I am so excited to see what Matt will continue to do for our Fredericton riding over the next few years. Proud to be a small part of it! His youthful exuberance can’t be replicated, or faked! It’s refreshing to have someone respresent all of us, no matter what. Most importantly, Matt cares about women’s rights and our youth. Help re-elect him!!
Four years ago I felt compelled to get involved in national politics in my local riding in New Brunswick. I always paid attention to the goings-on in the world, but from a safe place sitting on the sidelines. My passion for women’s equality, coupled with a drive to do something to make a difference in my community, my province, and my country, spurred me to randomly hit a volunteer button on a Facebook page one day while I was scrolling through my news feed. It was a political candidate page for Fredericton MP Matt DeCourcey. I knew nothing about Matt prior to stumbling upon his advertisement to recruit volunteers. After reading up on who he was and the objectives he set out to accomplish, I listened to my gut instinct and delved in further. Something made me press that button that day. I had never done anything of the like before. I honestly thought that my name would be one along side many, and that I would likely never be contacted. Instead, twenty minutes later I received a call from his volunteer coordinator asking me to get on board. I reluctantly said “yes.” Much to my surprise, she asked me if I could meet them that evening and join Matt going door-to-door to talk to residents in the riding. That day was a significant turning point in my life. It ignited the spark that was lying in wait. Matt was someone I could easily get behind, and the ideologies of the party lined up almost perfectly with my own sense of what is right and what is wrong. The spark that was ignited that day has turned into a raging fire. It’s an inferno I am not able to extinguish. I have been actively involved in volunteering for Matt’s team every time I am asked, no matter what the request is, unless I am working, injured, or travelling. This is a party for which I feel immense affiliation and loyalty. There have been some mistakes made along the way, we are not perfect, but overall I am happy with our party, and our vision of what Canada is, and should be. You see, I was raised by an educated, community-involved, socially concious family. There are many snippets of wisdom I can recall my father imparting on me when I was a youth as I was on my way out the door to hang out with friends. “Keep your head on straight” was something I frequently heard. Another, oft-repeated lesson he impressed upon me was, “there is a right thing to do, and a wrong thing to do.” At the time it seemed fluffy and philosophical; it didn’t impact my way of thinking immediately. I was a teenager, I had bigger things to worry about. As I aged and made mistakes, especially colossal ones, those expressions my father recounted to me when I was young would spin around in my mind like a neon sign, reminding me of my roots, reminding me of the values they instilled in me; values that grabbed a firm hold inside and grew exponentially through every difficult situation and moral equivocation I have ever had to consider. It is what made me sit for months every day with my developmentally challenged aunt while she was dying of brain cancer, despite the initial instinct to want to protect my own mental health with physical distance. It is what demanded me to take on a corporate giant all alone for ignoring discriminating practices in the work place against women… and win. It is what made me sit for over an hour on the side of a dark, deserted highway with a young girl that slid in the ditch, waiting for her parents to arrive, because I couldn’t leave her alone and vulnerable. There is ALWAYS a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do.
