Hug a terrorist

In high school, I clearly remember being taught that Canada is this beautiful land, full of different cultures and people, and that everyone added their heritage and history to our tapestry, making Canada a unique mosaic of people. And in the next breath, of course, we were taught that America, our southern neighbour, was a melting pot, where people’s histories and heritages were obliterated in a steamrolling of assimilation.

It might be true. And it might be false. The reality, though, is that these are polarizing ideas and they leave little room for exception. There is proof of racism and the demand for assimilation here in Canada, perpetuated even by our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, who is demanding Muslim women not be allowed to wear a niqab during citizenship ceremonies. And there is proof of acceptance and ‘mosaic’ behaviour from our American neighbours, like the conversation-igniting campaign that Starbucks tried to tackle with their #RaceTogether scrawls on cups.

Regardless of where we live, what nationality we are currently claiming as ours, or how we choose to identify ourselves, we all have the same thing in common: we are all human. And this fact, again, regardless of anything else, is the most important and often the least remembered piece of any country’s puzzle.

A young Muslim woman, Assma Galuta, is trying to tackle the gap between reality and perception when it comes to race. She runs a YouTube channel where she posts filmed social experiments she has conducted. Her experiments challenge what people ‘know’ or ‘say’ about the Muslim faith and people, and what is real. Her focus is the universal commonality: we are all human.

In her first experiment, she asked people to finish her poster where she had written, “I am a Muslim, so that makes me…” She herself had put “kind” and “terrorist,” both terms that had been used to describe Assma in the past. Then, she stands on the street, asking people to write what they think a Muslim is.

The result is heartwarming – everyone who takes the time to write on her poster, leaves words of positivity and humanity. And most of them apologize for the word ‘terrorist’. It’s a nice story and a good news item for Canadians…at least, for a handful of Torontonians. The truth, is, though, she has been called a terrorist. She has experienced what she calls, Islamophobia, and hate directed at her because of her dress, her religion and her belief system. The reason for the experiment still exists – people mistreat people who are different, who act differently, who aren’t like them, instead of treating them as they really are: human.

In her second experiment, Assma blindfolds a Muslim man, Mustafa Malwa, complete with brown skin and beard, and puts two signs beside him. One reads: “I am a Muslim. I am labelled as a terrorist.” The other reads: “I trust you. Do you trust me? Give me a hug.”

Again, the response is hopeful – people walk up to him and hug him – men, women, other Muslims, white people, black people, HUMAN people. And it’s a shining ray of light in the dark days of young, black, unarmed men getting shot without provocation, of mosques getting vandalized, and of Jewish cemeteries getting defaced.

But, of course, this is not everyone. Not every person hugs him. Not every person will trust him. Not everyone can look at him and not see a terrorist.

And this is not a small thing.

It is in the way that the media handles violent attacks, labeling some terrorist and others not. Looking for mental illness and reason behind a murder of 149 people instead of looking for a religious political slant on a horrific plane crash because the pilot who downed the plane was white.

It is in the way we handle any difference, reacting in fear when we see a line of people waiting for a bus simply because they all have a different colour of face than we do. Being suspicious of someone because their skin is darker and their hair is longer and their outfit is something we’d never wear. Judging people simply because of their appearance, their religious affiliation, their beliefs, and their ancestry.

It shouldn’t be this way, but it is. So what can we do? How can we combat stereotyping, and culture-phobia, and hate speech? How can we stop perpetuating false ideas about other religions, other cultures, other ethnicities?

I would like to propose a social experiment. I won’t record it and I won’t post it. It won’t go viral online with millions of views and hits on YouTube. But I’d still like to give it a go, because I’m unsure what else I can do, as a privileged white woman living in Southern Ontario.

Assma Galuta's favourite quote.

Assma Galuta’s favourite quote.

