Fourteen. Freedom of Speech.

You may or may not have heard about the newest news out of Carleton University.

I don’t want to draw too much attention to it, because that’s just what the perpetrator wanted – attention… And he definitely got it…

We were talked about on a European website (I think it was called Pink News – it says it’s Europe’s Gay and Lesbian news or something like that) and obviously the issue was discussed in Ottawa… Many times.

Basically, this one guy (7th year human rights major with a minor in sexuality studies, and a self-describe “gay rights activist”) who seems to think he’s more right than everyone else decided to destroy a “Free Speech Wall” put up to encourage students to express differing and even opposing views on anything and everything.

That sounds like a good idea right? Free Speech is generally seen as a necessity in democratic countries. It’s protected under S.2 of the Charter – although it is subject to reasonable limits as outlined in S.1.

Well, this one person took it upon himself to destroy the wall before anyone could write something potentially triggering on it. This wasn’t even a reaction – although he talked about two “offensive” opinions.

Here’s the problem, everyone likes to think they support free speech but when it comes down to it, most people mean “free speech for people who share my beliefs and opinions… Everyone else should shut up.”

Obviously, that’s not free speech.

Mr. “Not every opinion is valid, nor deserving of expression” didn’t like that someone had written “Abortion is murder” (to which someone else replied “It’s just a clump of cells” or something to that effect – you know, an appropriate response to an opinion you disagree with) and was absolutely appalled that someone had the nerve to write “Traditional marriage is awesome.”

Can you believe someone would say something positive about traditional marriage?!?!?

He also conveniently didn’t talk about the large messages of “Queers are awesome,” “Gay is ok,” and “I ❤ queers” – he only saw the two opinions he didn’t like and the potential for hate.

This brings me to another problem… people turning “free speech” into “hate speech.” I think “hate speech” should refer only to something actually inciting violence towards a group of people. Saying “Being gay is a sin” is not the same as saying “Stone the gays” or something equally as violent. The first is an opinion, which I believe everyone has the right to have, whereas the second is inciting violence towards a group of people and is intimidating.

Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s what I believe. I hope I’m still allowed to think for myself here.

This also brings me back to the first problem of people only wanting free speech to apply to their own opinions. So let me tell you a story – a true story, that happened to me.

About five and a half ish years ago (the summer before grade nine) I was in a chat room online (yeah, I made silly choices when I was younger) and my screen name was BlessedJewishChick (I’m proud of my heritage). This one guy, his name was Mike, started a conversation with me but I felt he was being rude so when he asked for my a/s/l (age/sex/location – for those who don’t know internet shorthand) I replied with a rather pointy, “Not for you.”

He didn’t like being rejected so he told me something to the effect of “Heil Hitler” in an effort to offend me (or at least I suppose that was his intention).

I basically told him “You do that. I won’t judge you… And God Bless you too.” I didn’t rise to his bait, I didn’t give him the reaction he’d hoped for (I suppose he wanted me to cry or swear or something like that) but my mature response made him very apologetic afterwards. He kept saying how sorry he was and how he didn’t mean it and he just got angry that I rejected him and I still wasn’t affected. He complimented my maturity over and over again and eventually we became really good friends. I was 14.

That is how strongly I believe in two principles. 1. Free Speech: Everyone is allowed to have whatever opinion they want, and they can express it too. Everyone also has the right to be wrong. (It would be nice if people could admit to being wrong too, but I think I’m asking too much there.) 2. Being offended is a choice. Mike absolutely meant to hurt me with his comment but I refused to let someone else make me feel something I didn’t want to feel. I chose to be happily unaffected by his silliness, to maintain my composure and to answer him with maturity he didn’t expect (especially from someone four years his junior).

My non-combativeness was way more effective than any amount of yelling or any action could have been – even though it was very obvious who was right and who was wrong in this situation. If I had risen to his bait, he would have been satisfied that he’d angered me, that I’d given him the power to affect my mood and I would still have been right, but he would have felt that he’d somehow won something. Instead, I made him feel like a child who’d lashed out for no reason… and I was still right. He just felt bad about it now, and had to apologize. He even respected me for holding my own.

So why am I saying all of this? One, because I think that’s a pretty cool story; but more importantly, getting back to the issue that sparked all this discussion of free speech, I think it’s really unfortunate that we supposedly uphold free speech but in reality have a double-standard of allowing our own opinions but disallowing ones we disagree with.

Going back to the “offensive” comments from the Free Speech Wall (which has been re-erected by the way), I happen to agree with both sentiments. I think traditional marriage (ie. between one man and one woman) is really awesome and I also think abortion is murder. I would never stop anyone from writing underneath “Same-sex marriage is even better” or “Babies are awful and parasitic… they just make women fat and we should destroy them all” or you know, whatever other opinions there are.

