Chilliwack – Janice Eves sent this opinion piece to FVN as well as Chilliwack Citizens for Change:
disappointing culmination of recent events, after all the tireless
efforts and heartfelt words of so many of you, has really sent me
It’s so upsetting, and I want to DO something, say something that will make some sort of difference, as much as I always struggle to get out to events, and trip over my own words in public.
I want to scream, and rant, and plead, until something changes.
Instead I find myself sucked in again, reading upsetting comments by people with ridiculously inaccurate information and accusations, who simply refuse to listen, and trying to think of anything that could be said or done to reach out and help them see a better way.
I found myself writing a giant rant of all my thoughts in response to a particularly unsettling comment. Posting it seemed pointless though, what good will it do? Also a bit insane; it got loooong, as rants do.
So I’ll post it here, where others are echoing my frustration and drive to find a way to break through the ignorance, intolerance, and blatant hate here in Chilliwack.
A rainbow crosswalk is not a political
stunt meant to symbolize that the LGBTQ+ community is trying to conquer
and stamp out “traditional values” or religious beliefs, or anything of
the sort. 😣😔
It is a commitment statement by the city; the use of a rainbow
represents that a community includes ALL of it’s members; the whole
spectrum. The LGBTQ+ community simply want to be included and valued as
much as everyone else; they don’t want their existence and presence to
be denied, ignored, or erased. They just want to be accepted and
included in the community, in the schools, in the workforce, like
A rainbow crosswalk is a symbol of a community coming together as a whole; all of our differences being welcomed and valued for how our diversity makes us stronger and more vibrant. Just like the shades of colour in a rainbow, each standing out and adding to the whole, our community isn’t complete if a section is missing. Our vibrant religious community here in Chilliwack are a valuable part of our rainbow, and shine out with their contribution to the community as a whole. The entire point of a rainbow crosswalk is INCLUSION. Of everyone. No one is excluded. Everyone is needed. Everyone adds value. Differences are appreciated, even differences of opinion, belief, etc, and they are not devalued or excluded because they don’t align with another hue; they’re not supposed to. Our differences are our strength, and should be valued for the benefits of insight and new perspectives that they add, rather than suppressed and silenced if they don’t conform to the ideals of another section of the community.
Now, try to
picture Chilliwack represented as a rainbow, with the different colours
of the rainbow representing all the different people who live here (and
we’re becoming more and more colourful as people move here from other
areas and bring with them more diverse experiences and skills). If we
try to silence and ignore sections of our population, hoping they will
go away, or change and become more like us, our rainbow dims as sections
are muted, mixed, erased, masked as another colour, etc. Something that
has the potential for such beauty, is reduced to a mess of grey
muddiness. This is Chilliwack right now; quite a mess.
We need to come together as a whole, respecting and valuing our distinct colours, not trying to change or attack other sections because they are different than yours, but finding a way to embrace how our wide differences add value and offer a place to belong for everyone. We all belong.
We need to work together, and practice a mindset where we can recognize, accept, and include people in our everyday lives who are very different from us, by saying to ourselves, “Hey, that’s not me. I’m not like you, and that’s okay. I can be proud to be me, you have every right to be proud to be you, and we can find a way to work together, go to school together, hang out together, and be comfortable with each other’s differences, because no one is inherently ‘better’ than anyone else, just different.
The issue that keeps getting in the way of this is that some people are clinging to the belief that they are ‘better’ than other people. The sum of your experiences make up the person that you are, and no one is aware of every experience that another person has had; no one has a right to judge another person as better or worse than them based on their limited perception of them, and it will always be limited by your own perspective. If your beliefs guide you to believe that there are people who are better or worse than you, and that dictates how you should interact with them, I strongly plead with you to re-examine how this belief is shaping your life and the lives of the people around you. If you are religious, do you truly believe that God created everyone to be different, with unique experiences and perspectives, but somehow we should all still think and behave the exact same way? Does it not seem more likely that our challenge in life is to work hard to forge bonds of respect and cooperation with the diverse range of people we encounter and work with throughout our lives? It isn’t easy at all to work with people who have differing ideas, and manage to form solutions where everyone feels accepted, respected, and included in the decision-making process and conclusion, but life is not designed to be easy; we are meant to struggle, problem-solve, expand our understanding and perspectives, empathize with others, make some consessions to help those in need, and evolve into valuable members of a whole.
Ultimately, for Chilliwack to become a healthy and thriving city, we need to let go of ALL of our preconceptions and dated stereotypes, our drive to ‘be the side that wins’, and our fear of ‘what this might lead to’, and work together to clear away the animosity so that we can create space for everyone. We ALL belong, and there is certainly more than enough passion in our community to do some very powerful things. We just need to redirect that passion into positive acts of kindness that build up our community and strengthen each other, rather than tearing each other down because we are different and believe different things. Each of us needs to embrace the person that we are (recognizing that God made each of us with our own unique design of strengths and weaknesses), and work to overcome any insecurities that come up from interacting with people you don’t agree with. You are you, and they are them, and neither are ‘wrong’ or ‘less’, just different. Find a common ground to work together, and build each other up with mutual respect. It hurts no one to learn more about someone by asking them open questions about the things that you don’t agree with or understand. Listening with an open mind will help you gain a better understanding of people different than you. It doesn’t mean that you have to change who you are, or have to agree with them. You just have to form an understanding that allows you to see their value as a part of our community, just as YOU add value for being who you are.
We can do this, Chilliwack! Let’s rise above this devisiveness and embrace a visual commitment of unity in our city, with the addition of a rainbow crosswalk as a symbol that all of us working together and celebrating our distinct differences create a vibrant community as beautiful as a rainbow.
Okay, I feel better now.