Thoughts on Syrian Refugees and Terrorist Attacks

It makes me so angry to hear so many people talk about refusing Syrian refugees because of their race or religion. Are we truly so calloused that we would let people suffer and die so we never have to face any risks or deal with inconveniences? Are we so selfish that we aren’t willing to share the freedom and safety we take for granted because those who need it are a little different than we are?

Not long ago, the US turned away Holocaust victims over similar concerns. This makes me sick to my stomach; I’ve seen the documentaries, I’ve heard the stories of the survivors, and what they faced is far beyond what most of us can imagine. People were sent back to suffer and die because of “security concerns”. Entire groups of refugees were denied rescue because of the small chance that someone bad might try to sneak in. But terrorists can and do find other ways to get in; banning refugees will not stop terrorism. It never has, there are far easier ways to get into the country. 9/11 was not carried out by refugees. It’s debatable whether Paris was either.

Banning refugees is exactly what Daesh (another name for ISIS that they hate) wants. If no one will rescue their victims, then nobody will dare to leave their regime. How many militants and supporters secretly wish they could leave, but know that there’s nowhere for them to go? By giving into fear, the rest of the world is strengthening the very terrorist group they’re trying to get rid of.

The thought of so many people suffering and dying when we could be helping them makes my blood boil. There isn’t much that fills me with rage, I’m not prone to anger and can take a lot of personal hurt before I get truly angry at someone, but this… This makes me wish I could force these naysayers to spend a few hours in a refugee camp to see the desperate plight of the people that they’re refusing to help. I wish I could stop everything I’m doing right now and go help there myself. I wish I could go to the border and embrace someone who’s running from terror and war, and offer to share my home with them until they can build a new life of their own. I want to sit with them, cry with them, to show them that not all people in the world want to hurt them, that there is love and compassion still in the human race. I want to give them hope.

Sometimes all the hurt in the world is a bit overwhelming. I’m a very empathetic person, so I feel others’ pain deeply and the thought of others suffering brutal atrocities like this disturbs me so much. I don’t always know what to do about it; sometimes there’s not much I can do except spread awareness of ways we can help. But even though it can be overwhelming now and then, I wouldn’t change any of it. If we can’t empathize with others, we’ll never be moved to help them or to stop our own actions when they cause harm.

Call me an idealist, or a dreamer… I don’t care. I want a world that knows peace. I want an end to war and unnecessary suffering and injustice. And we’ll never get there if we don’t fucking help each other.

If you’re able to donate to help the refugees, here’s one place to do so. If you know of any other donation sites, or of any other ways we can help Syrian refugees as well as victims of the Paris attacks and all the other attacks that have been going on in the world lately, please comment with the information. If I can’t go and help them myself, at least I can try to spread awareness for what we can do from over here. […

This song has been running through my head all day. []

We’re Outcasts Because You Made us This Way.

I see that look of disgust or shock on your face when you’re faced with someone who is “unconventional”. But why? We didn’t choose to be unconventional. You chose that label for us. 

You create a gender binary and then exclude everyone who doesn’t fit in it. You’ve decided how men and women are supposed to express their gender, and judge those who don’t fit that narrow mould. 

You tell us that only one sexual orientation is natural and acceptable, and anyone who has other attractions is deviant and perverted. 

You tell us that monogamy is the only way to express and pursue love and affection, despite history and current families proving you wrong. 

You tell us that belief in the supernatural is the default, shaming and excluding those who believe differently. 

You tell us that only certain methods of sexual expression and platonic affection are appropriate, and then show your shock and disgust when we break your social taboos. 

You tell us that our creative self expression with our hair, clothes, body art, and mannerisms make us unfit for “civilized society”. 

You tell us that the pastimes and activities we enjoy are weird because you don’t personally like them. 

We are normal and beautiful people, but you call us strange, scary, weird or perverted because you believe that there is only one acceptable way to be human. You have given us a tragically narrow template to stuff ourselves in, and we have refused to cut off pieces of ourselves to fit within it. 

We are outcasts because you made us this way. We had a choice between fitting your mould and being ourselves, and we couldn’t make ourselves live a lie. Our potential and beauty is often overlooked because you cannot see past our differences. 

But society is slowly changing, and the outcasts are starting to take back their rightful place- no longer outcasts, but accepted, valuable members of society. 