You know why? Because they’re just opinions. At the end of the day, I make my own choices, form my own opinion, hold my own beliefs and think my own thoughts. I don’t need validation from anyone else. It’s also not my job to judge people on their wrong beliefs.

God will take care of that, so I shouldn’t worry about it.

I’m responsible for my own actions and I’m called to love my enemies. I pray for the guy who destroyed the wall because he’s misguided and has a very warped view of the world. But would I want any harm to come to him? No. Not if I can help it. (I wouldn’t complain though if he stopped disturbing so much shit all the time.)

So I really want you to think about the ideas of Free Speech, Being Offended and Loving your Enemies. By the way, feel free to tell me I’m wrong too… I think I have to approve your comments before they appear on the blog, but I won’t deny any of them. (I might * swear words though.)

And with that, I will end this long blog and wish you all very happy lives.

God Bless you ❤

 

Oh, and one more thing; there’s a channel called Sun New Network which has excellent news programming. The hosts do have their own biases – obviously – but they let the opposing side have their say. They had this kid on to justify his actions even though they obviously disagree with him (as do most people) and they frequently have guests who hold views completely opposite to their. It’s a much fairer news network than the other ones. If you search “free speech” on their website (http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/) you’ll find some videos talking about the Free Speech Wall which was taken down, including the interview with the perpetrator.

They also have a petition on right now asking for people to support them in having more exposure (http://www.canadiantvfirst.ca/)

 

This also reminds me of my thoughts on “equality” but I’ll save that for another post.

Man, why can’t writing essays be as easy as writing blogs in the middle of the night?

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Thirteen. Life and Death.

What can I say, I have failed miserably in both my blog and my YouTube vlogging. I definitely meant to post things about myself more often but I get so busy sometimes. Those are the most interesting times, so that’s when people might want to hear about some of the crazy things that go on around me but those are the times I can’t seem to find time to actually write a blog post or make a video. I make plans to do them though.

Well, since the end of last October lots of things have been happening. Obviously. But I don’t know that listing them now would do any good whatsoever.

My dad and brother have their birthdays in November, that’s pretty nice. But December is always a more interesting month.

As a Messianic Jew, I attend a Messianic congregation which meets on Friday evenings. I’m the only member under 40 but it’s my home. I’ve literally grown up in front of those people’s eyes. I think I was about a year old when my parents started attending. There used to be more young people but due to life moving on, so too have they.

This has left me as the only person to take care of children. We’ve gone up and down with kids coming on  Friday nights but I’ve always been there at a moment’s notice to help out or teach or whatever was needed. We once had a family with 5 kids from 1-11 who didn’t speak much English that I had to try to teach. That was a challenge but it was nice to have consistent numbers and we managed to get some lessons planned and input some routines.

Then they left.

For some time there were no children or if any would come it would be very sporadic – usually for holidays. Why am I even talking about this? I’m clearly talking about something from way before December. But it prefaces what I’ve been doing recently.

We have a new family attending our congregation now, and they have two daughters. They’re from South Africa but they lived most recently in Australia. They’re very sweet.

I’ve been left completely alone to prepare lessons for them or teach them something off the cuff. I’m not saying that so anyone feels sorry for me though, I actually don’t mind teaching on my own… it’s the planning and stuff that can get pretty demanding.

I’m a full-time student in journalism at Carleton – and if you ask anyone, that’s an incredibly tough major. I’ll add to the assurances that it is a hard major to pursue. On top of that, I’m actually in a double major with a minor as well. But that would have been ok if I took on less responsibility outside of school… Unfortunately, I have a hard time saying no.

So, on top of being a full-time student and teaching kids on Friday nights, last semester I accepted a paid volunteering job on Wednesday mornings. I’ve also recently accepted becoming someone’s tutor on Tuesday evenings. I also have a job – though thankfully I’m on-call so it’s not a weekly task. I’m the tech-person at church. I’m involved in an Evangelical Christian group on campus and we have a meeting every Monday. And I belong to another youth group which meets on Thursday nights. I also come out to morning prayer at 7 in residence.

How can I make time for all of this? Where do I find it?

Rest assured I operate on the same 24-h cycle you all do and I’m 100% human meaning I need to eat and breathe and sleep just like you.

But I have something extra to be thankful for. I have a higher calling, a different purpose in life… Something to look forward to. My reward isn’t here on earth, it’s in Heaven, The things I do, I do to being glory to my Father. And He sustains me. He gives a supernatural rest and supernatural strength so I have only Him to thank.

I guess That wasn’t necessarily about December but it’s definitely something I’ve noticed a lot more recently and December just seemed to make a good place to talk about all of this. I definitely wish I did more for the girls though – but it’s really tough to get all my homework done on top of planning weekly things to talk about so mostly I just try to encourage them as we talk about our lives.