When I recently heard about leadership candidates rumoured to be running in New Brunswick for my party, I decided to look into things a little further. I had been hearing conjecture up until that point without any evidence, so I started scrolling through Facebook to glean some information. Like that day four years ago, I felt something I couldn’t explain. I felt nervous, if not somewhat unsubstantiated apprehension about one possible candidate. The other candidate gave me a good feeling, but I still didn’t know enough. I messaged several candidates and asked pointed questions. Just to be clear about something, I am not a person that gets a “gut feeling” very often. I believe in science-based evidence and reasonable conclusions based on logical hypotheses. Almost every gut feeling I have ever had has been related to a man. Perhaps my past childhood trauma, inflicted by a man who had power over me, forced me to consider subtleties very closely. I know I am not the only woman who experiences this. After a few weeks of talking to random people about the candidates, comments about one candidate, such as, “a black man will never win” started to make my stomach clinch. I knew that we were openly racist years ago. I thought we were over that kind of thinking, other than the pockets of knuckle-draggers that embrace overt racist ideology. I really thought the general population of New Brunswick had grown over the years and embraced diversity. We talk about it all the time. We espouse it in our advertisements, in our language, and in our schools. We all say the right things at the appropriate times; but when it comes right down to it, we all still hold onto our prejudice. If we confirm these biases with the language we use, are we not embracing racist ideology? By saying, and agreeing with, “a black man will never get elected in NB”, we are giving weight to and instilling that very concept. A concept that states, it’s okay to be a person of colour and live here; live here and contribute to our economy, pay taxes and help us build, but for God sakes do not for one minute think about leading our white province. No Way. If you have deceived yourself into thinking, “it’s not me that thinks that way, it’s everybody else. It’s just the way it is”, then I have some questions for you. How do you think others came to this conclusion? Did you take a poll? Did you talk to every New Brunswicker? Was there a news story I missed that addressed these issues then came up with this conclusion? People have reached this conclusion because they have discussed it. They have discussed it, and are okay with it. They have accepted this way of thinking as being okay. It’s not. It’s far from okay. It’s downright embarrassing and disappointing. I do not want to leave our children with a province that is known to be racist. We are better than that. We are New Brunswickers. We are Maritimers. We are supposed to be the most friendly and welcoming people in all of Canada. We can’t just give the best opportunities to white people. We can not afford to stick our head in the sand about this isuue any longer. I thought I had a good handle on our provincial “temperature.” I thought we were inclusive and accepting; until I started to “unofficially” help a black political candidate. My reality was shaken to it’s core; it was a direct assault to my senses. Every politician of every political stripe knows how badly we need immigration to help build our population, our economy, and our province. Why would others want to come here if they are going to be treated differently? How can we invite other people to live here, and then treat them like the enemy when we do? Maybe more people would settle here if they felt welcome, and included, and accepted, not judged.
I agonized for weeks over whether to assist a candidate with a campaign. Initially I had no reservations, but after hearing so many negative comments because of the colour of his skin(even one from my own family), I felt inner turmoil. I was told not to waste my time. I was told a black man won’t win. I was told to wait and get on board with the “winning” team. I was told that New Brunswick was just racist and not to stress myself out by giving too much thought to it. I felt the barrier like it was a tangible thing; like it was a WALL. I was comfortable with my decision initially because I was woefully ignorant about how we really think in New Brunswick. I had my head in the sand. When I first saw this candidate I didn’t even give a thought to what colour his skin was or where he was born. I looked at his education, experience, qualifications, and his level of compassion and dedication towards those that are disadvantaged and less fortunate. I saw a person that demonstratively cares about the little person and felt good about that; then others started filling my head with doubt and comments that caused me anxiety. It was only a few days ago that I realized the source of my anxiety. My granddaughter is a visible minority with brown skin.
I suddenly made the connection. She was going to face the same kinds of awful things other non-white people do who live here in New Brunswick. This realization hit me like a brick in the face, and triggered a primal, maternal instinct in me that is an incredibly inexplicable, powerful force. This is now personal. The internal struggle that was fiercely battling inside me ended the moment I realized I was fighting for the future of my grandaughter and others like her. The values my family instilled in me demand I live up to the those expectations left with me. Everything changed for me a few years ago, the moment I realized I would be leaving this legacy to my own children. I have to show them and my granddaughter that doing the right thing is hard sometimes. It can be isolating, and can leave you feeling vulnerable. I’ll be perfectly honest, up until I realized what was at stake for my granddaughter’s future, there was a part of me that wanted to give in to the external pressures I had been facing; to make life easier for myself. Herein lies my dilemma; do the easy thing, or do the right thing. I know I’m facing an uphill battle but it’s one I will gladly climb for the sake of my children, my granddaughter, and for the future of New Brunswick. I’d rather take the loss than live with the regret; otherwise I’m rejecting the very same values that I, and those I hold most dearly, treasure the most. Win, lose, or draw I am on #teamwinner. I choose the side of right over might.
