(Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greeting supporters during his visit to my town, August 2021.)
Yesterday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid a visit to my hometown. I was excited: he’s the Prime Minister! I didn’t have a concrete plan to go down for his visit though, and as a local news site had reported that he’d be arriving around 5:45, I assumed that he’d be long gone by 8:00. Wrong. My Mom called around 7:30 to let us know that people were gathering. Dad and I thought we’d check things out, and arrived maybe 10 minutes before Trudeau came out. I learned a lot in those 10 minutes, however.
We’ve all seen anti-lockdown protesters. They’re a very vocal bunch, yelling and waving signs citing the pandemic as a government hoax. Plenty were gathered for Trudeau’s visit, as well as other general rabble-rousers. From my vantage point away from the thick of the crowd, I could hear a man across the street shouting his beliefs through a bullhorn. Others near me shouted him down, but another person was answering his call-and-response questions. The crowd of roughly 200 (most of whom I could see were masked) felt tense. And things only grew worse when Trudeau arrived. His supporters cheered; the protesters booed and shouted obscenities. It felt like verbal tug-of-war between the two parties as each grew louder in response to the other. My vision isn’t great when it’s dark, so I didn’t get a very good look at the action. The continued angry shouts during Trudeau’s speech and his struggle to make himself heard despite using a microphone painted a pretty good picture, though. I doubt he spoke for more than 5 minutes total before hightailing it out of there. Getting to hear the Prime Minister speak was an interesting experience, one that left me shocked and confused. Most pressing in my mind: how can people be so disrespectful and rude?
From an early age, we are taught that kindness conquers hate. We learn to treat others with respect, and to keep unkind thoughts to ourselves. The old adage is true: if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. I follow that rule to a tee. Didn’t the protesters yesterday think it was wrong to swear at and verbally attack a man they didn’t know about things he couldn’t control? Perhaps they needed a target to aim their frustrations at, someone to blame. That much I can understand. This whole pandemic has dragged on far too long, and I’m frustrated about not being able to return to normal by now, too. I’d be speaking out about ending the pandemic restrictions like them (though far less rudely) if I didn’t believe in science or trust the decisions made by Ontario’s top doctors. However, Prime Minister Trudeau is doing the best he can to lead our country through a delicate situation he never could have anticipated. Don’t wish him harm for trying to keep us safe! I’d like to see you do a better job if you were Prime Minister! Besides, majority of pandemic restrictions and mask mandates are the responsibilities of the provincial government, not federal. If you have grievances, at least do your research before blaming someone for them.
Checking Facebook about an hour after Trudeau’s stop-over, I was shocked by some of the responses I saw to a post about his visit. Having been (at the time) posted only 23 minutes ago, 6 of the 9 comments were criticizing Trudeau- and not in a “I don’t like him/disagree with x policy” way. One person commented that Trudeau should be “Tarred and feathered, the treasonist SOB”. What? I understand that you have some anger towards the man, but come on! Does no one have common decency around here anymore? I think some people require a lesson in serious respect.
Many politicians seem like fools. I’ll admit that, that many of our leaders should not be in charge if they’re making the poor decisions that they do. But believe it or not, they deserve our respect. Just like teachers, doctors, and lawyers, politicians work hard to get to the place where they’re at. At the very least they have the right to be treated kindly. Why? Because they’re human. They make mistakes and poor decisions just like you and I. It’s unfortunate that their mistakes have much bigger impacts than ours do, but we can accomplish far more in getting politicians to reverse a decision by writing politely worded petitions or peacefully protesting than by screaming at them and listing every single fault we believe they have.
Part of respect is simply being the bigger person in a situation. Say I’m dealing with someone who (true story) doesn’t support Indigenous people because of the “countless atrocities they’ve committed throughout history”. Internally, I’m screaming to retort back and explain how wrong they are. But instead I politely say “Oh, okay.” and move on. I still treat them with respect; they’re human. Getting into a screaming match with adults won’t accomplish anything. They’re set in their viewpoint, and I have to be the bigger person by accepting that nothing I say will likely change their mind. That’s not to say that their minds don’t need changing, but a Gen Z teen is not the right person to undertake that battle unless they handle it very, very delicately. This is the same when it comes to dealing with politicians’ decisions that we may not agree with. If more school funding is cut or the return-to-school plan is a far cry from the measure of safety we need in schools, I’ll obviously be upset. However, I’m not going to send out a string of abrasive tweets about it where I call our provincial leaders swear words and wish them harm. I’m better than that. Instead, I’d post a kindly-yet-powerfully-worded tweet saying that I don’t agree with their decision and this is why. Maybe I’d channel that anger into an online petition or write letters to all of the representatives imploring them to reconsider. Change only happens if we have reasonable and realistic suggestions of how that change can occur. If someone commented that I needed to completely change my writing style because they don’t like it, that won’t happen because what you are asking is impossible and rude. However, someone politely suggesting that I condense a paragraph or re-word a sentence will likely see results. I’d like to think that doing the respectful thing isn’t that hard, regardless of the situation. However, I know I am not like everyone else and cannot assume that what’s easy for me is easy for everyone. All I can ask is that you try. Try to be more considerate of people’s feelings and respectful of the positions they hold. I definitely understand the need to vent about the government officials impacting of our day-to-day lives. But maybe save the rant for a friend or family member, not the entire internet. Those who shout the loudest are often the ones who end up convincing others that what they say is true, regardless if it actually is or not.
I will not yet be eligible to vote during this year’s Federal election, but I know who I’d be voting for if I was. I’d vote for someone who treated his protesters with respect even as they called him terrible things. I’d vote for someone who wants to help our country progress, not drag it back to the early 1900s. This is a decision I feel confident in, as I have researched each candidate’s platform from reliable sources. When it’s your turn to vote, make sure that you’re voting with as much information as possible. Educate yourself about the issues, instead of voting for a certain party because your family’s always voted for them. I know that a teenager telling grown adults what to do with your lives may not sit well with you. Many of you might tell me off for daring to think that I know better than you. However, I’d still treat with you with respect even if you did. Everyone, from Justin Trudeau to an online hater to a Hollywood celebrity, is entitled to some degree of it.