Other stuff happened in December but I’m not talking about Christmas as many people would. Not even Hanukkah.

Classes ended really early in December, officially Monday the 3rd, but my one Monday class didn’t meet anyway. On the 2nd, my parents went on a cruise, leaving me seemingly alone – which I hate. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but I detest being alone. I get bored and lonely when there are no other humans around and my house is too big to be empty (even though it’s really small).

It just so happened that on that particular Sunday I was invited to a Christmas party which was very nice. Sunday night was awful because I came home and there was no one there but Monday, instead of going to class, our professor invited us to her house for dinner. After a fun night out, I met with a couple other friends and we went back to my house where they stayed for the week. Then on Thursday they left, I went to another Christmas party and when I came home in the evening, my parents were back! The timing just happened to work out pretty well.

Then came exam time. I dropped one class and one of my other classes doesn’t have any exams so thankfully, I only had three to worry about.

They were pretty spaced out with one on the 13th and two on the 18th (but one of those was an online test). Let’s fast forward to Monday the 17th, the day before I had TWO exams, the day I should have been studying the hardest (not that I do that too often). I woke up to one of the most awful sounds you can possibly imagine.

My mom was sobbing hysterically just down the hall from my bedroom.

That’s the sound I woke up to.

My grandmother in Belarus had had a stroke and when she fell, she hit her head.

Now, my grandpa had been sick for a long time so mentally everyone was preparing for his imminent passing. About a week before this happened he became paralyzed in his legs due to diabetes complications. My grandma was his primary caregiver.

He was fully aware of what happened; his wife of fifty years had fallen and she wasn’t responding to him. But there was nothing he could do to help. He had a cellphone with him so he called my aunt.

She came to the house but the door was locked, she didn’t have a key and neither of my grandparents could let her in so she had to break a window. If you know anything about Canada, you know our winters can be brutal. Well it’s worse in Belarus. Breaking the window was not ideal but at least my aunt made it inside and could figure out what to do.

So my grandma was in the hospital and they didn’t know if she would survive the night.

That’s why my mom was sobbing.

Obviously I got upset and all studying stopped before it began that day. My mom was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to write my exams but I told her I didn’t want to ask for a deferral. Come Tuesday I thought I could keep it together, and I managed to sit two hours to write my French literature exam but I started crying so I knew I had to leave. Thankfully, I’d written something, and all I could do was hope it was enough.

My online test went quite quickly so soon it was time to relax and enjoy my break.

I had intended to spend my day reading but when I woke up, my mom called home from work to ask if there’d been any news about grandma. I told her there was nothing. She called back again, but there was still nothing new to tell her.

Around 11 am, my aunt skype-called us and told me my grandma had died.

That was the first familial loss I ever experienced. At first I was so shocked, I didn’t know how to react but it soon hit me how heart-broken I was. As soon as I got my dad downstairs the tears started flowing and it was pretty hard for me to stop them.

You might remember the first post I wrote for this blog. My dog Benji died. As sad as I was then, this was something entirely worse. Growing up it had been my wish that my grandparents would be at my wedding, all of a sudden, I knew that could never happen. Worse than that even, the next time I went to visit my family, she wouldn’t be there. I would never see her again.

I didn’t know how to deal with that. My mom rushed home from work and we tried desperately to find a flight for her, but because it was right before Christmas, there was no way she could make it in time for the funeral. Life stopped for a while. I was thankful not to be called in to work. Except once, but I told them I was grieving. The atmosphere in my house was definitely not what you would expect for the holiday season.

It’s now been almost a month, but it seems like yesterday.

I’m incredibly sad but life has to go on and we had to get back into a routine, back into a mode of interaction with others. It was hard, it still is, but I’m thankful for comfort and peace from Above as well as my brothers and sisters in Christ who supported my family with incessant prayers. I’ve never known what to say to people when they tell me of a tragedy such as a death in their family, and to be honest, I still don’t know what I would say to anyone else. I just know that I couldn’t have recovered if I didn’t know people who loved us were praying for us.

My only encouragement to anyone else in this situation is that when someone offers to do anything to help you, ask for prayer. God can heal the hurt in your heart and though nothing will take away the loss, He can restore joy.

My grandpa has since been fighting to regain control of his legs, so we’re thankful he hasn’t given up. The situation is still difficult, but we’re getting through.

This was a really long post, sorry guys. That’s what happens when you’re away for so long.

Just to wrap up here, school has started again in full swing, but this semester is looking to be a pretty good one – though it will be busy and tough. I also finished my application for the exchange (way back in the beginning of December) and I finally decided that Lyon would be my first choice, Paris my second and Brussels my third, so keep coming back to read about my exciting new life living abroad.

I love you and I want to encourage you to seek God because He is the only source of power we can trust. He sustains and restores. He reveals Himself in the most amazing ways.

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