November 27th, 2013 ~ Vol. 83 No. 46
Who's in Charge
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Stock Photo
Feature Writer
The Internet has its uses. It allows me to keep track of my ever dwindling retirement portfolio, read the nasty things fans are saying about the Edmonton Oilers, buy a sofa with questionable stains on Kijiji, and follow ‘Dad’s Army’ on BBC Radio.
Then there is the downside. I know far more than I need to about my granddaughter’s love life, my friend Bob’s bowel movements, and Snoop Dog’s taxation troubles. I have also discovered a very ugly form of racism and sexism transmitted on the Internet as cartoons, rude poems, and “true” life stories. And I’m tired of it.
Some might say I don’t have a sense of humour. After all, what’s not hilarious about Barack Obama, the first black President of the United States, the Leader of the Free World, pictured as a Southern slave tied to a tree surrounded by the hooded Klan. That’s a real yuk yuk.
Or there are the poems based on ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas denigrating women, gays, Liberals/Democrats and immigrants. And, of course, the “true” life stories about Muslims sacrificing Christian babies, or Asian gangs kidnapping white teenagers as sex slaves.
The worst part is that much of the poison is spread by family and friends, often using their employers’ computers to promote bigotry. Do I simply block the messages? Do I confront my brother-in-law and describe how sick I feel after reading the messages he sends me? Or do I just accept that the freedom to live, pray, and be who you are in a democracy is only intended for the white, male, heterosexual minority.
Racism and sexism, homophobic jokes and cruel characterizations are all about fear. We are afraid of what is different. And so we denigrate it. We forget that this country was built by our ancestors – who were immigrants, and who were different. They came, were given land and opportunity, and built a better life. How ashamed they would be to know that their descendants now rage against the tiny Filipino woman who has moved more than 11,000 kilometres to serve us hamburgers and coffee. Women who live four to a room and live without their parents, spouses, even children.

Karma, Fate, the Universe, God – whatever you want to call the power that sustains us, has a way of slapping us on the head every once in awhile to remind us to be careful about how we treat others.
One family member, proud to call himself a redneck, happily spreading homophobic cartoons via the Internet, was shocked to be confronted by his daughter and son. They were both gay. They hadn’t told him because they loved him enough to understand that he would be afraid. But they were sick and tired of having to read the poison he was spreading. What’s that they say about Karma?
I think some of the people who are spreading hatred via the Internet aren’t conscious of the damage they are doing. Soon the toxic words begin to creep into our vocabulary. Our children start to mimic our behaviours. And, in no time at all, we have created a new generation of bigots. Is that the legacy we want to leave our children?
We need to think hard about the cruel things we do to others when we are fearful. We need to be more vigilant, more measured, more deliberate, more conscious of outcomes. If we accept all the benefits of living in a democracy, we must also accept the responsibility for guaranteeing its freedoms.
The next time you get a racist, sexist, or homophobic message, send it back with two simple words.
Not Acceptable.
November 27th, 2013 ~ Vol. 83 No. 46
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