As we celebrate Independence Day, I am reminded of my own personal journey of liberation. On July 4th, 2019, I had a difficult conversation with my father that marked a turning point in my life. It’s a story that I have hesitated to share, as it feels personal and intimate. But, in light of the current climate of division and disinformation, I believe it’s important to share my experiences. This moment not only changed my relationship with my father, but it also shaped my philosophy as a teacher. I hope by sharing my story, it may help others to reflect on their own paths to freedom and understanding.
In today’s society, it seems that everyone has a self-proclaimed Ph.D. in information from social media platforms and alternative news sources. Unfortunately, this has led to a distortion of knowledge and expertise, with people using information to support their pre-existing beliefs. Instead of relying on scientific evidence and methodology, alternative facts and misinformation are presented as truth. This is a dangerous trend, as it undermines the very foundation of knowledge and progress. Fact-checking is not about censorship, but about ensuring that information is accurate and reliable. We must return to the principles of scientific inquiry, which is based on evidence, logic and impartiality, rather than personal bias and agenda.
Let’s get back to the story…
July 4, 2019
The memories of that day are still fresh in my mind, as if it were just yesterday. On July 4th, my father embarked on a journey from Toronto, where he was visiting his relatives. While I was occupied with my daily routine, I couldn’t help but keep a constant watch on my phone, eagerly awaiting updates as he made his way towards Ottawa to come see me.
Him: At your house at 2?
Me: Meet me at work instead?
Him: 1 hour away.
This day stands out in my memory as one of discomfort and tension. My relationship with my father has always been strained, as we often disagree on a variety of topics, particularly politics. Throughout my adult years, we have had countless arguments on this subject, with my father aligning himself with Republican ideals. My family moved to Alabama when I was in high school, but I stayed behind in Canada, something for which I am now deeply grateful. My father, unfortunately, has a tendency to conform and try to fit in, regardless of the cost to his personal beliefs, a trait that I find deeply troubling.
My father arrived in Ottawa and picked me up from work, and we proceeded to run a few errands. Along the way, he casually asked if I had any plans to visit the United States in the near future. This was prior to the outbreak of COVID, but during the time of Trump’s presidency. In response, I made an offhand remark, something to the effect of “not while Trump is in the White House.”
A group of us decided to go out for dinner, and at some point during the evening, we found ourselves offering to drop off a portable air conditioner at a friend’s residence on our way back to my home. The friend in question is from Bangladesh.
The straw that broke the camel’s back
The drive home was marked by an eerie silence, with no one saying a word. Suddenly, my father turned to me and asked, “Do you think people should be allowed to wear burkas in an airport?” This xenophobic and racist comment, no doubt, was a result of our earlier task of delivering an air conditioner to a friend of a different ethnicity. Though I have paraphrased the next part of the conversation, it still lingers with me to this day.
Me: “Yes, people have religious freedoms. They should be allowed to wear burkas in an airport”.
He responded: “but is it safe?”
Me: Thinking WTF. Seriously? “Yes, read our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, have you ever read it?
Him: “I don’t need to read it. Stop bringing it up. Should we change laws for religious freedom?”
Many things were said, including him telling me to “get out of my liberal bubble” and to “get cultured”. I’m sorry, do you think Alabama is the cultural melting pot of the world?
The day I lost a father
That day, I felt as though I had lost a father, not through death, but through the realization that I could no longer look up to him. A father should be a role model, not a source of pity. I pity my father for allowing himself to be influenced and manipulated by the extreme alt-right movement in his attempts to fit in with our neighbors to the south.
I told my father to leave, as I could not have someone with xenophobic and racist views staying with me. We have not had any meaningful communication since. Though I have come across some of his posts on social media, they are filled with conspiracy theories, misinformation, and unreliable sources. His behavior towards his family is unacceptable, but through that feeling of pity I have for my father, I have found the resolve to educate others on being discerning consumers of information, rather than falling prey to the trap of a self-imposed filter bubble.
Photo by Samuel Branch on Unsplash