This is by far one of the trickiest posts I have attempted to write; mostly because I feel like I have to tread lightly here, and I don’t like that feeling. It’s like walking on egg shells. I refuse to be intimidated or non-overtly bullied. I’ve never allowed it since I was a kid; I’m not about to start now. I make a consious effort to be open-minded, and to consider all perspectives. I often land somewhere in the grey area between the black and white. There are; however, lines drawn in the sand for one or two specific issues. These are lines that I don’t cross. Some people are trying to put their foot down on that line. I’m not afraid to tell you it really hurts my heart. There are some things that need to be said, about who we are, about what we represent, about the ideals we embrace, and about how we think and act towards others. Especially towards others that look different, or have different cultures or customs than we do in our homonogeously white province.
I heard racial comments about a candidate running in a leadership race when I was out and about recently. The candidate is a man of colour. I’m positive my mouth dropped opened and I know my eyes were surely as wide as saucers. I wear my heart on my face not on my sleeve. It’s called resting-bitch-face for a reason. I did not say anything. I let it slide. I made excuses. I kept the peace. Days later I noticed this candidate’s face on my profile when I was scrolling through Facebook. I took some time to do a little research about what this candidate could offer. I was impressed with some aspects about this candidate but there was an area of concern. I always exercise due diligence and seek as much information as possible, from as many different sources as can. I analyse everything from every conceivable avenue so that I can make a fact-based decision. Part of my research was talking to random people I knew from different backgrounds and socio-economic classes. The first time someone actually said to me, “NB will never elect a black man“, there is no way possible I could impress upon you the superhuman effort it took for me not to bite this person’s head off, figuratively speaking. I thought maybe it was an anomaly. I was sadly proven wrong the days following the first incident. Pretty soon, no matter who I asked, the response was, “We are not ready to elect a black man yet. It’s not me that thinks that. We are just not ready.” I lost count of how many people told me various versions of the same thing. So, I have some questions:
When will we be ready?
You see, I have been squashing my feelings about this every single time someone has said words to me about this candidate, this man of colour. I have a precious, beautiful, smarter-than-your-average-bear granddaughter. She is almost 3 years old. She is aboriginal. She is a person of colour. The message I’m receiving is this: it sucks that parts of, or lots of people in NB are so racist, but… it is what it is. Translated: my granddaughter, a person of colour, has no hope in hell of every considering running for political office in NB. Two strikes against her right off the bat; her skin colour and her gender. I will say this much. Like I did for my children, I will do everything in my power to ensure this astounding little girl, and others like her, will have every opportunity available. I do not accept willful ignorance about racism. I do not accept that this is the way it will always be. We can do better and we have to do better. We can’t keep teaching the younger generations that this is the way things should be. Racism isn’t born, it is taught.
Life is tough sometimes. It’s tough for everyone. Nobody has it really easy. I know people like to pretend that they have the best, most perfect and positive life, but we know that usually isn’t the case. We all have struggles and they are as varied and vast as individuals themselves. That isn’t to say that some don’t have it easier than others. Some of our friends and family post these fantastic life stories on social media that would make any one a little jealous. The reality is most people aren’t posting their pain, their shame, and their embarrassments. Who wants to expose those vulnerabilities? Me, that’s who. I have found strength in sharing my weaknesses and troubles with others that have had similar experiences. So many of us are struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues but we’ve been shamed as a society to admit it.
