Monday, January 28, 2013

Old, White, Christian Men

Yesterday I took my boys out for the afternoon to visit the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, one of three “education-type” places that we hold memberships at.  Don’t tell my kids, but the places they love to visit are the same ones that I want them to go to – they’ll learn more if they think they are having fun!  But before we could begin our day of fun at the museum (snakes and lizards and scorpions oh my!) we had to fuel up.  So we stopped at McDonalds for a bite to eat. 

As we sat, munching our way through the communal pile of tasty french fries (we always just pile all our fries together and share them all), I could not help but overhear the conversation between two older gentlemen.  They started off their conversation talking about the “ladies auxiliary"  at their church, and went on at length about how things were going in the church.  They veered to hockey and football for a time, before one of them pushed the newspaper across the table to his friend, with a gruff “You seen this yet?”  What follows is their conversation, not quite verbatim, but close.

“Nah, what’s it about?”

“New premier of Ontario is a woman.  And she’s gay.”

“Damn.  Pretty soon, we’re going to be the minority around here.”

At this point, I was almost set to interject into their conversation.  That statement, coming from the mouths of able bodied, straight, educated, white males always gets my goat.  But I bit down on another fry and tried to mind my own business.  Partly because I was having a great time with my boys and didn't want to ruin it, but partly because I just did not have the energy to engage in that debate all over again. Either way,  I am damned glad I did keep my mouth chewing instead of talking...

“Maybe that’s a good thing.  We had our chance, and we really screwed things up.”

“Yeah, you’re right.  Time to give the lesbians a chance.”

“Yup.  Don’t understand what everyone is so upset about – it’s just about giving everyone the same equality.”

“Exactly.  People get too worked up about stuff that shouldn’t matter to them.  Hey, you heard that Mike’s kid is going to school…”

I nearly hugged them.  It reminded me of my own prejudices; based on their chatting about their church, their patterns of speech and their age, I had already put them in the “old white Christian bigot” category – a form of discrimination all its own.  It reminded me that we all need to revisit our stereotyping constantly – we all do it, and it’s not a bad thing in and of itself, so long as it doesn’t lead to value judgements.

So to all you old white Christian males out there, I’m sorry for sticking you in a box.  I promise to try and remember that you aren’t all the same, and that many (most) of you are good and decent people, who care about people and their human rights just as much (and often more) as me and my young, atheist, “liberal” friends.  We have a lot more in common than we think, and we have to remember that from time to time.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

You spin me right round baby, right round...

Here in Halifax, we recently decided - wait... "we" in this case means the elected officials of our fair city, and "recently" means two years ago (we Haligonians consider anything that happened after the 1917 Halifax Explosion to be recent) - to make the temporary skating oval that was designed for the 2011 Canada Games into a permanent winter fixture.  Tubing and cooling equipment, far to complicated to go into great detail on here (and because I don't have the faintest idea how it works, I think it uses science), make the Oval usable even in slightly above zero weather, which is good, because Halifax "winters" are rarely consistent.

The nicest part about the Oval is that it was kept alive due to the public response to it.  You see, when it was originally constructed back in 2011 for that year's Canada Games, it was left open for public skating for the rest of that winter season, but was due to be dismantled and turned back into the vacant park field that it came from.  But the public responded so positively to its existence, and put so much pressure on HRM's city council, that it was decided to keep it open, and even to slowly upgrade it.

The other nicest part about the Oval is that the city has managed, so far, to keep it free to use.  Despite the assuredly high costs of running it every year, it is free for anyone to head out and skate upon.  It is maintained, and kept in very good shape, throughout its open period by tax dollars and corporate sponsorship (note the name after all, our power company hard at work spending its obscene profits).  So anyone with a pair of skates (and a CSA approved hockey helmet if you are under 12 years of age) can head on down and skate at will (during public skates times of course).

But wait!  The other nicest part about the Oval is that if you don't own those aforementioned skates and helmet (see, I used aforementioned in a sentence, that law degree is totally worth the $40K I paid!), then they will lend you a pair of skates and / or the helmet you need.  Just turn over a piece of government issued picture ID, and the very efficient staff members will get you the gear you need - for free!  And they do it quickly too - a line of about sixty people can be processed in as little ten minutes.

OK, the last nicest part about the Oval though is the sense of community that it inspires.  There is a real sense of small town community, an almost Rockwellian vision.  People are all there to skate and to be part of the larger Halifax community - they help each other up, there are few collisions (and being Canadian, more apologies than strictly necessary), people look out for each other and each other's kids.

But the real nicest part about the Oval is that it gave me the chance to take my boys skating for the very first time today.  They had a blast.  The first lap took about thirty minutes, and Doc wiped out about forty times.  But he kept getting up, kept trying.  Even when I could see he was getting frustrated, he didn't throw in the towel.  Gee on the other hand, rarely fell, due in part to his very low center of gravity, but even more to the bob-skates he was wearing.

Both boys had the time of their lives, red cheeked and covered in snow.  They laughed and grinned with each fall, and Gee made a point of trying to get as far ahead of me as he could.  Doc just kept going, and he swears that many of his falls were not due to trying to impress the pretty girls.  I suppose their proximity was just a coincidence, twenty six times.  What?  It could totally happen.

I had the best day I have had in a really long time (and that is out of some pretty damned good days!) watching them, coaching them, and just being their dad.

Thanks for taking me skating boys.  We'll do it again, very soon.