That’s right. One day, a very very very long time ago, I was a perfectly normal person. Then I was influenced by friends, by family and by life. Life made me this way.
Life threw some pretty whacked out stuff on my path. There was my Grade 3 teacher who blamed me for every little incident that happened in her unruly classroom. There was that principal in Grade 6 who would thought it was acceptable to pick his nose in class and who felt it was his obligatory duty to ensure every child received the strap at least once a month. There was my father who had no filter for telling jokes that were meant for “older” ears in front of all my pre-teen friends. There was one of my best pals from the early years who led me down a path of underage drinking and all the woes that go with that adventure. There were Halloween pranks that ended in police evasion. There were family vacations that trapped me people who were my sworn enemies. There were the lean college years where bad things happened to good people. And there were the post-education trips around the world where I got to see first hand how bloody spoiled we all are in the Americas.
And somewhere through all of that, I grew into a person who decided that I have no right to judge others. I have come to admire Mother Theresa, who has a way with words that inspire positive reactions.
Right now, right here in privileged and indulgent Canada, there is a whole discussion going on about forcing immigrants to adapt to our ways. We were here first, they say. so just do as we do and nobody gets hurt. The discussion centres around Muslim woman who wore the niqab to the citizenship ceremony. Seems lots of Canadian citizens took offence to that. Now I am 100% for women’s rights and if a woman is being forced to wear niqab against her will, I would stand beside her with that fight. But supporting women’s rights means accepting their right to choose – and many women choose to wear the niqab. What right do we have to judge?
I know that as a teenager and right up to ten years ago, I was an avid runner. I cannot imagine someone telling me that I had no right to run. I remember going for a run on the Greek island of Mykonos . Some crazy old lady riding a donkey ran me off the road yelling at me a language that sounded like Greek to me. She was waving her arms and obviously judging me for having the nerve to partake in such an unscrupulous activity. I remember being confused because I figured all us women stuck together in this tribe called sisterhood. She judged me because I was a runner.
I recall as a young woman, I worked out in the field as a party chief for a survey crew. One day some enchanting elder statesman stopped walking his dog to watch me swing a sledge hammer. I had a few beads of sweat dripping down my face, dirt under my nails, cloths that might best be described as ragged rugged, twigs in my hair and an odor to prove I had been at it a while. And to this man, I was an anomoly – a female side show. He returned a few moments later with several of his like-aged friends in tow so they too could witness this marvel of nature. I choose to enter into a male dominate field and I have certainly paid the price for this non-traditional choice. If I had a dime for every time I was mistaken for the receptionist as opposed to the professional surveyor, why I could buy myself a frilly dress. Many judged me because I am a woman.
I recall stepping away from the Church when I became disillusioned with the illusion that there was a greater being steering this crazy world. I had an incredible friend who could make a room break into laughter wherever she went. She was a devout Christian and did a little bit of rebelling through her teen years. Now, on a few occasions she had to walk alongside me to make sure I made it home safe after a few gravel-pit parties. And on more than one occasion I returned the favour. That is what friends do. Then one day her parents told her that I was a bad influence (who me?) and that she was not allowed to be my friend. I was judged because I did not share their faith.
I recall a day when I was travelling through India’s Rajastan desert. I was wowed by the beauty and the culture – so rich. But I was also shunned by the locals because of the color of my skin.. I realize that they had every right to be suspicious of those with white skin, because historically the white man did not treat Indians so well, but I was also surprised that I had to earn their trust. I was judged by the color of my skin.
My journey to the realization that I have no right to pass judgement has been a long one. I still fail at times to grasp this obvious reality. “Redneck” jumped right onto my lips as I listen to today’s comments from those who believe wearing the niqab is an insult to our Canadian culture. Truth is I love the variety that makes up our society. We all share one thing in common – and that is that we are all different. And we can all use the excuse “LIFE MADE ME THIS WAY”!