Until two days ago, I thought I had figured out the column. It was to revolve around denial. The news that poured down the media pipe last week following the inauguration ceremony south of the border offered plenty of reasons to delve into the topic.
First came the news of the approval of the Dakota and Keystone XL pipelines. Some celebrated, while others decried the lack of vision for the future at a time when acting on climate change should be necessary. Regardless of which side you’re on, there is something undeniably real about climate change. It’s happening. We’ll still be using fossil fuels for a while, that is a fact, but there is energy to be harnessed that is renewable and can ensure jobs and a future.
Denial is a treacherous path to walk on. It may benefit a few for a limited time, but it will fail all of us eventually. Denying that climate change is real bites us all in the end; some are already suffering from its ill effects, and by suffer I mean just that. There is drought, famine, war, severe weather phenomena and extreme conditions. If you spend enough time on environmental news, it’s darn clear that we’re engaged on a path we might not be able to maintain control of, should we not leave behind our dependency on fossil fuels. It’s but science talking. Facts, that is.
My interest for political news stopped temporarily when I came across a heartbreaking story involving suffering on one side, and denial on the other. Ethan Dizon, a 14-year-old boy living in Edmonton, committed suicide three weeks ago.
The school continued to call the boy’s home to inform his parents that he did not show up for classes. A mistake, you might say. The second call was made on the day of his funeral, but that is not the worst of it. According to his sister and many others who lived through it, Ethan’s suicide was likely caused by the bullying that is allegedly rampant in that school.
If you pause for a second to imagine the pain and hopelessness that can push a 14-year-old child to commit suicide… can you? My son is the same age and I cannot go there. No child can be left in that dark corner by themselves and yet many are. The stats on teenage suicides in Canada speak for themselves.
School officials denied such claims. That’s not a singular case. Many know that bullying and cyberbullying happen in schools, yet claims are underreported and most often ignored. Just read the comments left by many students, former students, and parents, on the online petition that Ethan’s sister started. Yes, denial seems an easier path to follow if you have the luxury to not be directly involved. But losing lives to it makes it all wrong.
Where should we start in rearranging our priorities then? What does it take to get us there? The answer, at least a partial one for me, surfaced in the last few days while observing my boys as they went about their days. One had to do with a day of winter adventures that included ice fishing. My husband and the boys went to Walloper lake, fished, cooked some of it right then and there, and brought some home.
There were many questions that crossed their minds regarding life and death. Providing food should involve knowing where it comes from. When a life ends so that we can put food on the table, there is a plethora of thoughts that abound and should, ideally, create compassion and gratefulness, though to some of us that sounds counterintuitive. When we make decisions about our individual lives, we ought to know what they mean for those around us. Everyone’s actions ultimately affect everyone else’s life.
Another evening we were all huddled around the kitchen table; the boys and my husband slicing apples to dry, and me catching up on correspondence. There was laughter and chatting, some topics as sobering as others were light and silly. We talked about racism; why thinking a human life to be less important due to skin colour, religion, gender is plain wrong and history has plenty of examples of that. Suffering we can learn from and stop by repeating, but how?
By bringing up children in a way that teaches them compassion and kindness we may avoid the dark splashes that get us all muddled eventually. There is no right and wrong that is absolute, but I think deep down we each understand what is kind and what is not. Our children learn that as they grow up. By tackling subjects that are tragic, sad or worrying, be it climate change, death, mental health, drugs or racism, you name it, we can hope for a better outcome down the road.
The one caveat which is in fact a gift: we ought to spend enough time to make the conversations flow and have children share their thoughts. When they revolve around uncomfortable topics, it takes courage. For them to open up, and for us adults to receive their question with an open mind and show by example what compassion and kindness mean.
Denial in the slightest amount can lead to pain. Denial at higher levels can claim lives and more. The only thing that can stand in the way is an open mind that feeds on compassion and relies on facts in order to fix the wrongs of today for a better tomorrow.