I’d like to challenge you to see every person you come across as human. Not as black or brown or white or pink or purple or blue. Not as fat or gay or ugly or gorgeous or thin or fit or heterosexual. Not as a stranger or a friend or a neighbour or a fellow shopper. But as human. Notice their human-ness, what makes them the same as you, what makes them a person, what gives them the right to have all the necessities of life and the right to live it fully. Notice their breath, their heartbeat, their movement, their presence. Notice them. Notice other human beings. And focus on that piece of the melting pot or the mosaic or the country that you’re in. Stop noticing the difference and start embracing, and in some instances, literally hugging, the humans around you. Because they are just like you.

~ Julia

One day

One day I’ll go to the bathroom without Sophie running to say she has to pee too, or hearing fighting from the other room the moment I sit down, or having someone sit on the floor to ‘wait’ for me, or someone wanting to ‘help’ me with toilet paper and then have a tantrum if I don’t let them help the right way, or even…and this one is RADICAL…with the door CLOSED.

Mom bathroom

One day I’ll walk out the door at the time I absolutely have to leave with just my purse and keys and I’ll drive away without a fifteen minute process to get out the door and into the van.

One day I won’t have to do the mom math on when the last feed was, when the last pee was, when the last meal was, when the last snack was, when we gave Sophie, the puker, Gravol, how long it’s been since they had naps.

One day I won’t be well-versed in the delicate negotiation tactics required for getting shoes on feet (never mind the right feet), pants on bottoms, and appropriate wear on little bodies who will complain if they are too hot or too cold, but will make sure it’s the end of the world to get them to wear the correct number of layers for the current weather.

One day it will be quiet in our house, with no one screaming for food, or crying because they pooped themselves, or singing at the top of their lungs, or growling incessantly for NO DAMN GOOD REASON, or squealing because they can, or squabbling.

One day I’ll wear my hair in a style other than Messy-Mom-Bun.

One day I’ll stay clean for longer than five seconds because people who are eating with me won’t demand to cuddle, be on my lap, ask to go pee five times, or suck on my knee while eating a banana.

One day I won’t be asked to put shoes back on, look behind me, or retrieve various items from the van floor WHILE I’M DRIVING.

One day I’ll be the sole backseat driver in our family and I’ll treat the position with the respect it deserves, unlike the five-year old who asks, “Mom, are you sure this is the place?” every time we go somewhere new.

One day I’ll sleep in.

One day I’ll be able to drink my coffee hot, from first sip to last drop, in one go, no microwaving.

One day I’ll be able to watch whatever I want whenever I want on TV (apparently Orange is the New Black is not suitable for children, go figure).

OITNB

Pornstache is completely G-rated

One day songs from incredibly awful children’s shows won’t be playing on a loop in my head…at 3 a.m.

One day I won’t have to worry about my necklace or my earrings or my bracelets or my watch getting stolen/broken/tugged at/yanked off/eaten.

One day I won’t have to calculate the mess-factor of foods before we take them on a picnic or eat them in the van or eat them in the living room vs. the kitchen table.

One day I won’t get yelled at for stopping someone from running into the street, or for making someone poop in the toilet instead of their pants, or asking them not to rock in their chair, or for stealing their boogers, or for telling someone that we have no plans for the day, or for reminding someone that no, Grammie or Nana or Daddy or any of the Aunts can’t come play because they have to work.

One day my shirt/pants/arms/legs/neck/face won’t be used as a booger catcher.

One day “This is disgusting. I’m not eating this. I hate this family.” won’t be the first reaction to the dinner I made.

One day carrying a baby on my hip while hauling a giant basket of laundry up the stairs won’t be the norm.

One day I won’t get bitten or pinched or head-butted or collar-bone slammed or smacked or have my hair pulled WHILE HOLDING SOMEONE WHO WANTED TO BE HELD.

One day my hands won’t go to sleep because I’ve been carrying a baby around the house.

One day the quietest moment in my day won’t be the time I spend walking around the van to my seat while all the babies are locked inside.

One day I’ll never have to potty train again…EVER.

One day I won’t be asked to push people on the swing only to have them yell at me, THEY CAN DO IT.

stuart

One day I won’t have to be super stealthy at night, dodging creaking floorboards, refusing to flush toilets that share a wall with a bedroom, and not breathing while checking on sleeping babies.

