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dear-editor-typewriter-fullRe: Larry Miller; "stay the hell where you came from".
I just listened to the CFOS Open Line with Bill Murdoch gathering reactions on Larry Miller telling Muslim women who want to wear the niqab while taking the citizenship oath to "stay the hell where you came from". This discussion is not about religious beliefs and what we may or may not find find appropriate expressions at the citizenship ceremony. This discussion needs to be about the sometimes veiled and this time manifest expression of hatred against certain immigrants. However I am even more dismayed, and concerned about the general tone of callers and particularly Bill, the moderator of the show, that feeds into this one dimensional and simplistic us and them thinking. Canada's constitution spells out freedom of speech, expression and religion, and it stands for inclusivity, equality, anti oppression and anti racism. This is what attracts immigrants to become Canadians and when they hear this language makes them wonder if this is really the nation they took the oath of citizenship to. At times like this we really need to pay attention to the shifting sentiments in our communities and our country, a country of First Nations people and immigrants (settlers). Larry's "stay the hell where you come from" resonates with many citizens. It seems to have become the new normal for conservative politicians to "speak their minds", and be revered as folk-heroes when their views clash with the law of the land. However, politicians have power and privilege and with it comes responsibility as their "talk" is more than just everybody's innocent coffee table conversation, it influences public opinion, and easily acts as propaganda. Once this conservative propaganda has traction, critical thinking which means looking at many sides of the story, is on its way out. We abdicate our most human quality, to think, in order to follow such a proclaimed leader. If there needs to be a worry about threats to our country and its values it needs to be the worry that people stop thinking. Many callers admire Larry for "just speaking his mind", "his passion" and "his courage to say what he thinks". Wouldn't we expect that elected leaders are measured when they make public statements and reflect on what they say and how they say it? Thinking would involve that leaders: be deeply informed about the complexity of human conditions in this country, be aware of the social and moral context in which they speak and be mindful of their intents. History shows that the groundwork for discrimination and hatred is laid long before it is institutionalized in public policy and conduct. Once we have established negative opinions and beliefs about "these people" it's a small step to accept large scale oppression and discrimination, which we may not even notice as it becomes part of daily life. Many callers emphasize that Canada is based on Christian values and agree with Mr. Miller that those people should not come here and change Canada. This is not about people at the citizen ceremony trying to change our nation. However we may recall that this very Christian foundation led to the destruction of aboriginal culture and people, it led to residential schools and many of the social symptoms that we continue to blame on our native brothers and sisters. Because patriarchy and white supremacy were so integral to Christian based colonization, critical thinking about the morality of the actions was obviously not existent. That's just how it was done. Antisemitism in pre Nazi Germany paved the way for Hitler and Ausschwitz. At the end nobody really decided to do evil because the "banality of evil and thoughtlessness" (Hanna Arendt) had destroyed thinking and personal decision making. Proclaiming that women who want to wear the niqab are a threat to our values and culture and they better "stay the hell where they come from", is one attempt to create fear and shut down thinking. Or, is the fact that our MP Larry Miller's statements do not provoke large scale dissonance and concern at all levels in our nation, an indication that we already have lost our collective ability to think?

I hope for all of us, including our elected officials, that we take this situation as a wakeup call to think before we further embrace thoughtless actions and speech against others. Many in this country share a vision for a Canada that truly is based on democracy, tolerance, diversity and inclusivity. Let's hear their thoughts and voices.

Joachim Ostertag
Owen Sound


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