Reality Sets In

It’s been ten days since the U.S. presidential election. Given the outcome and what’s been happening in America since, the last thing anyone needs is another thought-piece by a white male with an upper-middle-class upbringing who lives in Canada. I’m writing this anyway for one reason: I expected Donald Trump to be elected.

I was told from a young age that I was too cynical. My retort would always be that I was, in fact, realistic. I don’t think it’s cynical that, even in 2016, I thought Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be elected president because she’s a woman. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, I think that falls under a realistic point of view.

Before I go on, I should make it clear that I would have voted for Hillary. But I don’t think it’s realistic that a woman can’t be president. I think it’s realistic that far too many people in the world struggle with the idea that a woman is as qualified (or so, so much more qualified) to do a “man’s job.” Or that women can be confident. Or that they can be opinionated. Or that they can make mistakes. Or that they are entitled to respect. Or that they are men’s equal and often much more.

I would call all of this realistic thinking, but I think I need to explain why. My parents divorced when I was very young and through joint custody I grew up primarily under my Mom’s roof. My mother came from a very traditional family yet knew that being a woman did not dictate what job she might have or how she might live her life. This was the example I was raised under. It’s why I remember from an early age thinking it strange that boys would make so much fun of girls. It’s why I’ve had never thought twice about having a woman as my boss. Most of all, it’s why I’m dumbfounded by the casual and ingrained sexism I witness on a near daily basis.

I’m sure any woman reading this is rolling their eyes at another man being “surprised” that sexism exists. But being raised by a woman that made her own way meant that I, by default, looked up to women. I looked up to my Dad as well, but I honestly can’t remember distinguishing between the two. My exposure to men believing themselves to be superior to women came from everything else I experienced outside my home. I became aware that it existed, even if I couldn’t always understand or appreciate what I was seeing.

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve never taken it as a given that a man takes precedent over a woman. At least not consciously. But certainly unconsciously. Because that’s our world. The world where a man can openly question a woman’s ability to do a particular job. (I heard this 14 days ago.) The one where a man openly scoffs at the idea that women can have their own conferences to address sexism and the wage gap in their industry. (Less than two months ago.) And the world where some random man on the internet is going to find this post and try to say sexism isn’t real.

This is the world we, as men, live in quite comfortably. Because we always think we have the upper hand. Or we think we’re aware of the problem and that in itself is enough. To that, I plead guilty. But seeing my prediction about Trump come true has left me with a deeply unsettling feeling that’s made me know being aware isn’t enough for me anymore.

This election should be a nasty wake up call for my fellow men that misogyny and sexism is alive and well in our world. If you have ever questioned it or believed that you never participated in it, the fact that a bigoted, dangerous buffoon has been made president because he has a penis should make you believe. If this election result isn’t the best reason to question all of your own thoughts and actions, then things aren’t likely to get better. That’s just the reality of our world.

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[Note: that’s not quite the exact quote, but you get the idea.]

A right to life. And to choose.

A few months ago, I happened upon an article in Toronto Life about assisted suicide. Specifically, about a man who had helped people take their own life in secret. At the end of the article, there is a very long and heated “debate” going on in the comments section. I know, I know, don’t read the comments. But this is a subject that is important to me, as I believe assisted suicide should be a legal option for the terminally ill. So my curiosity got the better of me.

Naturally, there are strong reactions to the idea of being able to take your own life. Many people (like myself) who have witnessed the suffering of family and friends see assisted suicide as an act of compassion. Opponents of the idea label it as a coward’s way out, or something that will be a slippery slope and abused my those who don’t actually need it. And then there are those who think it’s wrong in the eyes of God.

Full disclosure: I don’t believe in God. I “practiced” religion until around the age of 12. Then my Mom allowed me to make my own decisions. I have no problem with those who do believe, though. In many ways, I admire their faith and commitment. What I do have a problem with is using the idea of a God as a reason to not allow something to become law.

In my (admittedly very subjective) experience, many of the opponents of assisted suicide invoke the idea that all humans have a “right to life” and therefore we cannot allow people to take their own lives. There’s a concern that people will be wrongfully coerced into using assisted suicide when they don’t really need to, or that they will die shortly before a drug was discovered that could have cured them. This is, in fact, exactly what was suggested by the most outspoken opponent in the comments on the article.