To everyone who has been mistreated and ostracized for being different- we are building a better world by refusing to play by their rules, by refusing to hide our beautiful diversity. Your pain is not for nothing; the world is slowly catching up. Keep on being yourselves, and seek out people who understand just how truly valuable you are. 

Starbucks Red Cups: War on Christmas?

FOX_and_Friends_First_-War_On_Christmas_Starbucks*sigh* Yet another “War on Christmas!” battle cry. This year it’s over a red cup.

Yes, let that sink in. Some Christians think they are being persecuted or that there is a war on Christmas because Starbucks chose a plain red cup this year instead of one with snowflakes or reindeer. Even though there was never an image of Jesus on past Starbucks cups, the change to a plain colored cup has caused outrage and boycotts.

Here are some reasons why this is ridiculous.

1. Starbucks is not, and never was, obligated to celebrate Christmas.

They are a business, not a church. They are not obligated to promote the specific beliefs or holiday celebrations of some or all their customers. Many companies do promote Christmas, but not because they are obligated to do so; they do it to sell you more stuff. If you didn’t buy it, they wouldn’t sell Christmas themed products. Isn’t rampant consumerism and focus on profit what’s wrong with the Christmas season anyways? For once a company is refusing to give in to this financially motivated holiday mindset, and people are attacking them for it. I applaud them for not making this season all about profits at the expense of their core values. 

2. Christmas is NOT just a Christian holiday.

465934851People of many faiths as well as atheists and agnostics celebrate various versions of Christmas that have nothing to do with Jesus. Plus, there are other winter holidays! There is Kwanzaa, Hannukah, pagan winter holidays for the Winter Solstice, etc. People have many different reasons for celebrating the winter holiday season, many of which have absolutely nothing to do with Christianity or Jesus or even religion at all. Which leads me to my next point:

3. Christmas was NOT originally a Christian holiday.

According to many Biblical scholars, Jesus was likely born in the Fall, but the Bible does not give a specific date as to his birth. Let me say that again: There is no evidence that Jesus was born on December 25th, or even in the winter season at all.

Christmas started out as a pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice, which is where most of our popular Christmas traditions come from. Much later on, Christian leaders combined their celebration of the birth of Christ with the already well established pagan winter holiday celebrations to please the people. The people could keep their pagan celebrations while adding in a dash of Christian doctrine. The combination of Christ’s birth and the Winter Solstice celebration is a prime example of Christianity taking over pagan holidays to make the public more accepting of their religion. I have met many Christians who don’t celebrate Christmas for this very reason. In times past, it was generally accepted that Christians should not celebrate Christmas because of its pagan origins. So why are some Christians upset that Christmas isn’t being promoted the way they want? It was never their holiday to begin with; it was pagan long before Jesus’ birth was added. At the very least it’s equally pagan and Christian. But many selfishly want to claim it as ONLY theirs. This is grossly unfair and ignores the very clear historical roots of this holiday. 

In summary: Starbucks can do whatever they want with their cups. It is not a slight against Christians, nor is it a “War on Christmas”. It’s simply a business opting to not promote one specific winter holiday, but instead remaining neutral and celebrating holiday cheer in general. Given the diversity of their customers in regards to beliefs and holiday celebrations, I think this was a very good call.


Musings on Love

abbe2097a5d43d479e860eb214022357One of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies, First Knight:

Arthur: God uses people like you, Lancelot. Because your heart is open. You hold nothing back. You give all of yourself.
Lancelot: If you knew me better, you would not say such things.
Arthur: Oh, hey, I take the good with the bad, together. I can’t love people in slices.

God stuff aside, this scene really sums up my thoughts about love.

**We can’t love people in slices.** Love, whether it’s romantic or platonic, is not complete if we attach conditions to it. People are not two dimensional caricatures; we are complex, multi-faceted beings that embody both good and bad, intelligence and ignorance, happiness and sadness, strength and weakness. If we only accept the parts that we like about people, then we’re not truly accepting them at all. Instead, we’re holding affection for a false version of them that we have in our heads. It’s like photoshopping a picture of someone and only ever wanting to look at that fake, touched up version of them instead of seeing the actual person. It’s not real, it’s not really them, but we prefer it that way because their real self is not acceptable to us.

If I can’t accept you as you are, do I truly love you or care about you? Or do I only like the plasticized version of you that I’ve created in my head? I don’t think we can say we truly love someone without actually accepting them as they are.

