Tag Archives: forgiveness

2015’s Cultural Battleground – Kat’s Account

EDITOR’S NOTE: We end this year by each taking a look back and picking our five best posts, explaining both their importance to us and to the world we currently live in.  Clicking the banner images will link you to each post, so as 2014 comes to a close join us in remembering how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.

RachelBrown

After the recent acts of Daesh terrorism in Paris I returned to this interview with PhD Candidate Rachel Brown to get some perspective. While Brown’s work was focused on food and religious identity in French and Quebecois Muslim immigrant communities, it also highlights how isolation and religious persecution can push young people towards accepting religious extremism. In the interview, Brown explains,

“I’m not really an expert in ISIS or Jihadist fighters or any of the topics that relate to this. I can say that when people, especially youth, feel alienated, when they don’t feel at home anywhere, this can lead to finding identity in extreme forms of religion. If the religious identity is the only identity that one feels they can claim, he/she is going to place a huge amount of importance on that identity.”

nestle

This year, a petition began circulating that condemned Nestlé’s operations here in British Columbia. While Nestlé has been operating here in B.C. for 15 years, residents became particularly concerned during the drought this past summer.  As Gordon has pointed out in his previous Shame Day post, Nestlé doesn’t have the greatest track record when it comes to respecting other countries and their water needs. In this post we take a closer look at the relationship between Canadian water and the American corporations that would like to bottle it up. Continue reading

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4 Reasons Why Marriage is Worth the Risk (Even in the Age of Ashley Madison)

Wow, look at that. John and I made it through two years of marriage without cheating on each other. Someone should probably give us a medal.

But seriously, doesn’t everything about Ashley Madison make marriage sound awful?

As a married person, I can’t help but be interested in the Ashley Madison scandal (even if I find the privacy invasion more than a little disconcerting). It’s heartbreaking to hear stories of spouses who have been betrayed by their significant other, and also fascinating to read various reasons why some individuals digitally invest in finding an affair. It’s also made me furious to read about Christian leaders who thought they could pull the “I’m forgiven, therefore there are no consequences” card when their Ashley Madison accounts were revealed.

If you based your opinion about marriage on what you hear in the news then you might think that it’s a pretty terrible deal. That’s why, for this post, I’m giving you 4 reasons why marriage is da bomb.

1) Someone always has your back

I have a lot of examples of this in our short marriage. John has served as my excuse to get out of lame events, and he has come along with me when there was no way out. We tag team in social conversations. We help each other out with jobs and homework and balancing life in between it all.

Today especially, I was reminded how lucky I am.

For the past few months I’ve been running a summer kids program. Today was our wrap-up party and John agreed to come help by leading some field games. As I was struggling to check in nearly 200 kids (while also coordinating food and drinks) I looked up and saw this.

2015-08-25 15.14.41_censored

Even with their faces censored out this photo makes me laugh!

Seeing a mob of children chase my husband made me smile, not just because it was hilarious, but also because they were having so much fun. John is so great with kids, and today he saved my butt. He made a mediocre party into a party they will all remember. I mean, how often do you get to chase a guy around  a field trying to stomp on a piñata? Continue reading

“Sorry” Means Nothing Unless It Comes With Real Change: On Truth and Reconciliation in Canada and Beyond

Last semester, I took a course called “the Dark Side of Sorry”, which examined the Sorry Movement in Australia and the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa and Canada. Since it was a literature course we spent part of the semester reading books that dealt with the effects of colonization in those three countries.

The novels we read explored the effects of apartheid in South Africa, the Stolen Generation in Australia, and residential schools in Canada on the lives of specific characters. In contrast, our critical readings examined the way each of those countries dealt with those events after they were nationally, and internationally, condemned. I want to touch on a few of the criticisms that were raised through our critical readings and discuss why those arguments are particularly relevant today.

South Africa

“Suffice it to say that none of these unconventional projects was intended to lead to any gross violation of human rights […] It can, however, be argued that they did create an atmosphere conducive to abuses.”

– from the apology that F.W. de Klerk, the last South African leader of the apartheid era, gave to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.While de Klerk apologized for apartheid before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he later “withdrew from the commission, saying he had no need to apply for amnesty as he hadn’t committed any crime.” In an interview in 2012, Klerk pointed out that he had not apologized for “the original concept of seeking to bring justice to all South Africans through the concept of nation states”. He also stated that, not all aspects of apartheid were “morally repugnant”.