Most of his arguments stemmed from a column he wrote where he outlined the following scenario:

“A strong, healthy man suffers from a disease. He wastes away to a shadow of his former self. He is all skin and bones. Death is imminent. The doctors are telling him there is no cure, no treatment left. At this point, he considers assisted suicide to avoid the pain and suffering and maybe to save his family some of the money being spent on his care. He goes through with it. In a short time, he is killed by a physician. And the very next week, a new drug is discovered which could have allowed that man to make a complete recovery.”

Of course, that is always a possibility. But is it a realistic one? Or even remote? To me, this reads like a fantasy. It is talking in absolutes. If only someone didn’t kill themselves, a miracle drug would have been created a week later!

I will admit that this is a possibility, however remote. But if the terminally ill have a right to life, don’t they have the right to choose death? The idea with assisted suicide is that the patient chooses to end their life rather than endure an excruciating death. And yes, they are eliminating the unlikely possibility of being saved by a miracle drug. That’s their choice.

There seems to be a theme from the right to life crowd, which is that they claim making this law will make suicide and assisted suicide one in the same. I have yet to see any convincing argument as to why that would be true. I also find it interesting that they say you have a right to life, but apparently you don’t have a right to choose.

To me, our right to choose is as ingrained and essential as our right to life. In Canada, we have the privilege to make choices about our lives. I think, in the case of terminal illnesses, that should include being able to choose to die. It is not cowardly and it is not morally wrong. It, ideally, is an informed choice made because of the finite nature of existence. We don’t have to have our suffering and our death decided by nature. Certainly not by God.

Personally, I am thankful that our government is basing our laws in the reality in front of us. They are acknowledging that to be human is to have the right to live and, eventually, the right to choose to not.

If you’re interested in the subject of assisted suicide, I suggest you watch the documentary How To Die In Oregon. For or against, it’s moving to watch.

Oh, You’re Mad About Strategic Voting?

This past Monday, Canada elected a new prime minister. Maybe you heard about Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. Or his hair. He unseated the Conservative’s Stephen Harper. Maybe you heard about that, too. You probably also heard about how Canada’s third major party, the NDP, lost a lot of support to the Liberals in this election. A lot of people seem to think this is because of strategic voting. And a lot of people are mad about that.

Now I’m pretty sure that anyone complaining about strategic voting after this election probably voted for the NDP, because they didn’t win. I doubt you would complain if the party you voted for got elected.(I won’t say who I voted for, but it wasn’t Liberal and it wasn’t Conservative.) People seem to be mad about strategic voting because it seems like voters went Liberal only because they felt it was their best chance to defeat Stephen Harper. I can’t really deny that.

But you shouldn’t be mad at strategic voting. You should be mad at Stephen Harper.

You should be mad that he made the majority of Canadians that afraid of him.

You should be mad that he gave them very legitimate reasons to be afraid of him. (Seriously. Read that.)

You should be mad that the majority of Conservative voters have probably never heard of any of those things.

You should be mad that Harper tried to divide the country into a strict right and left divide, attempting to split the vote between the Liberals and NDP so he could retain power.

You should be mad that he tried to make people afraid of Niqabs.

You should be mad that he thought he could make this election about Justin Trudeau’s hair and toques for ISIS.

You should be mad that some Conservative voters honestly believe Harper is the greatest prime minister in the history of Canada, and therefore should stay in office forever.

You should be mad he made the NDP feel like they had to go a little bit soft.

You should be mad that he put Canada in this position.

Based on the election results and voter turnout, the country clearly felt he needed to go. My problem with people getting upset over strategic voting is that you are allowed to change the party you vote for for reasons besides strategy.

There was strategic voting at play in this election, without a doubt. But what about the people that switched their vote from Conservative to Liberal? Was that strategic? Or was it they felt like they could no longer support the Conservative party with a leader as tyrannical as Stephen Harper? To me, that’s not strategic. That’s not wanting to vote Conservative in this election.

That’s the thing. It wasn’t just NDP voters switching parties. It was Conservatives, too. This country realized Stephen Harper needed to go. I understand people being upset that Justin Trudeau was elected because of people voting against Harper, but he didn’t give us much choice. That’s what you should be mad at. He made Canada feel threatened.

In the same way that you couldn’t logically claim you voted for Stephen Harper because he was the lesser of four evils (which is the most obviously untrue thing in this entire election), you can’t lament strategic voting and say Trudeau’s government is definitely going to bad. He hasn’t done anything for us to get mad about. Yet.