Now it’s true that we’re not always going to like everything a person does or thinks. We may have very different interests and beliefs and feel very strongly about these things being good or bad, and that’s ok. Accepting and loving someone as they are doesn’t mean you personally have to like or do those things, it just means you accept that the other person does, and you don’t look down on them for it. It means that you love the WHOLE them, even if you disagree or dislike some of it. At least that’s how I’ve personally come to see it.

If you get to know me well enough, I’m sure we will eventually disagree on something. I’m very opinionated, after all. ;) I like seeing intelligent minds sharing their differing opinions in a respectful way. Listening to the perspectives of others is how we learn and grow. If we only ever talk to people who share all of our views, we’ll never be challenged to think anything new.

It should be noted that there’s a huge difference between accepting people as they are and putting up with toxic or abusive behavior, or dealing with a loved one suffering from addiction or obviously self destructive behavior. There are other serious issues at play in these situations besides simply accepting or not accepting someone.

Religious Manipulation Strikes Again

A few days ago, someone from my religious past sent me old photos from my childhood as a nice gesture. Tonight he sent me a religious music video of a worship song that I used to sing all the time when I was religious, one I was rather known for since I sang it passionately in church all the time. The message was clear: He thought that sending me a video of my old favorite worship song would somehow make me want to be a Christian again. 
This person was once a person of great significance in my life when I was a young teenager, he was a mentor figure. Now I can’t communicate with him without him trying to blatantly coerce me back into their belief system. He knew I didn’t like him pushing his beliefs on me because he’d done it before; I removed him from my Facebook friend’s list after repeated failed attempts to get him to respect my wish to not be preached at. So he certainly knew better, and sent it anyways. 

I feel like he used those old photos in a manipulative way to get me to be more receptive to his blatant reconversion attempt. He did something nice for me, so he probably figured that I’d feel obligated to not be mad at his intrusive and unsolicited religious pressuring. 

I don’t hate religion, there are many wonderful religious people that I have a lot of respect for. But I do hate religion being used to pressure or harm others, and I no longer have the patience to let people use their faith to bully or demean me. I’ve grown a backbone over these past years… I started out terrified of negative social confrontation and making people upset with me, and now I have no problem putting people in their place and being unapologetic about having my own opinions. It’s been a very difficult journey of self improvement, facing my fears, and boosting my low self confidence. And like all life journeys, it’s far from over. 

My reply to him was very blunt. I didn’t say anything nasty or mean, that’s not really in my nature, but I certainly didn’t mince words about what I thought of his message. In reply, he preached at me and then insisted on saying “I’ll be praying for you” after I reiterated that I did not like him pushing his beliefs on me. 

I hate this so much. I hate being reminded yet again that people of importance in my life who once praised and respected me when I was religious now think so little of me as an atheist. It’s been several years since I came out as an atheist, and though it’s gotten much better, people’s rejection and negative reactions have yet to stop negatively affecting me. 

I can’t decide if I feel like crying or punching something. Or both amidst some (responsible) weed consumption. But my body says it wants sleep, so that’s going to take priority now that I’ve sorted out some of my thoughts. I find that journaling is an effective way to emotionally process life’s bullshit.  

Harper’s Racist Comments Regarding Refugees in Niqabs

The following was seen on Facebook:


After receiving this in the mail yesterday, I felt moved to write this open letter to Mr. Harper. Please SHARE MY LETTER (below) if you feel that it is a Canadian value to stop judging people by their clothing, colour and religion.
Dear Mr. Harper

After receiving your flyer in the mail today that was addressed to my family, and states that “It is offensive that someone would want to hide their identity at the very moment where they are committing to join the Canadian family”, I felt the need to write this open letter to you. I would like to take a minute to talk about family, and about community.

I write to you as a white female from the middle upper class neighbourhood of Tsawwassen BC. I want you to know that I served our great country in Afghanistan in 2009, and I believe that national security is important. I meet the typical demographics of someone that one might think would disagree with the niqab, except I that don’t. Like most Canadians I don’t actually know anyone who wears a niqab, but I would not mind having them as my neighbours, and here is why.