I struggle with anxiety. Sometimes it’s easier to deal with than others. When I was younger I felt more powerless against it. As I’ve aged I’ve learned how to cope and how to recognize the signs that I’m indulging in the insecurities that come with being anxious. A couple of different times in my life I have “gone off the deep end.” My mental resiliency has been tested on numerous occasions. I feel like I failed some of these life tests, mainly because I’m so hard on myself and have such high expectations of not only me, but everyone around me. My first serious test came after reporting my maternal grandfather for sexually abusing me when I was a child. The subsequent court cases that followed demanded a strength I didn’t know I had; to face the man that wounded me so deeply and irrevocably for the rest of my life. Even though he was found guilty, sent to prison, and lost an appeal, I always felt like there was something wrong with me. Somehow it was my fault. Even though I was just a kid, I couldn’t help but blame myself for not having the courage to stop it sooner. The ripple effect of that trial was losing contact with the maternal half of my family. We were ostracized by that part of the family for years, because my mother and father believed and supported me. My mother chose her daughter over her father, mother, siblings, and extended family. That’s the best mother anyone could ever ask for. It took me years to fully appreciate the loss she must have felt, and the sacrifice she made to support me. She is a remarkably strong woman that has probably never been properly acknowledged for her tenacity and unyielding love and support for her kids.
I staggered around in a shame-filled state for many years. I had a hard time dealing with the incredibly overpowering mental anguish I was suffering from. Despite being young and inexperienced at life, I could not allow myself any forgiveness for the serious character flaws that I thought I saw in myself during my youth. Now that I understand just how traumatic this event was, I am kinder to the memory my younger self. All the choices I made in the years after the abuse were normal, and typical of those that have been so seriously victimized. I’ve forgiven myself for the mistakes that I’ve made, but more importantly, I have learned not to give any thought to those that refuse to see how I’ve grown or acknowledge the changes that I’ve made throughout the course of my life. I wasted far too much time in my life worrying about what people thought of me. In my head I was already rejected before I could give anyone a proper chance to get to know me. I just assumed people weren’t going to like me. I was loud, hyper, outspoken, boisterous, adventurous, and tough. Very tough. I come from a predominantly religious family, I felt like I was most likely viewed as something akin to the devil himself. The long and short of it is; life is way to short to worry about what people think. There will always be people that don’t like you, for whatever reason. That’s ok. We are survivors. We always have each other.
My life has not been the easiest of journeys. Some things were thrown at me over which I had no control. My children’s serious health issues tested my resiliency. As is typical of me, I kept things together during the crisis, and then fell apart after the threat was gone. The latest and greatest test of my will and strength as a women, was when my developmentally challenged aunt died of brain cancer. I sat with her in the hospital every day, until the moment she took her last breath. The lessons she taught me about enjoying the simple things in life are still with me.
I have made colossal mistakes throughout my life. I was challenged by low self-esteem, and a lack of pride in the skills and talents that I had. I didn’t see myself as having any talents. Getting an education and having the support of my family and friends have contributed to me having a greater sense of self. I have pride in my accomplishments. Like a lot of parents, I feel my two greatest accomplishments were raising well-adjusted kids, despite my struggles being a young mother. I was a thrill-seeking hothead for most of my life. I had no fear. I lived for daring adventure and brought my kids along with me on that ride. There was never a dull moment. If I were a parent of young children now, my common sense as a middle-aged person would have surely kicked in. Instead, I raised two young kids when I was in my early 20’s. As is typical of the youthful mind, I thought nothing would ever happen to me. It would happen to somebody else. I felt invincible. It was this fearlessness that enabled me to let my kids follow me jumping off a local bridge into the river below. It took us swimming through rapids so strong that it would suck you down, twirl you around, and spit you back out again metres away. It led us to jumping a fence to pet a bear caged behind a steel fence. Crazy things to do, but I, nor my now fully grown children, have any regrets.
I have walked though the fire, but I did not come out the other side unscathed. Some scars never fully heal. Somehow I managed to raise university educated kids. My son has full custody of his young daughter. A girl born into a family of strong, dominant, confidant women. My daughter, a PhD candidate, is a scientist, blazing a trail for girls coming behind her from our small community in rural New Brunswick.
Life is tough sometimes, but like Dolly Parton said so eloquently, “if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”