After apartheid was finally overthrown South Africa attempted to bring healing to a divided nation through their Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This commission, led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, was meant to be an act of restorative justice, rather than retribution.

In many ways the TRC was a success. For example, it unearthed the truth about many missing persons, allowing families to finally discover what happened to their loved ones. However, there were also many criticisms against the South African TRC, some of which I’ve outlined below.

1) The TRC didn’t differentiate between violence committed by “an illegal state” and “the combatants of a just war”.

“… from the moment the Commission chose to define violation of human rights in terms of individual acts, it ceased – politically and historically – to be viable: ‘There is,’ write Kader and Louise Asmal and Ronald Suresh Roberts… ‘simply no proportionality between the two sides of the struggle, a fact that is lost on the commission’s decision to individualize it’s definition of a gross human rights abuse'” (171).

– from”Apathy and Accountability” by Jacqueline Rose

2) Racial wealth equality was never really on the table.

“Let one’s fantasy roam a little – what really would be preposterous or ethically inadmissible in imposing a general levy on South Africa’s white population? … such an offer could originate from the beneficiaries of Apartheid themselves, in a voluntary gesture of atonement – it need not be a project of the state. Is such a genesis – from within the indicted group itself – really beyond conception?”

– from “Reparations, Truth and Reconciliation” by Wole Soyinka

3) The TRC remained so focused on the horrific crimes that were being confessed during the hearings that it overlooked the general state of apathy that allowed apartheid to exist for so long. The crimes presented at the TRC trials stood out as “outrageous” acts, and they drew “the nation’s attention away from the more commonplace violations” (162).

“Spread accountability too wide by flattening out the differences between the state and its opponents, then oddly, symmetrically, it will also start to shrink, as the crimes of apartheid becomes more and more the acts of individuals, [and] less and less the machinery of the unjust, and illegal apartheid state” (168).

– from”Apathy and Accountability” by Jacqueline Rose

Australia

“We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations – this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.”

– from the official apology given by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in February 2008.

I knew the least about Australia’s history, out of the three countries we studied. From what I understand, race relations in Australia were fairly similar to here in Canada, where indigenous peoples were restricted from public areas, treated like scientific specimens, and removed from their families “for their own benefit”.

In May 1997, the Bringing Them Home investigation shocked the Australian settler community by publicizing these historical injustices. It also prompted the Sorry Movement and Sorry Day, which has been held on May 26th since 1998. Below are a few observations critics have made about settler Australians’ “Sorry” response.

1) The Sorry movement is entirely settler-centred.

“These revelations brought about a form of ‘bad conscience’ in the settler Australians… [and] present[ed] them with a vision of a nation improperly formed. They experience the unsettledness of losing their sense of innocent national selfhood. For settlers so afflicted, the postcolonial apology becomes a lifeline to the restitution of a legitimate sense of belonging” (243)

– from “Apology in Postcolonizing Australia” by Haydie Gooder and Jane M. Jacobs.

2) The Sorry movement backfired politically for indigenous Australians.

“The era of reconciliation has coincided with a post-native title backlash in which many sectors of Australian society, not least the powerful mining lobby, have responded negatively and often hysterically to the overturning of the doctrine terra nullis (land belonging to no one) and the common law recognition of native title… Federal Government policy, attentive to the electoral and economic implications of such a backlash, has responded by cutting funds to key indigenous organizations and eroding the gains secured through the Native Title Act and subsequent native title adjudications.”  (234)

– from “Apology in Postcolonizing Australia” by Haydie Gooder and Jane M. Jacobs.

Canada

“The treatment of children in Indian Residential Schools is a sad chapter in our history.”

– from the official apology given by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in June 2008.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a Canadian who isn’t familiar with the trauma residential schools inflicted on Indigenous communities across the country, but for those of you who are not Canadian I’ve included a short video below that sums up some of that history.

In 2008, Canada instituted our own Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which allowed survivors of the residential school experience to speak out publicly. Unfortunately, there were several elements of the TRC that many indigenous spokespersons found problematic.

1) The term “reconciliation” misrepresents our history.

“Re-conciliation refers to the repair of a previously harmonious relationship. The word choice imposes a fiction that equanimity is the states quo between Aboriginal people and Canada.” (35)

– from “Imaginary Spaces of Conciliation and Reconciliation” by David Garneau

2) The majority of the damage had been done by Christian organizations, yet the reconciliation movement rests upon Christian theology and terminology.