I believe that good citizenship is grounded in upholding the rule of law. Showing ones face at the Canadian citizenship ceremony is not a law in our country. Before the ceremony, the person is visually identified many times in the process of the application. They have already had pictures taken, and formal face to face contact with government officials. After a fully informed process of public discourse, if all Canadians agree to make a law that people have to show their face during the ceremony, fine, but make it a law and then respect the religion by adapting the ceremony in a culturally sensitive way. Right now there is no law, people are not doing anything wrong by not uncovering themselves. A policy that forces these women to uncover their faces at the citizenship ceremony will only serve to exclude them from the possibility of becoming Canadian citizens and reaching their dreams of a better life. Is that what you want Mr. Harper? To exclude vulnerable and marginalized women and children from becoming part of our Canadian family because we are not willing look beyond some clothing? Also, religious tolerance is built into the Canadian citizenship ceremony in that it is legal to bring one’s own holy book of choice to use for the Citizenship oath. If religious tolerance is a Canadian cornerstone built into our Citizenship ceremony and oath procedures, why this cognitive dissonance with the niqab?

Having studied health sciences at university, I know that immigrant women of colour, that belong to a minority religion, top the list of our most marginalized and vulnerable people. Often these women are fleeing home countries due to volatile political conditions, natural disasters, or gender inequality. They overcome the many barriers to Canadian immigration, a system that favours economic immigrants over refugees. We let very few refugees into our country compared to people from wealthy nations. These women make up a group of the most disadvantaged people on the planet, why would we refuse them an opportunity for a better life? Many of these women have children. Protecting children from the horrors of their home countries is a virtuous decision, one that Canadians like me stand behind.

Many of these women have overcome physical dangers, emotional trauma, family separation, stigmatization, the unfamiliarity of a new home and a new culture. Against all odds, they arrive un-noticed by most Canadians. In fact, they are so good at joining the ‘Canadian family’, that many reading this now were not even aware of them until you brought them up.

Have you ever see the movie Rudy, Mr. Harper? It is one of my favourites. If you have not seen it, Rudy is an inspiring true story about an underdog who stops at nothing to accomplish his dreams of playing football at Notre Dame. Like that story, everyone has told these women it is impossible to accomplish their dreams. Everyone has told them they will never have a better life. But these women have heart, and dedication. These women fight for a chance to be part of our great country and a chance for their families to have what we have, freedom and democracy. This is the epitome of courage, of what it means to have heart. The fact that they have overcome so much to arrive at the moment of their Citizenship oath affirms that these women are tenacious and resilient. Those are qualities I welcome into our Canadian family. Our great Nation was built by people who exemplified these qualities. These women are the ‘Rudy’ of our time.

Mr. Harper, your cognitive dissonance brings up a few questions for me.

Where were you on the appearance debate that occurred this summer in BC? A heated discourse on the legality of female toplessness was going on, where a police officer asked a young women to put her top back on at a public beach in Kelowna. What is the message that the CPC wants to send by picking this Niqab debate to address ‘Canadian values on appearance’? That conservative dress is forbidden, but public displays of nudity are encouraged under human rights? That does not appear to be very conservative, Mr. Harper. If the women who exercise their right to be topless don’t offend you, but those who prefer a more covered lifestyle do, what kind of message does that send? Do you have something against modesty, Mr. Harper? Are female rights only encouraged when it means we will be wearing less clothing, not more?

Every Canadian in this country has been told as a child to, “never judge a book by its cover.” Isn’t that just the opposite to what you are telling us, Mr. Harper? Do you want us to judge a book by its cover? Are you saying that this basic phrase of kindness, passed down from generations of wise parents and grandparents, is no longer a Canadian value? Do you want us to judge our neighbours character by what they wear and what colour they are? I think that people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi would be ashamed of this digression in the fabric of Canadian culture and morality. Not judging other people by their appearance is a virtue we instill when we read to our children, when we shape the moral character of our developing young minds. As adults, should we not be leading by example on this? Encouraging people to judge their neighbours by appearance is divisive to our communities. Our communities have to stop perceiving visibility as progress towards ending discrimination. Multicultural representation will always be selectively available to us, and we need to acknowledge and extend solidarity to those who it excludes. That is what builds the foundation of a strong community.

Through generations of music, art, and literature, Canadians have expressed the idea of the eyes being the window to our souls. We have all had moments in our life where we have met someone’s eyes and learned a lot about them. These are shared quiet moments together that carry great depth and meaning. Through communication with our eyes, we have fallen in love, expressed sorrow, and excitement. We have been able to express every human emotion in our repertoire through a glance with another human being. We have all felt that. We know the power of our eyes. To me, the eyes are the most important things to see on a human being. This Canadian ideology is written in poetry, in greeting cards, in famous love stories. It creates memorable parts of iconic films. I believe in this Canadian cultural truism. This is important because it addresses a dichotomy in our Canadian beliefs in this debate. For me, the eyes are the most important part of the face. If I can see one’s eyes, I can also see their heart. This is part of why I feel the niqab still upholds a very important belief in our Canadian cultural tradition.

