Friday, August 15, 2014

Sometimes civility evades me

I stepped out onto the sidewalk in front of our home to say goodbye to my wife Blanche as she was leaving for work. And to answer her questions about how to drive my smart fortwo -- it's quirky.

As she drove off, I spotted two men with fliers approaching the house, chatting. They parted, and one made his way up our front walk with me quietly in pursuit, hackles raised. He was on the porch reaching for the door-knocker, as I climbed the steps.

"What's up?" I asked, trying not to sound as suspicious as I felt. I was allowing for the possibility that he was from the City, perhaps advising me of work being doing in the neighbourhood. 

He held out one of his fliers for me to see: "I wanted to let you know about a website...." Big as light, the word, "Bible," was on it. It's all I saw. That and a metal case he was holding that looked like it might contain a receipt book.

"You saw the sign about the fliers coming up the walk, eh?" I said, less evenly than before.

"Oh, I wasn't going to leave the flier; I was going to talk to you about it first."

Same difference -- in my mind, anyway. As disingenuous as I felt his argument was, I became rude and territorial.

"Nah, we're all good here," I snarled. He tried again, and I repeated myself.

"You have a nice day," he said, in what sounded like a mixture of brotherly love and sarcasm.

Note that I never found out what his message was and therefore cannot specify my objection to it. He never learned specifically why I was angry and may have walked away assuming that I just hated Christians or religious people or people who came to my door generally.

I have friends who attend church, synagogue, mosque or temple. Some of them are queer; or they love queers who are their friends and family. They believe in a woman's right to choose. They cannot countenance capital punishment. They don't think someone is an anti-Semite for criticizing any act of the State of Israel. They believe in comprehensive and sex-positive sexual health education in schools. They think that #rapeculture is a thing.

Same goes for my more agnostic friends and full-on atheists, like myself.

I will never know how this man or his church or organization felt about any of these things. I didn't want to know. He came to my door, so I assumed he was going to tell me what to fear and whom to love. He was going to proselytize me. And collect some money or contact information if he could.

My reaction to him is oddly removed from what I try to do the rest of the time. As an elementary educator, I help students navigate conflicting belief systems -- whether its contrasting ideas in the classroom or periodic dissonance they experience between expectations of home and school.

I've taken on additional duties in my school -- including the role of Safe and Positive Space representative, which is mandated in all TDSB schools. I'm also a GSA leader. I've spoken to parents -- quite respectfully and effectively -- about potential conflicts between recognition of LGBTTIQQ2SA people at school and personal beliefs or faith practised at home. 

Indeed, it was in a GSA meeting with students that we had a fascinating conversation about faith-based organizations and their members who embrace gender and sexual diversity. We discussed the importance of not assuming a person of faith harboured prejudices against anyone.

None of that was working for me at my doorstep. My battlements were breached. And I was hostile.

After my neighbours get home from work, I may ask them to show me the flier, so I can figure out what I was so steamed about.

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