“Whether the choice of this world [reconciliation] … is an accidental inheritance, it is ironic, if not sinister, that survivors of religious residential schools … are asked to participate in a ritual that so closely resembles that which abused them” (35)

– from “Imaginary Spaces of Conciliation and Reconciliation” by David Garneau

3) The Western understanding of apology allows us to move on, without necessarily doing anything to rectify our mistakes.

“Cree artist, poet and oral historian and theorist, Neal McLeod explains that there is no equivalent in the Cree language for the Western notion of an apology. The closest equivalent to ‘I am sorry’ is nimihta tân, which means ‘I regret something’.  McLeod explains that the word used in reference to the residential school experience is ê-kiskakwêyehk, which means ‘we wear it.’ This is a profound difference. It is visual and visceral rather than abstract. It describes a recognition and acceptance that cannot be washed or wished away.” (36)

 – from “Imaginary Spaces of Conciliation and Reconciliation” by David Garneau

4) The government continues to protect perpetrators.

“While many truth commissions are granted judicial powers to subpoena witnesses and the ability to ‘name names’ of perpetrators, the Canadian TRC has neither of these powers.”

– from “Truth, Reconciliation and “Success” in the International Context” by Dr. Rosemary Nagy

5) Activists are worried that nothing will actually be done about the commissions recommendations.

The Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission came to a close in June of this year, making many of the critiques we explored in this class particularly relevant. The TRC commission concluded that residential schools were an act of “cultural genocide” and put forward 94 recommendations for the Canadian government. Several weeks have passed and Canadians are now asking, is our government going to act on any of them?

In Conclusion

It’s hardly surprising that the one thing in common with the national apologies offered by political leaders in each of these countries is their attempt to distance themselves from the atrocities that took place. The Canadian and Australian prime ministers attempted to do so metaphorically, by referring to the events as a chapter which could be left in the past. In contrast, de Klerk’s non-apology seems to reflect a more blatant refusal to fully accept responsibility.

However, these apologies are certainly better than nothing at all. In fact, many indigenous peoples in South Africa, Australia and Canada have celebrated their country’s national apology as a hard-won victory. But shouldn’t we strive for something more than “better than nothing”? Especially when a a public apology eases settlers’ consciouses and allows us to overlook the systemic problems that led to these injustices in the first place?

“How can we overlook the fact that those admitting to guilt and professing regret continue to occupy, and to speak from, a position of dominance, so that to read abjection or loss of power in their situation would be to misread not merely power relations but the nature of the political apology itself?”

– from “Righting Wrongs and Rewriting History” by Rajeswaru Sunder Rajan

Two Things Forgiveness Should Never Mean (i.e. Learning from the Duggars)

On May 19th In Touch Weekly published an article alleging that when Josh Duggar was a teenager, he molested five underage girls, including several of his sisters.

I didn’t want to write about the Duggars, but I felt compelled to. I wanted to write about this case because I am a Christian, so I understand a lot of the rhetoric of forgiveness that the Duggars and their supporters have used to explain their stance towards the eldest son. However, I am also a feminist, and I have seen the effects of sexual violence on the lives of people I love. So for this post, I want to explain why the Duggar’s act of forgiveness doesn’t make me angry, instead, it is the decisions they made along with that gift of forgiveness that have left me in disbelief.

We Need Forgiveness More Than We Realize

Those of you who know me in person have probably chatted with me about Christianity. I’ve struggled with it a lot over the last few years, and considered throwing the label out the window altogether. However, there are a few things that keep pulling me back to the faith I grew up in. One of these things is the tenant of forgiveness.

You have probably all heard some kind of variation of the quote I included above. While most of these sayings have essentially become cliches, I honestly believe the act of forgiveness can help wounded individuals in their journey of healing. In my own life, I’ve had experiences that could have easily led me to foster an intense bitterness towards certain individuals. The theology I grew up with helped me to understand those individuals as damaged people, which made it much easier to move on from those events.

The tenant of forgiveness extends far beyond the Christian faith. Forgiveness is a valued aspect of most world religions, and is even recognized by doctors and psychologists as a key part of healing. However, there are certain aspects about the Duggar case that undermine their appeal to forgiveness. Continue reading

2014’s Cultural Battleground – Kat’s Account

EDITOR’S NOTE: We end this year by each taking a look back and picking our five best posts, explaining both their importance to us and to the world we currently live in.  Clicking the banner images will link you to each post, so as 2014 comes to a close join us in remembering how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.

jianghomeshibannerThe Jian Ghomeshi scandal was a big deal for most Canadians. Ghomeshi felt like someone we all knew, someone who had been a regular presence in our homes (and cars) as long as he had hosting Q on the CBC.

