canadian Way. Let’s all help gently and kindly reconnect the disenfranchised because, all too often, the twitchy INFOWARS guy just needs a moment of Canadian patience — followed by a few solid, indisputable facts.
Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.