When I think of the characteristics of a strong community or family, I think of qualities like graciousness, engagement, generosity, and respect. I think of having neighbours that follow the rule of law, that work together on community projects, and that care about their fellow neighbours wellbeing. I have not met Ms. Zunera Ishaq, but have read about her. From what I have read in national newspapers I believe that she encompasses all of those things. She has overcome difficulties beyond what I can comprehend. Since coming to Canada a few years ago, she has since upheld all of the values that I as a Canadian born citizen view as important and virtuous.

I would be honoured to live in a community of people like Ms. Zunera Ishaq. Not only that, but I welcome any and all courageous women whose bravery and perseverance to live in a free and democratic country has brought them here. They have proven to be hard workers, good parents, supportive friends and when given the opportunity, community leaders. These are all attributes that I think could really benefit our communities and our economy here in Canada.

If someone is willing to fight that hard for freedom and democracy, I want them as my neighbour and part of our Canadian family.

Sincerely and respectfully,

Bridget Sangster

Harper does NOT represent Canadian values. I’m not even sure how he got elected in the first place. Respecting people’s personal adherence to their religious beliefs is very important and has always been a central part of Canadian law and culture. Wearing a niqab isn’t hurting anyone else, it’s not taking away someone else’s rights nor is it forcing someone else to adhere to their religion. It’s just how they personally believe they ought to dress, like how some Christians believe in not showing cleavage, some Jews wear certain clothing items to show their devotion to God, etc. They verify the woman’s identity privately before the citizenship ceremony (I believe a female official does it) so there’s no security risk either. And it does not cause significant upheaval or delay in the citizenship process; refugees coming from dramatically different cultures often have special needs such as interpreters and immigration is used to dealing with that. Plus, this isn’t exactly a time consuming or difficult request compared to some that immigration deals with.

His comments are uncalled for, racist, and he’s degrading vulnerable women refugees trying to escape bad situations in their home countries. How can we force them to choose between their religion and safety in a new country? Fortunately, the law has never stopped them or anyone else from covering themselves according to their beliefs regarding modesty. He’s just a horrible person using his political influence to verbally degrade others and incite fear of those who are different from us. But if he stays in office, he may be able to cause more damage to our immigration process than he’s already done.

For those who think that refugees and immigrants ought to give up their beliefs and culture when they enter a new country- with the exception of Native Americans/First Nations people, we’re all descended from immigrants who didn’t assimilate with the established Native cultures here. Did we ask the Irish and French and Italian immigrants to give up their cultures when they immigrated? Of course not. So why these particular people? Because people are racist and fearful of cultures they don’t understand or relate to. But that’s a shitty reason to berate and bully people.

Make sure you vote on Oct 19!!

No Bra Day Turned Into Fat Shaming for Men; Also Evaluating This Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign

Leave it to the Internet to make a breast cancer awareness campaign into a body shaming campaign… 😡 Body shaming is not ok, regardless of gender. It’s a crass and utterly unnecessary thing to do to another human being. We don’t need to make people hate their bodies; the media does that already. 

I do think that there are better ways to raise awareness for beast cancer, though. In addition to be being considered ineffective or insensitive by some breast cancer sufferers (who this campaign is supposed to be about), this campaign is rather exclusionary for us ladies with bigger breasts because not wearing bras… Well, let’s just say that running to catch the bus would be interesting without support. 😗 😱😳 All you curvy ladies know what I mean!! 😄 Plus, some women just don’t like going braless. It can draw unwanted attention in the form of street harassment, leering gazes, not all women like to show their bodies that way, etc. 

So participating in No Bra Day isn’t that practical or comfortable for some of us. 

So maybe we could come up with a better campaign that everyone can participate in and that clearly directs people to donate (like the Ice Bucket challenge for ALS that raised lots of money and awareness!) And of course, sharing real stories of people dealing with the disease should be top on our list. After all, they’re the ones we’re doing this for, right? 

Note: I have no moral objections to campaigns that include nudity; I love boobies. 😉 I just think a No Bra Day would better fit with the Free The Nipple campaign or to counter sexist double standards in body censorship, etc.