In October, the CBC put pressure on Jian Ghomeshi to go on a leave of absence. Shortly afterwards, he wrote a post on Facebook accusing the CBC of firing him over his preference for rough (but consensual sex). Many fans believed Ghomeshi when he claimed the women who had accused him were liars who just wanted attention.

Given his popularity, I understood why people jumped to defend him when the first few allegations of sexual violence came out, but there was something about his Facebook post that just felt wrong. It seemed unlikely that anyone, much less more than one person, would make a sexual assault accusation just for attention. As I started to do my own research on the topic, I quickly realized that false rape reports are so rare that they are almost non-existent, and that the tendency to believe Ghomeshi over his (at the time) anonymous victims spoke to a much bigger systemic issue.

injusticesystembannerIt’s really hard to care about how terrible our justice system is unless someone close to you has gone through it. In this post, I discuss some of the things I noticed when I visited someone close to me during his stay in jail. Despite firmly believing that this person deserved to go to jail, that experience opened my eyes to the way prison (and the bureaucracies surrounding it) take damaged people and make them ever worse. As someone who works in special education, it made me even more angry to realize just how many of the adults in prison are individuals with special needs.

problemwithpuritybannerThe conversation around the purity movement tends to be very divisive; feminist websites like Jezebel have called it creepy, while many Christian communities staunchly defend the practice. Since I consider myself both a Christian and a feminist, I wrote this post to point out the really great intentions that are (usually) behind the purity movement, while still drawing attention to the damage it can cause.

duckdynastybannerAfter the Duck Dynasty star spoke out against homosexuality and was kicked off his show, my Facebook wall started to fill up with “I support Phil” memes. This made me really, really angry.

Having grown up Evangelical, I understand how many Christians feel they cannot accept homosexuality as something that honours God. Personally, I no longer accept that dogma, but I can understand it. I didn’t even write this post to argue with that branch of theology. I wrote this post because I was furious that Christians are happy to defend a millionaire because he broke his contract and got kicked off his TV show, but are unwilling to acknowledge that homosexuals are being killed and actually persecuted all around the world.

voluntouristbannerI’ve written many posts that address the Christian community. I do this because I still consider myself a member of that community, and I want to call out the issues that I believe are distracting from the message of love we claim to be sharing. Despite my many critiques of the church, some of the most amazing people I’ve known are Christians. I wrote this post about my experience living in a missionary community in Niger, where I was surrounded by people who I truly respect.

This post also addresses “voluntourism”, since my own selfish motivation to move overseas was something I felt personally convicted about during my stay in Africa. Recently, however, the discussion of the voluntourism trend has made westerners afraid to express interest in foreign aide at all. I believe both extremes can be damaging to international relationships.


Looking back, it’s sometimes scary to think about how much I have shared with you guys. It’s always a vulnerable step to publicize our personal opinions, it’s even more so with details about our personal lives. Intimidating as it can be, I’ve loved how many amazing discussions the blog has opened up in my life. Your comments (in person and online) have helped me reevaluate my own biases, and challenged me to think more deeply about the social, religious, and political issues we love to debate here at Culture War Reporters.

So here’s to a fantastic year. I can’t wait to see what the next one brings.

– Kat

Jian Ghomeshi Part II: What Should We Do With Our Monsters?

It’s been a little over a week since the news about Ghomeshi went viral. Since the news first hit, nine women have come forward anonymously to the media and three have already reported their case to the police.

The increasing number of testimonies has pretty well solidified his guilt in the public eye, and everyone from the PR firm he hired to the musician he managed have withdrawn their support from him.

Since Ghomeshi was a familiar presence in most Canadian homes, many Canadians felt personally betrayed by his actions. When my husband, John, tried to identify his own interest in the case, he explained it like this,

“When you hear someone’s voice so often, you start to feel like you know who they are. So when you discover the truth about terrible things they have done, it’s shocking to realize that you never really knew them at all.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve have heard about the terrible things familiar faces (or in this case, voices) have done. The difference is, in the past, we have tried to forget the monsters hidden in the public men and women we admire. Continue reading