One day I won’t wonder where the day went because nothing has been accomplished and I’ve failed at housekeeping again.

One day I won’t wonder when the day will end because nothing has been accomplished and I’ve failed at housekeeping again.

One day I will miss little hands grabbing my pant legs to pull themselves up while I stand still as a statue and make dinner.

One day I won’t be the first line of defense against the owies or the bad days or the bullies or the crappiness that is life for my babies.

One day I won’t feel the tightest hugs, the biggest love, the most hero-worship of my babies every day.

One day I’ll have to call them or text them or email them or Facebook them to find out how their day was, how they are, if they’re eating vegetables, if they’re sharing nicely, if they’re okay, if they’re happy.

One day the trip to bed won’t include retucking and reblanketing and kissing and listening for breathing of my babies.

One day I won’t be given dandelions on every walk, pictures made just for me after every craft time, and birthday cakes made out of Lego and random toys just because.

One day our morning won’t begin with everyone snuggled in our bed until it becomes too chaotic and we’re forced to get up.

One day I’ll miss all of these days and wonder where the time went.

One day.

~ Julia

What motherhood means to me

I have been blessed throughout my entire life with a wide range of mothers coming in and out of my life, but for the most part they all stay. They come into my life when I need them the most, even if I don’t think I do. They help me through the hard things, and hold my hand when I need them. They adopt me and keep me in their lives, and are never surprised when I show up to their houses unannounced. They are the women who raised me (and continue to do so), and it seems like it really did take a village to raise me, and because of them I always find the strength to move on to greater and better things in my life.

Motherhood to me is acceptance.

Acceptance is something I have always wanted for most of my life. I have always wanted to be welcomed in and cared for, it is something even to this day I crave. As the youngest of four girls I felt alone quite often in my life. Not always left behind, but more just brushed aside at times, especially when I wasn’t too lovable. My mom had her hands full raising all of us, and I came around when the rules seemed a little bit more relaxed, and when they weren’t quite expecting another one.

“She was your little accident,” my grandmother had said.

“I didn’t accidentally have sex; she is my miracle,” my mother replied sassily.

My mother, from that first moment, accepted that I was coming into the world, and she has never stopped accepting who I am and who I am becoming. The next mothers I have known are the women at our various congregations of our church, all of them loving to watch me and guiding me in small, but meaningful ways. They are the women in my life who I still call my ‘Aunts’ even though there is no actual relation. These are also the women that my mother coins as her life-long friends. Helping her raise me with a shoulder to cry on when needed, complain to when I was being impossible, and being another ear for me to voice my opinion and give me some insight into what my mother must be feeling.

Motherhood means listening.

I have a wonderful friend named Elena, and when I felt like I had nowhere to turn and was feeling overwhelmed in college, she and her mother were there to lend a third party unbiased listening ear to me. Whenever I see Birute, Elena’s mom, I still run towards her yelling, “MOMMY!” And whenever I am over and can actually get my butt out of bed, I still spend some wee hours of the morning sharing a cup of coffee and a little bit of catch up with her.

Motherhood to me means hugs.

I know that is a young thought, but think about it. Still to this day, whenever I am upset, have problems, or just feeling overwhelmed, all I want is a mommy-hug. There is nothing like a hug from a mother. It is warm, comforting, and just allows everything to lift from your shoulders. The only thing stopping me from saying that magic doesn’t exist is the mom-hug. It feels magical and is the one thing that feels like an instantaneous problem solver. Call me crazy all you want, but mom hugs are magic.

All of my various moms have had all of these qualities, they all accept me wholeheartedly, they all have listened to my various (sometimes overly dramatic, yeah, I admit it), problems, and all of them are always willing to give me that hug that I need so much on a constant basis.

However, motherhood, to me, is a beautiful, unconditional, all-encompassing love and the beautiful part? You don’t even have to be related to show this motherly love to people. I should know.

Thank you all my wonderful mothers, you know who you are, and I hope you know that you all are definitely counted as my blessings.

~ Andreah