Now what do I do?

Canada
Canada (Photo credit: palindrome6996)

Sometimes I hear words spouted from people’s mouths and think… wow you aren’t the person I thought you were.

I am struggling with cultural values lately. Maybe it has more to do with society’s lack of empathy for others. It is happening at work, with friends and at home.  It very possibly could be me and I am not seeing the whole picture, but suddenly I am feeling like a minority in the way I think. This has happened to me before when I lived in Yellowknife, North West Territories.

I was 6. I was in Mrs. Long’s grade one class. I believe we were the only grade only class but I could be mistaken…I was 6 afterall. I was often one of only a handful of kids who went to school regularly – The aboriginal population would take their children off to the bush and hunt for long periods of time. That left 4 of us in class some days. Me, Maria, Admira (who was MEAN and stole stuff) and Doug – he would eat all the crayons left out. I remember hearing the teachers (who were primarily white middle class from southern Canada) talk about the aboriginal kids and if only the parents would send their kids to school on a regular basis, what a difference it would make to their future…. hmmm would it?

I hear myself saying the same thing in my classroom. This child needs to come to school everyday, what a difference it would make!

Sure it would. They would be able to speak English, have that advantage when learning to read, absorb my values that I deem important. Yikes… Who am I to say what this child needs? I like to think my values are typically Canadian. Girls can grow up and own property, vote, have a say in their lives. Girls should be able to run and laugh without having to worry what the boys might think. It feels like I have to fight for women’s rights all over again when all those women who came before me did a decent job…clearly it wasn’t enough.

I sat in my quite living room with my family last night talking about traveling to Eastern Europe. We talked about visiting Auschwitz in Poland. I want my children to learn about cultural oppression and feel its wrath and wrongness. A comment came up about the horrible feeling going back to Germany. Wait a minute…what? I need to educate my family on the difference between Nazis and Germans. I am German. I did not contribute to the Holocaust. I am helping the fight against wrong doing but teaching what happened to my children. I hear phrases like, how could they do that? Who the Germans or the Nazis? We don’t know what they were thinking being in that position. We can only learn from it and not do it ourselves.

Here I am in the 21st century, starting to feel like I am losing my cultural heritage and feeling helpless because the laws and policies of today are allowing freedoms of others and forcing me to be sympathetic to them…yet no one is seeing that I need the same consideration. I feel like I am drowning in a sea of political correctness while the wolves are being crafty and taking advantage of the good natured Canadians. It makes me want to leave. But where do I go?

Karmic payback for thousands of years? OR do I just not get it?

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8 thoughts on “Now what do I do?

  1. I almost had the opportunity to visit Dachau a few years ago, but sadly the trip fell through. I think it would have been an incredibly somber learning experience, and hope I get the chance to go someday.

  2. I just spent five days writing about race and ethnicity and what it means to be a minority in Canada. My two weeks of preparatory research was just the tip of the ice-burg, but common sense tells me this: What we are missing, in this ear of political correctness, trained tolerance and whitewashing (or sensationalizing) of everything we’ve done wrong to each other is authenticity. We need to give each other permission to be honest about how we feel about our own cultural identity, how we feel that identity relates to others – we owe each other that authenticity. Because if we don’t; if we’re falsely virtuous or afraid to say, “Look, man, I’m German and I haven’t killed anyone”; or to admit that we educate children with the goal of enabling them to look after themselves as adults; or to be openly infuriated by ass-pinching, head-patting anti-feminist assholes of either gender…. That dishonesty perpetuates discrimination, it enables racism, and it makes it even easier for us to put people in tidy little categories instead of doing the work of figuring out who they are. There is a way to do all this in a good natured, Canadian way 🙂 We are eminently skilled at smiling diplomacy, it’s just hard to remember to do that, sometimes.
    Also? My family is German, too. And it pisses me right off when people class ALL of our ancestors as (at best) mindless sheep following Hitler and (at worst) heartless murderers. How ironic to see such obvious racialization arise out of genocide.

  3. Not everyone thinks of the Germans in bad light. Hitler was one person who destroyed the image of the German people but the way out of that is to show the world that you are like anyone else who cares about other people.

    Here in Europe, Angela Merkel is taking leadership at steering Europe out of the current sovereign crisis and that has raised the profile of Germany.

  4. What is your heritage ET besides being Canadian? Your concerns are not singular and its a hard subject. I think no matter what where ever you go, you will find some level of cultural experience which is negative. France, South Africa, Germany….all faced some level of oppression. Maybe even too you want to look on to Ireland and the religious struggle or dismay if you will…

    Keep up the good work darlin! You are inspiring more people than you know just by being you!

  5. When I was in Germany and Austria in 2006 I learned that Hitler was Austrian and not German. Was I ever surprised to hear that. With my ancestors being from Germany and Austria I felt weird about my heritage when I was younger because of what Hitler did. I have now embraced my heritage. After spending my last summer vacation in Germany I have a wonderful fondness for both Germany and Austria and plan on visiting them both again. I have visited Hitlers Eagles Nest and the Nuremberg Rally grounds where Hitler held his massive rallies. I will never forget what he did, but on the same hand I will not blame all Germans or Austrians because of him.

  6. A question, and one that comes up often for me as currently I’m living in Egypt.

    The cultural relativity question has some pull, but at the end of it all, people should be who they want to be without hurting anyone else. How? I have no idea.

    Because there are some things that just suck: like women not having any rights and feeling like second class citizens, like religious minorities being made to feel like they are enemies of the state, like thought being discouraged and dreams being crushed. These things suck no matter where you are.

    1. I worked with a gal who is from Egypt. She moved here because of those very reasons and finds herself in the exact same situation do to the population of our area. It is incredibly frustrating and disheartening. I agree with you. There are things I feel should be rights and they are being squashed. It does suck. He have a charter of rights in place and I fear it is serving the new Canadians and visitors to Canada better than it is serving it’s citizens.

  7. Being Canadian abroad, I’ve recently been wanting to push Canadian culture on my kids – but find it hard to define. There are the foods, poutine, Tim’s, maple syrup, BC fruit, smoked salmon from Vancouver, but what else? Hockey? Kids in the Hall? Alanis Morrisette? You have to be there to get it, what ever “it” is.
    Knowing the difference between the Nazis and Germans is something your kids will have to learn more about to try to understand history. It is history and should never happen again, if we are ignorant to the past we (global society) will make the same mistakes again and again. I’m sure your kids will appreciate the culture and travelling you have afforded them, it may take a decade or two, but they’ll get there 🙂

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