on week one

 

Two beautiful Syrian-Canadian families landed in our small town a week ago. And what a difference a week makes. We’ve scrambled to get everything done and ready, to organize and plan, to run through and run by. There were and are so many things. So many things I hadn’t anticipated.

And now there’s this tricky problem of wanting so much to update everyone on how they’re doing, on the sheer resilience of them, on how much I love spending time in the thick of languages, on the transition for the kids and our group. On wanting pictures and drawings and videos of it all. Because it’s so feel good. Because it’s the culmination, in many ways, of eight months of determined work. Because so many people from across Canada and beyond have donated money to make it happen, are curious about how it’s going, and won’t get the opportunity to run into these new townsfolk on their jaunt to the grocery store.

But I just can’t do it. It is not my story to tell. Not that part of it.

 

I worry about their fetishisation. Of cameras in their faces. Of Canadian borns expecting them to speak for all of Syria, or demanding All Of The Gratitude. I know there’s a natural, kind curiosity. La curiosité qui nous porte vers l’autre (et l’Autre). Mais y’a une curiosité mesquine aussi. It’s a fascinating thing to navigate in a small town when you’re still new and hands down more used to the anonymity of cities.

 

It’s got me thinking though, especially in this busier lead up and these hectic initial moments about how to balance activism and engagement with parenting (and parenting the very young especially).

My eldest got a stomach flu a few days ago (on day 4 of these families being in Canada) and it forced me to realize that there is very little give in our day-to-day right now. There isn’t much elbow room, not much flexibility. Between the farm business, Petite-Nation Sans Frontières, the incubator farm, needing to plan for the season, the preschooler, the baby, my need for written words and a bit of art. Sometimes this makes us jerks. Sometimes it makes me very anxious. And it often makes us, the co-parents, very short with one another. Not ideal on any count. Those very stressed moments are offset, for the most part, by the joy and pride of a job well done, but I often wonder if it isn’t too wearing. And while I’m sure that these endeavours are formative for the kids, having impatient parents certainly isn’t. (Alas, miserable bored parents wouldn’t be much better, methinks. The time has probably come for a commitment to more (inter)personal/political kindness though.)

So here’s to the balancing act.

To purpose at the expense of sleep.

And to some new neighbours who, I hope, are keeping warm in these storms.

 

IMG_6999

settlement

I had just arrived at the dental surgeon’s office, ready for the root canal that I had been postponing for a few months, and my phone rang. It was the director of the settlement agency we’ve been working with. One of the families we’re sponsoring is arriving in Montréal on Friday, ready to be picked up by us on Saturday.

Ha. It’s really happening.

We’re not as ready as we could have been but things have been kicked into high gear, with so many beautiful souls pitching in and taking things on. New friends and old.

I wish this two week period weren’t the busiest farm and family-wise, but so be it. Between the root canal, the oil change I totally booked and took care of myself (you’re welcome, yaris!), the optometry appointment, and tomorrow the hospital specialist for kiddo, it’s been a real Adult week. It’s encouraging. We can do this.

They land in Canada tomorrow at 4pm. They are safe.

I can’t wait to meet them.

arabic french sign

 

I keep getting these really heart-warming glimpses of why it’s actually maybe better that they’re starting anew in a rural place. Talking on the phone with a fellow local organizer, he tells me that the principal of the school thinks it’s best that the school aged child start school after March break. (At this point, we had known that the family is arriving for maybe 6 hours). He knows because they’re related. And this place is just small enough for everyone to know that they’re coming, for all of the teachers to be ready, for the conversations at the mail boxes to be about where the adults could work once they’re settled in.

J’espère que ce sera sécurisant pour elles et pour eux. Que ce petit village qui devient mon chez moi, tranquillement pas vite, sera le leur aussi.

 

on the toxicity of men’s rights videos (and the week of feb.1st)

A fb friend posted this ‘men’s rights’ video yesterday. (I’ve linked it here through donotlink.com as I have no interest in improving its search engine position.) It’s the sort of thing I have a really hard time ignoring. It’s a radicalisation piece, like an ISIL video for misogyny/gender based violence/violence against women. It speaks to people who are disenfranchised and convinces them that the reason things are shit for them is because those who are most marginalized–in this case female identified folks–are actually oppressing them, in this case through violence against men/the absence of men’s shelters/the obligation of men to provide for women and children/the absence of safeguards for men experiencing abuse. It positions men as the victims of women and of feminists more specifically.

(I feel the need to spell out that I think violence against men is a problem, is totally worth talking about, doing something about, but this is besides the point. Also, the sociologist in me wants to point out the shoddy correlations, the misused data and the poor assumptions in the video, but I know it isn’t worth my time.)

 

Posts like this make me shake. They summon up all of the moments in my life where as a girl and a woman, I’ve felt utterly powerless and afraid. And I think, if some of the men I know, who are quite progressive in a lot of ways, feel moved by this sort of video, I don’t know how to deal with the reality that this hate is so pervasive and ubiquitous.

 

The crux of the matter is that it is a radicalisation piece. It fuels hate. It fuels entrenchedness. (And it makes me want to post things like this and this and this all over the interweb — which I don’t think will do much to halt the making or sharing of misogynist videos.) This kind of media piece obfuscates the lived reality of so many, makes light of decades of much-needed advocacy, and positions feminism (and services geared specifically to women) as being man-hating and anti-men. And man am I sick of that narrative.

Because just this week alone it’s the Jian Ghomeshi trial, it’s Roosh V and the return of kings, it’s the way we’re talking about the Zika virus and how it’s women’s sexuality that needs to be controlled to halt its spread (in countries where abortion is illegal and contraception hard to come by), it’s the Centre for Disease Control telling women that their drinking leads to their assault, and it’s the infuriating conversations about all of those things where a guy needs to play devil’s advocate. This culture is just. so. poisoned.

 

I don’t have the energy or desire to debate this with the person who posted it and want men to call out their male buddies for their misogyny. Because, détrompez-vous, this is a men’s issue.

And hey, if you want to talk about male suicide rates, about the deep unwellness of so many men, I’d gladly talk about that because I too am deeply concerned. I’d love to have a real conversation about what toxic masculinity and strict gender rules do to men and boys. And find ways to redefine and reimagine what those gender identities could look like.

 

I’m going to go back to rocking and comforting my feverish baby boy, and make sure I surround both myself and my sons with enough solid menfolk to break these cycles of brokenness and violence.